An Objective Perspective – An Interview with VICE Photo Editor Matthew Leifheit Speaks
Kathleen Hefty recently sat down with founder and editor of MATTE Magazine, Matthew Leifheit to get a unique perspective on independent publishing and curating. Not only does Leifheit produce each issue of MATTE largely on his own, he is also the photo editor of Vice Magazine and has an active photography practice. Since 2010, MATTE has dedicated each issue to one photographer; the current one—the magazine’s 23rd and largest yet—features photographer Rachel Stern. The following is a conversation on MATTE’s beginnings, what it means to be an “emerging” artist, and Leifheit’s exciting upcoming collaborations.
Kathleen (Blonde Art Books): I think that the people that follow Blonde Art Books are really interested in gaining insight into the inner workings of small press publishers as well as individual artists’ and curators’ practices so thank you for taking the time. Can you tell me a little about MATTE magazine and how it began?
Matthew Leifheit: It started as a print publication; it was my college thesis. I went to the Rhode Island School of Design, and I worked with this agency one summer—a photo agency in New York— and it dealt with photography in a businesslike way, which is what they do. I feel like artists want to work with other artists, and I don’t think photography should exactly be sold as a product. I think there should always be something sacred about it.The program was very hands on. And especially now looking at [how] MATTE deals with emerging photography and so does Vice, and I feel like that’s like my area. So I pay a lot of attention to the schools. I think if I had gone to SVA or Parsons or something like that I would have come out of it with a much glossier portfolio and a lot more connections and stuff. But at RISD I learned to make things, which is important to me.
Skateboarding has a long and sordid history ever since Marty McFly ripped the handlebars off a kid’s scooter in 1959 and invented the sport. Skateboarding is an insane thing to do because it involves speeding wrecklessly around cities on a flat wooden board, with all your brittle body parts exposed and ready to be shattered. Basically, anyone who skates is a luntatic. Thankfully, lunatics do things like spit blood on their bathroom walls and 50-50 grind off the Grand Canyon, so they make for interesting film subjects.
Today, VICE Films is bringing you All This Mayhem, the story of two legendary skaters and wild men, brothers Tas and Ben Pappas, from the pinnacle of the sport to their ultimate undoing. Crammed with archival footage taken through the brothers’ lives and paired with interviews with other skateboarding stars, All This Mayhem follows the brothers’ meteoric rise to number one and two in the world through their feuds with Tony Hawk, urestrained drug use, and eventual fall from stardom. It’s a tragic story of Shakespearean proportions.
FilmBuff (in parternship with VICE) is releasing the film theatrically and across whatever On Demand platform tickles your fancy—Apple App Store, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, XBox Video, you name it.
Check it out iTunes and hop over to the official website for more information, download links, and select theaters where the film is playing. Don’t miss it.
Photographing Crime Scenes in Chicago on One of the Most Violent Weekends of the Year
It’s 1:30 AM on the morning of July 5, and we’re flying down the expressway at 90 miles an hour. Someone has just been shot near West 63rd Street and South Austin Avenue—we know this from the Twitter accounts operated by police-scanner geeks and our own $50 RadioShack scanner, set to one of the many dispatch channels operated by the Chicago Police Department. All evening the device has been crackling with a constant stream of out-of-breath cops spitting out the addresses and conditions of victims. This is just our latest target in the middle of a long night.
Sitting in the driver’s seat is Alex Wroblewski, a 27-year-old Chicago Sun-Times contract photographer who spends his summer weekends chasing the voices that burst through his scanner’s cheap speaker, trying to get to the scenes before anyone else in order to capture the rawest images. With him is Sun-Times staff reporter Sam Charles, who’s on hand to pull quotes out of whatever cops and victims he runs into. In the 12 hours I’ll spend with Alex on this Independence Day weekend, we’ll travel to a dozen of these scenes, a fraction of the total carnage that will take place in the city. From Thursday night to Monday morning, 82 Chicagoans will have been shot and 14 killed, including five people—two of them boys under the age of 17—gunned down by police for making threats or refusing to drop their handguns. It’s an especially bad stretch of time for a city some have dubbed “Chiraq,” a nickname that causes Alex and Sam to groan.
“The term ‘Chiraq’ is a fucked-up point of pride for too many people in the city,” Sam says. “It’s disrespectful to our city as a whole and to the people of Iraq. Too many out-of-town stupid media outlets—VICE included, frankly—have parroted the term to give it undeserved credibility and staying power.”
Remember how much you loved the art in this year’s photo issue? Did you rip out pages of the magazine and plaster them on your wall because you just loved them so much you wanted to gaze at them longingly while you lay awake at night?
Now you can experience those photographs all over again… but bigger, not affixed to the wall with duct tape, and not for you to delicately caress after being emotionally overwhelmed by their artistic power (seriously, don’t touch them! They’re expensive!). Tomorrow night, we’re throwing a party to celebrate our 2014 photo issue—and lucky you, you’re invited (yes, you).
Join us at the Superchief Gallery in downtown Los Angeles, where you can experience the art all over again. Check out photos by the likes of Cindy Sherman, Richard Kern, Jaimie Warren,Laurie Simmons, and a lot of other great photographers. Entry is free, and 21-and-over.
Thomas Morton (one of our hosts from VICE on HBO) and Fidlar will be DJing. Oh, and did we mention that the drinks are free?
VICE Photo Editor Matthew Leifheit wants to know your secrets. He’s co-curating SLIDELUCK NYC at Photoville in Brooklyn Bridge Park with MAGNUM PHOTOS Creative Director Gideon Jacobs.More details and submit your work here. Deadline is Friday, August 29th.
Remember last month when VICE on HBO received three Emmy nominations, and we were like, “Is it too early for a lifetime achievement award?” Well, guess what? We did it! We won an Emmy for Outstanding Informational Series or Special.
Congrats to Shane Smith, Bill Maher, Eddy Moretti, BJ Levin, Fareed Zakaria, and the incredible correspondents and crew on their achievements. We can’t wait to watch seasons three and four!