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Photographer Matt Hoyle: Barnumville


Photographer Matt Hoyle: Barnumville

by CH Contributor
on 13 August 2009

by Alison Zavos for Feature Shoot

With a penchant for drawing out rich details and the personalities of his subjects, NYC-based photographer Matt Hoyle's hyper-real works tell the stories of America's fringes. We checked in with him to ask a few questions about his background and to find out more about his recent work on circus performers.

You were a creative director in the advertising industry before becoming a full-time photographer. What made you decide to make this jump and was it an easy transition?
I decided to make the jump to give myself more creative freedom. The structure of an advertising agency is still a commercial enterprise and the many layers of power and decision makers made it hard to put my heart and mind into something that would inevitably get diluted into some unrecognizable form down the track. Having said that, the ad industry gave me quite a bit of insight on how to create concepts that had cohesive themes, similar to ad campaigns. I now work in series so that the viewer can see a common thread of an idea woven throughout.

In your latest series "Barnumville" (pictured) you photographed performers who are part of the few remaining sideshows in America. How did you initially approach them about this project?
We were very lucky to align ourselves with a great casting agent named Oliver Zehetner-Loffredo at Ugly NY. They have the absolute best in characters and real old school performers from around America. Oliver fell in love with our project and we gave him our wish list. He then went about sharing the story of Barnumville with these guys and they jumped at the chance. It was really about selling the idea of a thematic project that went deeper than just a photo. I had written a backstory on the founding of Barnumville and how the residents came to be that I think intrigued the subjects and gave them an insight that it was a respectable fine art project and not some exploitative shoot.


What made you decide to shoot close-up portraits of the performers? Did you look to any other photographers for inspiration? The project actually came about and still has the intention of creating 14 cinematic format scenes/shots. I am in the process of creating those scenes in CGI, which is very similar to the process in motion picture CGI movies. These 14 scenes will depict Barnumville as a realistic 1940s Florida town inhabited by sideshow performers. These black and white portraits were initially just a recording. I didn't know they would have such an impact, but the features on each of their faces told so much that I had to create a separate series.

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