Interview with Matthew Eisman

Matthew Eisman profile pictureHis works appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone, SPIN, Billboard, New York Post, National Geographic Traveler, The Reykjavík Grapevine and Fréttablaðið, the headlines that speakes for themselves. He is photographer specializing in concert, portrait and lifestyle photography. Until recently he’s been splitting his time between Reykjavík and New York. Now he lives in Iceland. Matthew Eisman.

You can read this article in Polish – here.

Bartek: Hi Matt! How are you doing?

Matthew Eisman: I’m well thanks.

Bartek: You know that today Iceland will be our main subject :) So, when was the last time you went to Iceland?

Matt: I actually relocated to Reykjavík last August. Long story short is I got married, my wife is Icelandic and we decided to live here :)

Bartek: And the first time you went to Iceland? What was your impression about the island and Icelanders?

Matt: The first time I visited Iceland was in the summer of 2009. It was with a study abroad program through my college. We traveled all over the island for about 6 weeks. I was fascinated by the nature, culture, music and people. I knew I’d be back someday.

Bartek: I want to ask you about FACES OF ICELANDIC MUSICIANS project. It’s definitely something that every icelandic music fan just have to see. Let’s start from the beginning. Why Iceland? Why Icelandic musicians?

Matt: My specialty is concert photography and band portraiture. I photographed Iceland Airwaves Music Festival for the first time back in October 2011 for SPIN. Almost all the bands in this portrait series I photographed at that Airwaves. I also met my wife (then girlfriend) around that time. I made a plan to come back and visit her soon, and I thought it’d be interesting to shoot a personal project as well.

Bartek: Did you know exactly how this project should look like before you went to Iceland? Or maybe it went it’s own way spontaneously?

Matt: I had the basic look in mind. One light, a black background and strong focus on my subjects. I had to bring everything with me so I kept things very simple. I drew inspiration from a similar project by American photographer Fred Conrad entitled, „Faces of a Towering Project”. It’s an intimate portrait series of construction workers at the World Trade Center taken on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

Bartek: 13 bands and over 50 faces of Icelandic music scene. That’s quite huge number of people. How long you’ve been working on this project?

Portraits of Icelandic rock band Mammut photographed in Reykjavik, Iceland. February 2, 2012. Copyright © 2012 Matthew Eisman. All Rights Reserved.
Portraits of Icelandic rock band Mammut photographed in Reykjavik, Iceland. February 2, 2012. Copyright © 2012 Matthew Eisman. All Rights Reserved.

Matt: I shot everything in 5 or 6 days. A friend let me use part of his studio space and I had a few bands drop by each day.

Bartek: Was it hard to involve all these people to become the part of FACES OF ICELANDIC MUSICIANS project?

Matt: It was easier than I expected. I reached out to every band I knew and hoped for the best. I figured some would say yes and some would say no. But everyone said yes.

Bartek: Which one of them was the most difficult to take the picture?

Matt: Hmm probably whoever was first, although I don’t remember who it was. Simply because it took a few subjects before I developed a good rhythm.

Bartek: Do you have your favourite picture from that project?

Matt: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I quite like the one of Kiriyama Family’s drummer, Bassi.

Bartek: Do you remember any unexpected situations (funny or not) during the working process?

Matt: Yeah, there was a day when one of my subjects just forgot to show up haha. But we picked another time and it all worked out fine.

Portraits of Icelandic electro-pop band Kiriyama Family photographed in Reykjavik, Iceland. January 30, 2012. Copyright © 2012 Matthew Eisman. All Rights Reserved.
Portraits of Icelandic electro-pop band Kiriyama Family photographed in Reykjavik, Iceland. January 30, 2012. Copyright © 2012 Matthew Eisman. All Rights Reserved.

Bartek: You also run your own photo-blog with concert photography. There are plenty of pictures from Sónar or Airwaves, so you are really into Icelandic music. What do you think about Icelandic music scene? What’s your favourite Icelandic band?

Matt: There’s a surprising amount of talent and diversity in the music scene here–especially given how small it is. That really struck me during my first Airwaves experience. I remember feeling like new Icelandic music was on the verge of exploding abroad. Pretty soon after that Of Monsters and Men broke. Now it’s happening with Ásgeir. I expect to hear and see more Icelandic bands on the international stage in the near future.

I can’t pick a favorite local band but I’m really looking forward to Low Roar’s new album. I’m also enjoying new stuff from Leaves, Sin Fang and Monotown.

Bartek: And the last question… Faces of Icelandic Musicians, Iceland Tattoo Expo, any plans for another Iceland-related project in the future?

Matt: I just shot a video project with an artist who played at Sónar. I can’t go into specifics about it at this time but I’m very excited for the release in a few months. There’s a good chance I’ll be shooting a new portrait series soon at the Reykjavík Folk Festival, March 6-8. I’ve got a few more projects planned for the summer as well.

Bartek: Thank you Matt for this interview and we’ll keep our fingers crossed for your future works!

Matt: You’re very welcome! Nice chatting :)

Matthew Eisman pictures published with permission of the author. On the pictures you can see:

  1. Profile picture of Matthew Eisman
  2. Portrait of Mammút band
  3. Portrait of Bassi of Kiriyama Family

Matthew Eisman website and portfolio – www.mattheweisman.com


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