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Mathys Haddouche

7 April 2021

Management and engineering student Mathys Haddouche is a street photographer that makes the most of lonely subjects, artificial lighting and diffusion filters to create a dreamlike effect to his images. Read on to find out how photography has become a real outlet for him and how he hopes to one day make a living from the field.

What's your backstory?

Hello! My name is Mathys Haddouche and I am 24 years old. I live in Mons with my girlfriend as part of my management engineering studies in Belgium.

I have moved a lot during my life, which sometimes gives me the feeling that I don't belong to a particular place. But I am in Brussels most of the time when I take photographs.

How did you first start out in photography?

I grew up in a relatively creative environment on my mother's side which led to my interest in visual observation. I always paid a lot of attention to the different environments around me as a child.

I have always had an attraction for cameras, I think they are really beautiful objects. At every event where someone would bring a camera, I made sure I used it. But I really started taking photography seriously in October 2018 when I could finally afford my first camera. Since then, photography has become a real escape route. I've always had a hard time expressing my feelings and photography helps me a lot with that. It also allowed me in some way to understand who I was.

I have the hope that one day I will be able to live from my photography (perhaps naively). But I haven't really thought about how to put this into actions yet.

How would you describe your style?

It's complicated for me to give an exact answer because I feel that my style is still evolving. I do a lot of street photography but I also like to photograph night scenes. I would say that now I try to create "dreamy" images with everyday scenes.

What subjects do you like to shoot?

Night and places with artificial lighting have an important place in my photography. I also like to depict isolated people in large spaces.

I feel that the night allows me to refocus on myself and what I can feel. I have this feeling that I can regain control and cut myself off from the world in a certain way. I unconsciously try to recreate an emotion of loneliness that I have felt so many times in my life.

From a technical point of view, shooting in these conditions allows us to concentrate on something essential: light. This makes it easier to 'force' the person to look where you want them to look.

What are your sources of inspiration?

I think like many others I get my inspiration from films, TV series and books. I find that Instagram and sharing platforms can be a very good way to get visually inspired and educated.

I also pay a lot of attention to what is around me. So life in general can also be a great source of inspiration with our own emotions and experiences and the environment we live in. It is important to have a certain curiosity about what life has to offer us.

Are you an impulsive or planned shooter?

I think most of the time I'm an impulsive shooter. But I would say it's planned impulsiveness. For example, I can go out to photograph several times a week, or not go out to photograph for several months. But I always have goals or starting points when I go out. It removes that feeling of frustration that can sometimes arise when you lack inspiration in the present moment.

How do you achieve the look in your photos?

I always underexpose my photos (-1EV). This allows me to keep control over the highlights. I do my best to achieve the final result in the camera. Then I work on the images in Lightroom. I adjust the different exposure settings, play around with the tone curves and adjust the colours with the colour grading tool. I often add grain and take a bit of clarity off to give a particular look.

My main objective with editing is that you can't know which material was used (analog or digital).

Before and after editing

How do you feel your style has changed over the years?

I am relatively new to the field (started in October 2018) and I worked hard to try to find my style. Although my photography is still evolving over time, I think I have reached now a level where I enjoy what I do.

But I keep working because I don't like to be satisfied with things. I'm someone who works a lot on impulse. When I do something, I do it to the end until I get bored. It can really become obsessive. But it's totally different with photography, I don't get tired of it at all.

Can you show us an image that you are particularly proud of?

This image is part of a small series I did with the help of a friend on the theme of daydreaming. I am particularly proud of it as it perfectly represents the current state of mind I am in when I take my photos. With the COVID situation, I had to make the most of what little outings I made. It is the result of a lot of thought about scouting the scene beforehand, and planning the shot (for example, bringing in props).

Before and after editing

What advice would you have for people getting into photography?

I think the most important thing in photography and the creative process is to do it for yourself. You have to get pleasure out of it and not be afraid to make mistakes or fail. With social networks and the pressure that comes with them, it has become easy to get lost. It's a long journey and sometimes it will be difficult but it's worth it.

How has COVID-19 affected your photography?

I think that on the whole COVID-19 has been positive for me. At the beginning it was difficult because I am not a homebody. And I had to limit or even suppress my movements enormously because of certain health problems. But it allowed me to remain creative and to have a more organic approach to photography. I freed myself from some of the pressure I had put on myself. I had the impression that I had to produce a certain kind of images and to limit myself to that style.

What are your thoughts on Instagram and social media for photography?

It is the side of photography that I like the least. I love to share my images and receive feedback but sometimes networks have a lot of negative effects. It creates a kind of competitiveness and forces us to compare ourselves to others.

I think that like many people I have tried to understand how to take advantage of Instagram's "algorithm" but it is useless. We should rather take things as they come and not expect anything in return from the platform.

I also hate those sharing pages that make it look like a natural selection of photographers' work when the service is paid for.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us Mathys. Any final comments?

I wanted to thank you for paying attention to my work. It is an honour to be able to be part of those artists whose work and stories are a great source of inspiration. This was my first time doing this and being an introvert, I found it interesting in the sense that I had to challenge myself.

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