When Matt Chelf isn’t practicing his main craft as a writer, he can be found taking pictures all around Portland, Oregon. He picked up 35mm as a hobby in the spring of 2015, and hasn’t looked back. He uses a variety of different cameras, some of which have flaws that just make them all the more unique.
We asked Matt to tell us a little bit about his personal style and some of his favourite shots. Here’s what he had to say.
The pink house and the rushing water were shot on Chelf’s Tura brand toy camera. “It’s like a cheap knock-off Holga” he says, “It has a 28mm wide angle lens. It’s small, compact, really intuitive, unassuming, and unpredictable. It always feels like it’s going to break, or stop working, or just vanish from my hands. It was my first 35mm camera, what I learned how to shoot on, and is my favorite. I use it for everything. I trust it the most out of all my cameras despite the fact it is full of accidents.”
The couch and the street were shot on a Konica Autoreflex TC. This camera has some special sentiment in it for Chelf. “What’s important about this camera is that my friend is ‘loaning’ it to me. The camera belonged to his dad, and after his dad stopped using it, the Konica sat in its box in the basement for like twenty years. Right as I was about to embark on my move from the east coast to Oregon, where I live now, my friend retrieved his dad’s camera and loaned it to me. Which means a lot to me. The reason I tell this story is I think the camera somehow internalized living in a basement for twenty years, going unused, being forgotten, being trapped in a box. The focus is really loose and soft, and the seal is deteriorating. Sometimes the frames advance strangely and cut off (like in these two shots), which decenters what I intended as subject and makes the picture slightly ‘off.’ You’ll also notice the margins. It’s like another reality is creeping in, or maybe forcing itself, disturbing the way photography carves the world into neat, little, chosen representations.”
The ocean and airport scene are shot on an Olympus XA. “I just recently picked it up” Chelf tells us, “I haven’t figured out quite yet how we vibe. I got it because I wanted to change up my point-and-shoot game, but I’m realizing that using it the same way I use the Tura isn’t going to work. The airport shot is unique for me, though. I never take pictures of people, and I take great care to make sure that human forms are not in my frame. But I was at the airport going home from a trip and trying to finish the roll, so I took that picture. With that said, I like photographing empty places, taking in environments. So the airport shot fits in, actually.”
Every image that Matt has included in this collection is of Oregon (besides the photo of the airport, which is of the Denver airport on his route home). “I like photographing where I live because it helps me get to know the place. Or it gives me the sense that ‘this is where I am’ — ‘I am in this place called Oregon.’ It convinces me that I’m somewhere, basically.”