If you are part of the Fujifilm community here in the UK, Matt Hart will be a very familiar name to you. A Liverpool-based X Photographer, he regularly organises photo walks and workshops across the UK and, along with Sarah Jones of Cambrian Photography, recently launched Fujiholics, a website and social community where Fuji lovers can chat, arrange meet-ups and purchase Fuji gear from preferred partners around the UK.
That Matt Hart was chosen to lead the official Fujifilm photo walk at the Photography Show was no surprise given his experience and dynamic personality. The group met up in Victoria Square in Birmingham, and following a quick prize giveaway of a Fujifilm X30, set off looking for intriguing things to photograph around the neighbourhood.
I will admit that I am terrible at concentrating on my photography when there are so many interesting people to chat with, many of whom we’d already “met” in the virtual realm, but it is also true that the social aspect of these walks can be far more important than the actual shooting. It is a chance to share ideas and techniques, network, and simply have a laugh with like-minded people.
Matt encouraged us to follow his lead to learn a few of his street photography techniques, such as avoiding eye contact and pretending to focus on something else so that the subject doesn’t realise that he or she is being photographed. Though street photography isn’t really our preferred genre, it was inspiring to observe Matt, whose years of experience have made him very confident and observant on the streets.
Since we had a chance to speak to Matt one-on-one during the show, we also decided to hold a quick interview with him to find out more about the man behind the camera. You’ll find a full transcript below:
An Interview with Matt Hart
ML: You organised the Fujifilm walk in Birmingham for the Photography Show but you actually do photo walks on a regular basis. What is it you like the most about these kinds of events?
MH: To me it’s giving something back. I spend a lot of my time doing paid events and I charge various prices to teach street photography and do walks all around the UK. What I always find is I want to give something back to those people who can’t afford to go on walks so we put free events on, just like this event for the photo show. Some of the people can come out, experience what it’s like to be on the streets taking photographs and it’s the camaraderie thing, being a group of photographers who get together and discuss photography with each other and it’s all free. And if they’re interested, they can come along to more events and it grows from there. That’s what I get out of it.
ML: Do you incorporate teaching into your photo walks or are they just social events?
MH: Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I always find teaching over six people very difficult because you can’t engage with a large number of people. So, if I teach, I always do it in groups of six. I had thought about doing photo walks and stopping at certain points along the way and doing demonstrations but at the moment it’s never come to that. I tend to stand, stop and talk as I walk along and smaller groups of people listen. Maybe in the future I’ll try and plan things so that I’ll stop at a certain point and do a talk and I’ll bring other people onto the walks that do different styles of photography and get them to do some teaching.
ML: One of your favourite genres is street photography which is usually a solitary practice. Is it possible for photo walks and street photography to co-exist?
MH: That’s a very difficult question. Yes, street photography is something I tend to do mostly on my own or with a street buddy, so anyone who shoots street photography but in a slightly different style to me and that looks for different subjects works, because then we’re not shooting the same subjects all the time. Once you take out a large group of people, they all start to shoot the same subject, and they all get in each other’s way. It’s very difficult to incorporate street photography into larger groups. It tends to be more a social get-together in the streets. And it can work. We’ve done some street events with 10-20 people and we split into different groups down different roads, shoot differently and then meet back up for a coffee. It can work like that when you spread it out.
ML: Are the people who usually come on the walks beginners who want to start street photography or are there people who have been doing street for a while?
MH: It’s a bit of a mixture of people who have been shooting street photography for years and people who are completely new to it and just want to get started because they love it. The people who have been shooting for a long time shoot in a different way or style, so they come along to see how I’m shooting these days, and I also watch them. I think we pick up things from each other. I always say to people when they come on the walks to spend as much time as possible watching what I and other long-time shooters do because we can’t teach you by standing there talking to you.
ML: Do you keep track of people who attend your walks? Do they send their photos to you?
MH: I have a Flickr page where anyone who has been on my paid courses can put their images on my stream. But I encourage people come on the other walks to post on my social media. For the Fujiholics side of it, there is actually a page where they can post their work.
ML: Speaking of Fujiholics, you recently launched the Fujiholics website. How was this project born and what is its purpose?
MH: Fujiholics started as a joke in the beginning. It was born out of my despair about the way people treat each other on the internet. I used to work all day and really enjoy coming home to chat with guys like yourselves and everyone else about photography. But I got so fed up with the arguments and the egos on social media, and that’s why Fujiholics started. It began as a small private group where industry people could get together, share ideas, thoughts and pictures and talk openly without someone being argumentative. It then grew and I discovered that most people using Fuji cameras are quite nice people. We then decided that we wanted to launch a website with a shop and free walks and training courses. That’s is roughly the point we’re at now.
ML: Is there a strong collaboration with the Cambrian Photography store?
MH: Sarah (the director at Cambrian Photography) and I own Fujiholics Ltd. as a company and we’re going to grow Fujiholics. As the website grows, we’re going to have partners, and the partners we’ll use can be in any part of the industry, such as shops that sell Fuji equipment or related accessories. We will only choose people that we recommend, and who provide excellent customer service and an excellent product to advertise on our site. There will be advertising space but it’s more about providing the service than just advertising.
ML: Can you tell us a bit about the Streetlife Photo Contest?
Yes, there is a #Streetlife competition going on with Fujifilm UK and Clifton Cameras. There will be three Fuji X100T cameras to win as a part of three different themes. The first theme is Shadows and is open now. There will also be three free photo walks – one in London, one Liverpool and one in Bristol. The overall winner will win a trip to Paris with me for a day of street photography. I will be leading all three photowalks with Fujifilm and Clifton Cameras.
ML: Thank you for your time, Matt!
Make sure to check out the new Fujiholics website and if you are in North Wales, don’t miss out on the chance to visit the Cambrian Photography store. We’ve been there a couple of times and found the staff very knowledgable and helpful.