Interview: Matt Lambert

“Youth, sex, love, relationships, etcetera.”

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If our generation could be represented by a single Instagram account, Glamcult would very likely vote for that of Matt Lambert. Through countless raw and poetic images, the globetrotting American takes us to and beneath the skin of his subjects—be they actors, sex workers, friends or his husband. We spoke to Matt about the infinite shelf life of his work, which is also very much a reflection of the present. “Youth, sex, love, relationships, etcetera.”

“I’m in rehearsals right now. Pretty crazy on set, 15-hour days, bit messy over here!” When Glamcult chats with Matt Lambert, he’s in the middle of recording a large-scale show for a major American television network. “I can’t say much about it, other than that it’s a natural progression from what I’ve been doing in Berlin for the past three years, and that it will likely air worldwide.” Originally from Los Angeles, California, Matt has spent the last few years in various metropolises, absorbing a little something from each place. “I’m most connected to Berlin at the moment, where I live with my husband. However, each city has given me so much and affected my work in such different ways. Stylistically, LA brought me up on punk rock and gang culture, London pushed me towards cinema, and NYC was where I refined my commercial career and learned to embrace the homo-punk underground. Berlin is where it all came together—where I could truly be myself and create what I wanted to.”

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It was his sexuality and the struggle to come to terms with it—as well as the way other people explored their own—that caused Matt to start examining this matter in his films and photographs. Documenting the most intimate situations, erotic and non-erotic alike, the young artist caught the attention of forward magazines like Nero Homme, HERO and Dazed and Confused, and artists such as Patrick Wolf, Hercules & Love Affair and Austra. Regarding the way he works, Matt explains: “My films are usually staged. This also holds true for most of my photos, even though some come from my own experiences. When staging a scene, I’m always trying to inject the awkwardness and sensitivity of when I used to shoot the more intimate ones from my own life. When I’m shooting an actor or someone in a scene I’ve written, I try to apply the same love as if it were a real experience with my husband or ex.”

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Perhaps it is this undecipherable distinction between real and staged that gives Matt’s work its remarkable power, and causes it to resonate with a wide audience. Whether he captures the disarming beauty of two Slovakian escorts after having sex, two of his friends making love after a frenzied night out in Berlin or his husband and a friend kissing in the dark of their former Neuköln apartment, each and every photo spells truth. Considering the homoerotic quality of much of Matt’s oeuvre, one can’t help but wonder how many of the explicit details would translate to a non-queer public. “The most inner core of my audience does tend to consist of young gay men in London and Berlin,” Matt concedes. “However, it seems to have been broadening a lot in the past two years. I also have older roots in animation and design, and there’s some overlap there.”

Reducing Matt’s work to the merely sexual would be unjust. It is, in fact, his honest depiction of sex—from straightforward, testosterone-driven action to warm and dreamy close-ups of smiles, scars, sperm and genitals—that takes his work to an all-encompassing level. Not just the queer underground but humanity as a whole is captured in these cherished sights. “As people grow up, they will always look to imagery to navigate their experiences, emotions, identity and sexuality,” the artist explains, before thoughtfully adding: “While I’m not doing anything new, I’d like to think there are subtle nuances in the way I present people that are at least relevant. What fascinates me most about the body is tension, as well as fragile confidence.”

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Connecting to his followers through Instagram under his pseudonym @dielamb, Matt takes the global accessibility of his work even further, transcending physical borders and local scenes. “Youth culture is now a digital world that exists in virtual space. My social presence is an important part of my work.” And even though #freethenipple doesn’t often apply to Matt’s work—#inequality #stillmuchworktobedone #needwesaymore #freethenipple—it is impossible to avoid internet censorship. “I’ve been incredibly frustrated more times than I can count when this starts to conflict with the work I make,” the artist sighs. “It’s amazing how intimacy is scarier than extreme violence for many people.” Facing rigid ideas and traditions about sex and intimacy is not always easy for Matt. Touching on his background and current stay in the US, he concludes: “I’ve gotten a bit spoiled in Berlin with how comfortable people are in their own skin. America is disappointingly even more conservative than I remembered it. Trust and mutual respect are a common thread in my work.” As for that which is still to come, Matt’s prospect is one that is hopeful and—may we add—hopefully prophetic. “The future of sex? The end of fear.”

By Leendert Sonnevelt

www.dielamb.com

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