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Matt Cooke

  • Photography

It was during my art and design foundation course that we picked up cameras and learned about photography (I’d got in on a ceramics ticket, and had never had a camera as a kid).

There was an epiphany. It was a revelation, for all the ideas to be communicable through this photo mechanical process. No more frustration with hands not drawing or making what I saw or wanted with the level of competence I desired, and was always frustrated by. The indexical nature of photography grabbed me, and has kept me enthralled ever since.

My work is concerned with tribalism, the notion of acceptance, groups and communities. Career highlights include seeing students and former graduate assistants going on to have flourishing careers, as well as witnessing colleagues and friends finally having huge success.

It was also great seeing 96 sheet posters of my work up around London, seeing ad campaigns using my photographs pasted up on the sides of buses. Also watching people flicking through magazines, stopping on your pictures in an article and starting to read it. Job done.

My greatest achievement

Personally my family, my three beautiful daughters and their rounded development to be well adjusted members of society.
Professionally it would be sustaining a commercial career over three decades.

Meeting people to make portraits of, such as Lewis Hamilton, Jean Claude Van-Damme, Kate Adie, Will Self, Bill Bailey, Danny Dyer, Martin Kemp, Professor Martin Raff, travelling the world, seeing inside nuclear facilities, F1 headquarters, Science laboratories, manufacturing plants, and the workings of a plethora of businesses that are denied access to people without a camera.

Other achievement include:

  • Seeing people looking at a billboard or bus with your images on the side.
  • Creating campaign images for causes that matter, such as the Samaritans, Barnardos, NSPCC and Macmillan Cancer relief.
  • Making a living from something I love.
  • It’s been a cool ride so far, here’s to the next 30 years!

My inspiration

The canonical practitioners of photography, the breadth of practice out there. I just love the medium of photography, regardless of the genre.

If it wasn’t for W Eugene Smith’s photograph of Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath from the Minamata Series, I probably wouldn’t have been so turned on to photography, its power and emotive resonance.

The connection of love in that image of the mother with Tomoko, her profoundly disabled daughter caused by mercury poisoning form the Minamata corporation, is to witness photography’s awesome power to communicate.

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