Photographer Q&A: Matthew Williams

From Jakarta to Brazil, Brooklyn based photographer Matthew Williams has traveled the globe for Dwell. When sending the photographer out on a shoot, there is no question that he will come back with beautiful images. He brings an honesty to his photography, and has a way of truly connecting with his subjects, whether a person or house. Read our Q&A to learn a bit more about Matthew and his camera.
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Type of camera?


Film or Digital?

Both. Each is just a tool in the tool box and has it's own strengths and weaknesses. 

Do you enjoy Dwell assignments?

I love shooting for Dwell. The team is always lovely and they have a clear and beautiful aesthetic that I think works well with my own style. 

A wonderful family scene shot for Top Brass in our June 2012 issue.

How do you usually prepare going into a Dwell shoot?

I attach a large log to my waist with a rope and drag it behind me while running through snow covered fields. I spend hours punching repeatedly into a box of sand. I flip tractor tires in an old abandoned parking lot. 

Funny/Favorite moments from one or two shoots you can remember?

I sometimes have to go across the road from the house I am shooting to get a wide exterior shot. I often knock on the door of the house opposite in the hopes of getting a shot from their second story window which is usually their bedroom. Each time, and no matter what the time of day I have done this, they are in their pajamas and I have gotten them out of bed. It is always a guy. They never seem to mind and always agree. So they sit on the bed with their hair askew and watch as I set up my camera and we both peer out the window at the house opposite. It's weird, and somewhat uncomfortable, but kind of nice that everyone is always so accommodating. 

Matthew never fails to please us with his clever compositions. This image was shot at the Parsonon Residence in New Zealand for our June 2011 issue.

Favorite image/s?

I couldn't possibly be as unseemly as to suggest an image I took, but I do know this: The best single image that has appeared in Dwell, I believe is the image Dean Kaufman took for the December-Janurary 2007 cover featuring the home in Japan. Brilliant. 

Matthew's favorite Dwell image ever was shot by Dean Kaufman for the Dec/Jan 2007 cover.

Do you have a favorite house/location that you have shot for us, and why?

Dwell sent me to Jakarta once to photograph a simple concrete house built on a tight budget. The owner spent more on his car (a Toyota!) than it cost to build the whole house. It's so hot there that the architect didn't bother with having exterior walls or doors in all the main rooms. The kitchen and living room were open to the outside and it worked really well. They had a small garden and the smell of the rain and trees drifted in. The through draft kept everything cool. A beautiful way to work to the environment. 

Nugroho Wisnu and his family outside their home in Jakarta shot for the June 2010 issue.

What is it like seeing your images in print when the issue comes out?

Consistently satisfying. I travel a lot and it is a cool feeling to see your work in Dwell at Dubai or some other exotic place. It never gets old.

If you could choose one modern element to add to your home (re-design, piece of furniture, etc), what would you choose?

My wife and I just moved into a large loft in Brooklyn with 17-foot windows overlooking Manhattan, so I am still agape that I am living there. So really, curtains would be a sterling start. 

A little more about you:

Where are you from?

New Zealand. I miss it.

How long have you been shooting?

Photography is all I have ever done. I am completely unqualified for anything else. I couldn't get a job at McDonalds if I wasn't doing this.

What type of assignments are you shooting these days?

I shoot a mix of advertising and editorial work. People seem to hire me as I seem to bring an honesty to the images I shoot, and I think I am fairly good at getting a genuine image of people that does not feel forced. I just finished a book for Remodelista that will be out in October. I am working on my own art work. Each day is an adventure. It's a beautiful world.


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