Monday, March 3, 2008
Matthew Rolston - Simply Glamorous
Matthew Rolston's photography has graced the world's most renowned fashion magazine covers. In a rare interview, he shares his thoughts on photography, gear and lighting.
Los Angeles-based photographer and director Matthew Rolston has created some of the most iconic imagery of the inhabitants of the celebrity world. He sculptures the who's who of Hollywood and beyond with lighting techniques that are both classic and cutting edge.
After studying illustration, photography and film at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California—the school has since awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contributions to the field of photography—Rolston was “discovered” by Andy Warhol for Interview Magazine. Assignments from Rolling Stone, Vogue, W and Harper's Bazaar soon followed. Rolston then expanded his clientele to include the lucrative world of advertising and extended his creative vision by embracing the moving picture as a director of commercials for clients ranging from The Gap to Revlon to Campari and music videos for recording artists including Madonna, Beyoncé and Janet Jackson.
Regardless of the medium or the subjects before Rolston's lens, the results are a consistent finished product that epitomizes modern glamour.
DPP: Your career seems to weave a great photographic eye and great technique with a strong business acumen. How have you been able to develop both to such a high degree?
Matthew Rolston: My career has been long and diverse. In the beginning, I was very fortunate to work with Andy Warhol and soon after with Harper's Bazaar. Even then, I knew my way around a photo, but I had absolutely no idea of how to run a business. In a sense, I'm very lucky that I was able to survive my first success. For example, during my first six months in business, I shot quite a few jobs, but I forgot that I had to actually send bills to my clients and get paid. Well, that was a wake-up call. It took me a long time to come to grips with the business side. It's just not how my brain worked back then. Now, with greater experience and knowledge and, thankfully, a wonderful staff, I don't have those problems.
DPP: What has influenced your photographic eye?
Rolston: My photography is influenced by many things, not always photographs. One of the main things that has always inspired me is the so-called “Hollywood Golden Age.” Glamorous black-and-white films of the '30s and '40s, and Technicolor films of the '40s and '50s have always amazed and delighted me. That being said, there are publicity photographs from that period that are iconic and, in a way, have a greater power than even the films themselves. For example, there are images of Crawford or Dietrich that are, to me, more memorable than any film performance they were meant to document. The greatest of these publicity photographs were created by George Hurrell.
DPP: What is it about George Hurrell's photography that made him so sought after?
Rolston: Mr. Hurrell, in my mind, and that of many others, was the absolute apogee of Golden Age Hollywood photographers. He was the master of the MGM portrait studio, the top studio in Hollywood at that time. He pioneered a technique of lighting and retouching, and had a point of view about beauty that was far more sophisticated than his contemporaries. The hard spotlight, the sculptural form, the sensuality, the unbelievable perfection of the skin—these are all values that speak to me today.