Philadelphia-based photographer Matt Zugale's engagingapproach to photography makes the viewer feel like a participant. With abackground in street and portrait photography, Matt’s work is directand familiar: warm light and saturated color characterise his commercial work and his personal work.

Can you tell us more about your experienceas a photographer through the years? How has your upbringing shaped your creativity? 

I’ve been quite lucky. Though my work is "reality-based" -real people, real interactions- my clients allow me to go beyond the descriptive and tell broader stories. My experience helps me find the moment that connects universally.

Growing up, art was always in my life. My house was full of paintings, books, great music, and the support to pursue all of it. My friends were musicians, photographers, painters, writers, and many still are.

My dad gave me his Pentax Spotmatic when I was a teenager. With it, I wandered aroundmy suburban NJ town and photographed anything and everything that crossed my path. What seemed "normal" never really was. That tension formed the base of my work.

Where do you draw your inspiration from, and what do you think makes your work stand out?

Most ofmy inspiration comes from observing light. Watching how it shapes, reflects, shows, obscures, and changes a person or place is everything, really. Thesecond, just as important, source of my inspiration comes from the people that I’m working with. I always try to make a real, honest connection with everyone I photograph. The camera must feel like one of the participants in the scene, rather than an outside observer. I think those two things - genuine connection and participation in the action- make my work stand out.

How would you describe the creative process behind your work?

My creative process is largely about getting out of the way. While I do direct my subjects a bit, I find that if I can make them feel comfortable and almost ignore the camera, we can get to the heart of the matter.

Can you tell us what you are working on right now?

Again, I’m very lucky. I have a few very consistent clients, new clients, and teachinggigs that keep me very busy. Teaching has been a great way to connect with concepts and technical processes that I may not always think about in my day to day. Seeing students develop is very rewarding. I'm also mulling over a personal series based on my time in between New York and Philadelphia. I’m on the road quite a bit.

You said in Philadelphia you found “the ability to make your camera feel like a participant in the action, to be direct, to keep it simple, to let your subjects speak for themselves(...)”Could you tell us a little bit more, what do you mean by that?

Phillyis a very “in-your-face” kind of town. People will come up to you while you’re photographing something, and talk to you, and not always nicely. You learn to work with all people respectfully and understand their needs. I get close, butI don’t linger too long in any situation, even on commercial jobs. Once the freshness is gone, it’s time to move on. In my commercial and personal work, I play it two ways: be personable, get to know the subject, they’ll pay more attention to me and the camera is an afterthought, or make the camera anobvious focal point -the life of the party. I’m a friend, family member, a guest.

How do you keep up with the changing trendsin the industry you work in?

I tryto focus on what feels right for me. My background is in street photography. It comes and goes with trends but I think genuine connections with your subjects are forever.

From all the pictures you have created over the years, do you have any favourites you would like to share with us? And what makes them special?

I havea few, but one that always comes to mind is a photograph of a girl jumping off a diving board. I think this image captures the freedom of youth, the idea that kids are always on the edge of change, and it feels like nostalgia for Summer. The camera is like another kid on the ladder waiting their turn.

How has Production Paradise been helpfulfor you?

ProductionParadise has put my work in front of people who may not have seen it otherwise. I’ve gotten great advice from your creative coach Christine Saunders about my work and social media presence.

We thank Matt for taking his time to share his experiences with us! If you want to see more of his work, visit his member page or his website.