For the nineteenth installment of our Photographer Series, I spoke to Matthew Jastrzemski, a 42-year-old inline skater and photographer living in Zagreb, Croatia. Originally from the United States, Matthew has been living in Zagreb for several years, starting up a family, creating art, and running his own hair salon. As a photographer, Matthew’s focus is street, portraiture, and skate photography.
Where are you originally from?
I am originally from New Jersey, but I went to college in Columbus, Ohio, finished in Denver, Colorado, also spent some time in Florida and a few years in San Diego, California.
How does living in Croatia compare to your past life in the United States?
Honestly, people are people; I’ve always tried to keep company with good people, so other than the language and the food, life isn’t too different, apart from having a wife and kid now.
How long have you been skating?
A long time! I received my first pair of inline skates sometime in the 1980s. The skates didn’t even have cuff buckles! They laced all the way up, and the liners had no padding.
How did you get into photography?
I’ve always had an interest in the arts; I think photography just happened at some point during my life in the arts.
What gear do you shoot with?
I keep a small set. I shot mainly with a digital Leica and a 50mm for a year. Lately, I’ve found I really enjoy shooting with a 28mm. I am currently shooting with a Leica M-D (Typ 262) (a stripped-down digital body). It only has a manual setting and focus; it doesn’t even have a screen on it, so you can’t preview what you’ve shot until you get home. It makes you trust your knowledge of the camera.
I only use flashes for portraiture in the studio; everything else is about natural light.
Shots in Eindhoven
How long have you been shooting skate photography?
I’ve always shot it off and on and shoot it mostly when I’m injured. With being 42-years-old now, it’s essential to skate when I can, so I have not been shooting as much.
What was your first published photo?
What is your favorite skating photo you’ve taken?
You are an artist, photographer, and hairstylist; which do you identify first and foremost?
Oh man, I guess I think of a lot of those as things I do, but I believe art is the rooted part of me; everything else kind of branches from that. It’s all expression. But I can support my family with hair.
Do you blend elements of your art, hair, and photography together?
Well, currently, I am doing a series of still-life images that quite literally blend them. But also, my haircutting is generally more sculptural than it is a craft. And I always document the ones I really like. So I guess they are always blended together.
Is photography part of your career, or is it more of a hobby?
It’s a big part of my career, I think. But it is certainly more of a side project. It is somewhere between career and hobby—more of a compulsion. I had a solo gallery show set up, but COVID-19 had other plans, so I’ve been working on selling prints and books.
Did you receive any formal schooling for photography, or are you self-taught?
I studied photography in high school and college but had all my camera gear stolen and switched to sculpture and printmaking. Around that time, digital cameras were becoming popular, and something about the big DSLR just ruined the process for me. This resulted in me drifting away from shooting photos until I discovered the Leica camera, which allowed me the shooting process that I enjoyed, but with the unfortunate Leica price tag!
Skating in Zagreb
What about your art?
I received my Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Denver with an emphasis on sculpture and printmaking.
How would you describe your art style?
I’m a formalist; regardless of any subject matter involved, my work is always about the formal aspects of art. Composition, balance, and movement are what drive me. For me, it is never about communication but creating artworks that function as art regardless of any representation.
Where did you study to become a hairstylist?
I studied at the Paul Mitchell Academy but have incorporated many concepts and ideas to cut hair from my studies in sculpture.
Being a foreigner living in Zagreb, was it challenging to find a clientele?
Surprisingly it wasn’t an issue at all. I used social media to market myself and presented only the things that I wanted to do. This brought me an amazing creative clientele who generally give me free rein with their hair.
Outside of skating, what type of photography do you specialize in?
Mainly street photography, but lately, I have been exploring still-life imagery.
Are there other kinds of photography you’ve wanted to dabble with that you haven’t had the opportunity?
I’m a pretty curious type of person and pretty DIY, so if I want to explore something, then I usually do. But I generally keep coming back to street photography
Have you worked together with any skating brands?
Mostly just Be-Mag and Blader Union. I did a quick shoot with someone for a brand, but I am waiting to see if they use the images or not. I generally like more control over the images than shooting for brands usually offers.
What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on?
Shooting Winterclash is always amazing. But I enjoyed shooting for my last book; even though it took so much out of me, I didn’t shoot for months after it was completed. It felt kind of like a post-section slump skaters go through after filming for a section.
Who are your favorite people to collaborate with?
People who love what they do. People who enjoy what they do and people who are true to themselves.
Is there anyone who you’ve wanted to shoot with but never had the opportunity?
Heaps of people. If someone is open-minded to how I shoot, I want to shoot with them, as for who, anyone who fits the description above.
How does skating today compare to how it was when you first began?
It’s just more mature now. Peoples skating is more mature. Back when we were all younger, everyone just seemed to want to do the hardest trick. They were able to go down whatever they could. I think now that the average age is older for skaters, there is just more maturity. And people want to do the trick that “feels” right, not necessarily the most challenging thing they can. Some people still do the most difficult thing they can, but it’s generally what feels right to them. So we have a giant mix of styles and approaches to skating, and it all just feels more honest in presentation.
Portraits clockwise from to the left: Alex Burston, Chad Hornish, Jon Ortiz, Kalléo Hipolito, Stefan Brandow, Montre Livingston, Martin Danning, and Danny Aldridge
Where do you want to take your art, photography, and hairstyling into the future?
I’m always looking to progress, but I’m never planning anything. I’m now working on three photography concepts for a book, and I’ll see which develops more. As for hair, I want to keep exploring and working with clients.
Has anyone influenced your approach to shooting photos?
Who is your favorite photographer?
Robert Franke will always be someone I go and look at when I’m feeling uncreative.
Has COVID-19 changed how you go out skating or shooting?
Well, I generally shoot street photography alone and skate alone or with one other person. So not really. I have been slacking on skate photography as I’ve been actually skating as my body has been feeling pretty good.
Header Image – Tin Hadžiomerspahić 180
- To see more of Matthew’s street photography, follow his Stranger in Croatia Instagram page.
- Follow Matthew’s personal Instagram to keep up with all his skating adventures.
- To see more of his skating, visit his YouTube channel.
- To find out more about his salon, visit oblikstudio.hr and follow Oblik Salon on Facebook and Instagram.
- Contact Big Wheel Blading for any questions, suggestions, story ideas, or to contribute content.
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