The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 4th

Q&A with artist and architect Matthew Ford

Matthew Ford has been named Emerging Artist of the month by the ArtsCenter, where he will give an artist talk tonight. Staff writer Morgan Howard spoke with the photographer and architect about his exhibit and artistic influences. 

The Daily Tar Heel: What art do you work with?

Go to the event

Time: 6 p.m.

Location: ArtsCenter

More info: 

Matthew Ford: I work as an architect, and I do conceptual architectural-based work as well. This project that’s at the ArtCenter now is a photography project with an architectural influence.

DTH: So, the art is more photography that has an architectural base?

MF: Yeah, architectural base or starting point. This project isn’t straightforward architectural photography really. I used material from Chatham County Courthouse, which burned down in 2010, and I built pinhole cameras from materials from the damaged courthouse and then photographed the reconstructions with the cameras I built.

DTH: What drew you to the historic Chatham County Courthouse?

MF: It’s a prominent local landmark, and it has many meanings to different people based on your experience with the court system and the building. It’s centrally located right there in town — many people know it, some just by passing by. I had never been in the building before I knew it all from its outside, which begs the question 'How can I know a building if I hadn’t been in it?' But I wanted to use its destruction and subsequent reconstruction as a starting point to ask some questions about what buildings mean and how we choose whether they live or die; what we as a culture or society think is important when we talk about our buildings.

DTH: What was your process like during this shoot?

MF: It consisted of assistance and coordination with many different people, including county officials and various architects. I had to acquire material from the building, which I was given permission to by the county after proposing the project to them, and then needed to make the pinhole cameras.

DTH: What exactly is a pinhole camera and why did you decide to use it?

MF: It’s a very simple camera device. It’s mainly a box that has a pinhole aperture — a very small hole made through a piece of metal typically — and that hole then acts like a lens. It takes still photography down to the least amount to pieces that are needed to expose an image photographically.

DTH: How did you get into photography?

I earlier studied photography in a place called Pittsburgh Filmmakers in Pittsburgh, where I was studying film theory. I worked in a black and white dark room for the first time in my life. I started taking photography mainly on the street living in New York for a few years. I worked doing TV and film lighting and then moved on to architectural school and have been taking photographs since then. 

DTH: So then how does architecture and photography mix for you, or are they separate?

MF: I think photography is a tool; it’s a medium. A lot of people experience architecture through photographs. You’ve seen many more buildings than you’ve been into. If you don’t get to travel, you can look at pictures — outside and inside the buildings. You’re experiencing buildings, but you’re not necessarily in them or using them, and that’s different. People think they know things through photographs sometimes, and I think that’s interesting. 

Architecture is designing buildings and building buildings to provide shelter or to provide a need or use, and it can be mundane or straightforward, or it can mean something. And the way you build things means different things, and a lot of times that’s something you’ve thought of in everyday life, but photographs in this project are meant to make people think about buildings in a way they maybe haven’t thought about before.

DTH: What does your work mean to you?

MF: I am rewarded by making things and then executing them and making them happen.

DTH: What have you found the most challenging within photography?

MF: Making time or finding time to make photographs because if you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen.

DTH: What are you looking forward to talking about your artist talk?

MF: I’m looking forward to speaking about some of the images containing some of the photographs that include the confederate soldier monument there. I’m looking forward to discussing that if that issue comes up with people and what that monument means to people and what it means that it’s located there at the courthouse.


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