Matt Emmett – Artist of the Month

January’s Artist of the Month is Matt Emmett. Matt Emmett runs the architectural website Forgotten Heritage where he specialises in locating and photographing some of Europe’s most fascinating modern ruins.

From the crumbling shells of Italy’s abandoned villas and asylums to the raw spectacle of Belgium’s rusting industrial remnants. Immense and powerful beauty is revealed in the images he brings back from places long forgotten by humans. The images, although produced primarily as art also form an important collection with regards to preservation of our built environment and heritage, many of the places he has captured over the last five years have since been demolished.

His work has won several international awards and is featured widely in the international press. A growing collection of his work can be found in the ARTIQ catalogue.

We sat down with Matt to talk about his stunning work and to find out more about his inspirations. Read the full interview below. Matt has also taken over our Instagram from 16th – 22nd January to showcase his work and process. Follow us on @Artiqgram to see his posts.

What artists have influenced your practice?
War and Magnum photographer Phillip Griffiths Jones
Travel and cultural photographer Eric Lafforgue
Issue based photographer and my photography lecturer Paul Wenham-Clarke
Caving and Nat Geo photographer Robbie Shone
Many other members of my photo community, too many to mention!

How has your work developed over time?
I started learning about the basics of composition and the technical aspects of photography back in my 20’s as a way of documenting my travels throughout Asia. It was all film back then and you got whatever you got when it was processed, it was a good but sometimes harsh and expensive learning process. Once digital arrived and software like Photoshop put such immense power in your hands everything changed. Provided you can keep up to date on the ever changing technology there’s very little that can’t be achieved. If you can imagine something, then it can be visualized. Personally the end result is king, I don’t care how I get there. Technology has been the main influence guiding my work.

How do you see your art as a part of our society?
A celebration and documentary of our historic built environment and cultural heritage.

Tell us about your dream project.
A road trip across the US, photographing the many abandoned places I have heard about, like the subterranean Titan 1 Nuclear Launch Bunkers and the forgotten towns along the old highways like Route 66.

What’s the last exhibition you saw that made an impact on you?
The ancient Japan section in the V&A. The artistry and craftsmanship added into the tiny details of clothing and weaponry blew my mind. A very exciting display, I think I spent a couple of hours viewing about 10 meters of cabinets.

What is the one thing you cannot live without?
Besides my cameras I would say the odd adventure of some sort.

What art do you, or would you, collect?
I quite like miniature art, biro or pencil drawings using huge amounts of detail. I saw the work of Greg Gilbert recently and fell in love with his northern scenes.

What is the most memorable piece of art you have produced?
Either the image of the subterranean reservoir that won the recent Arcaid Award for Architectural Photography or the first time I nailed a digital composite shot using a single light source across multiple exposures, moving the light in each successive shot and then blending it all back together in post.

Has any place or environment affected your work?
The first location I photographed in the abandoned world, the National Gas Turbine Establishment in Fleet. Walking into the vast hanger sized structures and seeing the almost alien landscape of a jet engine testing environment changed me instantly. I had gone there to help a friend learn about his camera (he chose the venue) and I knew that I had found a subject that I would become obsessed by. 5 years later I’m still at it.

How does material/medium inform your practice?
Most of my work gets printed onto some kind of paper. For most prints I use a quality textured art paper but for certain images I produce C-Type prints on a paper with a metallic sheen in the highlights, this works really well for my shots of industry and machinery.

What do you do in your spare time?
Walk in the wonderful English countryside, spend time with my two boys and partner, try and get down to South Wales for the odd day of caving, run my social media channels.

What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
A writer would be nice or a documentary photographer / filmmaker.

Take us through the lifespan of creating a work of art.
Compile a list of interesting locations that are located along a route of some sort, do some research on the locations so you have a better idea of what you’re looking at when you’re there, obtain information on things like access and obstacles, book the travel arrangements, enjoy the adventure and photography, process the images and relive the trip all over again, pick the best shots, print the works and get them into a gallery.

What advice would you give a younger you?
If you want to do something then do it, don’t be afraid of speaking up and making yourself heard and get out there and experience things and places, have lots of fun whilst doing it.