Capturing Priceless Moments 

4th February 2017 – Marie-Claire Grima

Street photographer Henri Mattocks was recently presented with an Honourable Mention, as well as two Nominee titles at the 11th Annual Black and White Spider Awards. He shares his thoughts on preserving moments that last forever, finding time for his passion and the magic of black and white photography.

What sparked your interest in photography? How long have you been shooting for?

When I was very young, I received an instamatic camera as a gift and used to carry it with me everywhere. I would take pictures of anything that caught my eye. The reel of film varied from 12 to 24 shots and on reaching the final shot I would eagerly go to the newspaper shop with the film roll, waiting at least three days until I returned to the shop to check the results of what I thought were my ‘masterpieces’. Almost 30 years ago I took a photography course where I learnt black and white development techniques which really fascinated me. Then, in the 1990s, I bought a Minolta SLR with a Tamron 300 zoom lens as I was going for a trip to Mexico. Unintentionally, this was my introduction to street photography, where I focused on taking shots of people, total strangers in the streets, rather than landscapes and the normal holiday shots. Little did I realize that at that time I was taking ‘off the hip’ shots of people as not to get noticed, resulting in actual street photography.

Your speciality is street photography. What is it about the genre that inspires you most?

I like capturing raw moments of urban life. I really like people’s spontaneous actions. Humans are the most versatile and unpredictable subjects to capture on camera, and capturing a great moment in life of a stranger is priceless. Creating a great composition at the same time is purely magical, that moment is preserved forever. Good street photography requires good observation skills and a quick reaction, two qualities that I hope I possess.

Why do you shoot almost exclusively in black and white?

When shooting in black and white I tend to focus on the subject, incorporating contrasts and any shadows and light, reflections and geometry whenever possible. I find using B&W gives the image more character and depth. I think that at times colour can distract the viewer from the subject. Colour is good when it enhances the shot or used as the focal point of the subject.

I guess Ted Grant summarised it perfectly: "When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in B&W, you photograph their souls!"

What kind of equipment do you use?

After doing some research I bought the Panasonic Lumix GX7 specifically for street photography use. I found that this camera ticked all the boxes I needed. It is a good combination of relatively small size and good handling, without giving the impression of a professional camera. Being a mirror-less camera with a silent shutter and tilting screen option is a big advantage in certain situations.

Do you find it difficult to balance your work and your passion?

Time, without doubt is the most precious commodity. My time is very limited as I work in the hospitality industry where currently I manage a property that very soon will be one of the largest resorts in Malta. However, in the spare time that I have whenever I venture out, for sure I will carry my camera with me always ready to capture that perfect moment.

What’s your favourite photo from all the ones you’ve ever taken?

I have many images that I am fond of as they are all unique instances in their own way, however my favourite one must be the one titled ‘Looking Ahead’ representing an African man at City Gate wearing a hood walking directly towards me. He was looking at me but his gaze seemed so far away.

What’s your favourite photo by any other artist?

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s images are all masterpieces but if I had to point out two I would say are the couple on a train shot in Romania in 1975 and the spiral and the cyclist shot in Hyeres in 1932.

View more of Henri’s work on his Facebook page, Souls and Faces 


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