SVA Alumnus Matin Zad on Winning the New Exposure Photography Competition

October 31, 2013

Toronto-born photographer Matin Zad (MPS 2013 Fashion Photography), who first made news stateside this spring with a poster for Duckie Brown, won Bottega Veneta’s 2013 New Exposure Photography Competition in September. Offering a $10,000 cash prize, yearlong mentorships with ad agency Art+Commerce and Shaw at Vogue, and the opportunity to shoot a Bottega Veneta campaign, the competition drew some 650 entries.

Zad’s photographs for Carven, Diesel and Levi’s Made & Crafted (and for the Bottega Veneta competition, seen below) have lit up the fashion blogs for their unique aesthetic—described by one blogger as “subversive, minimal, and abstractly peculiar.” His work will be included in the MPS Fashion Photography 2013 Graduate Exhibition, on view November 23 through December 17 at the SVA Gramercy Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street.

SONY DSCHow has life changed since winning the competition?

It’s an exciting time. The win, as well as the support I’ve gotten from people through the competition, has given me confidence that both my career and my artistic development are on the right path. It has also given me great encouragement to continue to create work that challenges and excites me.

Can you talk about the concept behind your winning campaign?

The photos were born out of collaboration with the design duo gg-ll. We wanted to re-contextualize the look and feel of Levi’s Made & Crafted denim without straying from the brand’s roots. The concept of gardening and botany was born out of the idea of beautifying one’s work environment, which I’ve always thought to be an undervalued practice. The images speak of the likeness between the care and delicacy needed to tend a garden and the construction of a pair of Levi’s jeans, which are both an iconic fashion item and a longstanding work uniform for gardeners and farmers. We wanted to bring that into our visual world by contrasting the rugged clothes with the delicate colors and forms of the set, and took inspiration from SANAA, a Japanese architectural firm.

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Your work straddles the line between fashion and fine art photography. How important is that distinction for you? Is this something you constantly want to push within your own work?

My undergrad education at OCAD University was fine art-based. Form without function just didn’t fly, nor did anything to do with fashion. My favorite photographers have always been ones that blur the distinction between the two, so I don’t feel comfortable being categorized as either one. I don’t see where one ends and another begins when I’m creating images. Fashion’s always been an exciting realm to work in; it gives me greater creative freedom and more opportunities for my work to be seen than art based shoots. I’ve always been interested in fashion, but seeing the industry up close has greatly influenced the way I interpret clothing in my work. But above all I just want to create imagery that speaks of human behavior in an honest way, and that can lend itself to any style.

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How has the program helped you most in your professional goals?

Living in New York and seeing the photography and fashion industries firsthand has given me a greater understanding of how they operate. My teachers, as well as the lectures from visiting artists, have also given me valuable insight that I wouldn’t be able to get alone. The contacts I’ve made through the MPS Fashion Photography program have been indispensable, they’ve given me access to things that otherwise would’ve been difficult to reach—creative directors, editors and fashion houses that I’d like to work for. I feel that the program has helped me lay down the foundation of my career, and the rest is up to me.

Images: Matin Zad portrait by Hannah Newberry; all other photos by Matin Zad.

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