Here at Magpie we are huge admirers of photographer Matt Inwood whose Instagram pictures of food are things of legend. He’s also a thoroughly good egg (no pun intended) and has offered us a lovely insight into his life during lockdown. He was also kind enough to allow us to feature his essay on Kindness, published previously over on The Encouragement Manifesto ‘ Celebrating the inspiring things that other folk do’ which we urge you to subscribe to. Here’s what Matt’s been up to…
Life must have changed fundamentally for you in 2020 – what have you been doing to keep yourself sane? I wonder if anything truly fundamental changed. For a few early weeks, panic dictated most of our waking hours (my wife is a nurse) and all of my scheduled income and work disappeared overnight. But I know we had things much easier than so many other people. We managed to keep fear and anxiety in check, and we were fortunate to have those we cared most about safe and holding things together, too. That left us just to worry about work and money, and that forever seems to be the freelancer’s lot. It was hard to not be able to see my mother and to see the children occasionally struggling or down, but they were all losses which more often than not reinforced how fortunate we are. I’ve tried to use the time well, teaching myself the workings of a new DSLR camera (my first professional camera after the iPhone) and reading a great deal (mostly non-fiction).
Where have you spent most of your time during lockdown? I live in Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire. I live within easy distance of river and canal and I’ve been running and walking very regularly since last summer. I spent a couple of weeks in bed with the virus, but I was hugely relieved to pick up fitness and normal routines again little more than a week after being ill.
If you hadn’t become a photographer what might you have been? Well, I trained as a fine artist. I still love that world, but I haven’t picked up a paint brush in decades. More than anything, I’d love to write. I’d give up photography and design tomorrow if I could make a living from it.
If you could give your younger self some advice what would it be? Be as honest as you can, especially with the people who care most about you, and most of all to yourself.
Who is your favourite photographer and why? I’m not sure I have one as such. It’s not a canon for me in the same way that literature or painting is. I could list so many authors and artists in that way. I do love the portraiture of Irving Penn though. And the reportage of Don McCullin.
What is the picture you wish you’d taken? Again, I’m not sure they hold in the memory for me in the way that paintings or books do. I see so many beautiful photographs on a weekly basis from so many talented people, especially within the food publishing world that my own photography is part of. I’m incredibly moved by the most simple of photographs, of the most mundane things. Indeed, my own favourite photograph from the last seven or so years that I’ve been creating pictures is of a toilet roll. There’s a lifetime’s work of photography collected by the artist Gerhard Richter – his ‘Atlas’ – and it’s an incredible project which is part of the most fascinating discourse with his painting and also an incredible enquiry into the ‘thingness’ of photographs.
What advice would you give aspiring photographers? Be absolutely fascinated by light; you don’t need to own a camera for this. Get good at finding the light you like. Get good at repeating things which you enjoy in your work. Don’t ever worry about the kit you have: just take pictures. Improve yourself one small discipline at a time.
And a few randoms…
What I’m reading at the moment: Good Times and Bad Times (a history of the UK’s welfare state).
The book I should have read but didn’t: Shakespeare (any and all Shakespeare).
The last film I watched: For me, it was ‘The Bicycle Thieves’; with the family, it was ‘Meet the Fockers’.
Guilty pleasures: I’m one of those bores who probably doesn’t believe that pleasure and guilt belong in the same sentence, but I do struggle at carving out time for personal pursuits such as reading or writing – for me to do either well, they each require being alone and time not spent with my family always leaves me feeling very guilty.
Music that makes me feel happy: My family will tell you I have the most miserable and melancholy of musical tastes. I’d be hard-pushed to disagree, but such music bring me intense happiness. I couldn’t imagine a world without music. A few years ago, I discovered the music of Slow Meadow and his eponymous album is one which never fails to absolutely stop me in my tracks.
Fantasy dinner party guests: Albert Camus, because he articulated the beauty of poverty better than anyone else I’ve read and his is one of the few lives I’ve read so much about. Margaret Jull Costa: translator of some of my favourite authors – she’s immersed herself inside the heads of some of the last century’s most amazing creative minds. James Baldwin, because his truth and his voice transfixes. Annie Ernaux, whose books I discovered last year: her talent is quite breathtaking. And Leslie Nielsen: because his face never fails to make me smile. My wife, Charlotte, because you couldn’t possibly want to experience that kind of evening without the person you love most to share it with you.
Four things to take to a desert island: The works of Shakespeare are a given, right? Pen and paper, Pessoa’s ‘The Book of Disquiet’ and probably a timepiece: even disconnected from the rest of the world and its rhythms, I like to have an idea of how to allocate and pass time.
Three wishes for 2021: This last year, the government has had a chance (a few, actually) to start from the ground up on new commitments and policies which would truly reflect their pledge to ‘level up’. They’ve been able to show that the state can find a solution for homelessness and have made interventions (too little and always late) on food poverty. I’d love to see lasting hard regenerative policy created in both those areas. And health, of course, has to be top of everyone’s wish list for this year.