An Interview with Matthew Traucht
By Deborah Boudewyns, Curator 365/365, Rapson Hall, University of Minnesota
What inspired you to do this yearlong project?
I wanted a creative outlet outside of school projects. Photography has been a part of my life for decades and I wanted to reconnect with it. By restricting the subject to the landscape, I was still close to my active research and study of landscape architecture. I focused on my surroundings, the identity of places, and the outdoors. My intent was to develop an assemblage of landscape images that inspire me or that I’d want to change. It is like a catalog of things I like. There were implications, however, of committing to a yearlong project. It turned out to be a lot more work than anticipated. As a graduate student in design school, I am already stretched for time and adding this daily exercise was a bit too ambitious. Initially, I thought how hard could it be? But the reality is that I spent more than 30 minutes each day on this. I would frame the image, reevaluate it and then edit. I did a lot of postproduction.
How did you know what was the snapshot of the day?
By 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I’d start to panic if I didn’t already have a shot. But really the images/moments found me. I would be riding my bike to or from home and school and something would catch my eye, my peripheral vision. Oftentimes I found a different image than the one I initially stopped to get. So, one image may have catalyzed the moment for a final image. I took many pictures a day. Some days I just took one picture and knew I had it. Other days I took more than 300 pictures. I was very deliberate about the pictures. In general the camera translated what I saw. I didn’t do a lot of extreme Photoshop, but I used Lightroom, which is a digital process that is close to the actual manual dark room process. The camera translated the image I saw at the given moment.
What is your relationship to the camera?
I am a classically trained photographer. While completing my anthropology degree at the University of New Mexico, I minored in photography. My focus was on large format, big view cameras. I spent several years living in dark rooms. The camera has been with me for the last decade, every day. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer, I took many pictures and established a strong online photo presence. I’ve been taking photos for almost 20 years, though I never felt like I had an identity as a photographer. That’s changed with the 365 project.
Have you found connections between the images?
Some days I never wanted to see a connection between images. I tried to keep it diverse. But given that, there are analogies. For example, one day I took a photo of the Gehry’s Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis and found myself the very next day in Seattle taking a photo of Gehry’s history museum. There was a connection one day away… The day before leaving for three weeks in Vietnam and Thailand, I took a shot of graffiti in NE Minneapolis. My first shot upon returning from that trip was of another piece of NE Minneapolis street art. And I, also, ended up finding different moments at farmer’s markets around the city. So, I guess I found some themes and connections by chance.
Were there surprises?
There were surprises; surprises about the landscape. Something that appears to be static actually changes from day to day. I found myself asking how there could be so many diverse spaces along one route. The project has informed by studies in landscape architecture by reinforcing the idea that the commonplace surroundings are full of surprises. There is a lot of diversity in spaces and the same street can have many different identities.
What was the most interesting outcome of this project?
Well, I learned more about myself than I thought. Some of it turned out to be extremely personal. It was a labor of love and sometimes that can kill you or drive you crazy. The project turned out to be much more difficult than I expected. Photos are inherently about memory and every one of these shots is a moment out of my life. Installing the images for the exhibit has been an emotional experience and a reminder of where and how I’ve invested myself. It really was an adventure. I’m very proud of this project and the wherewithal I had to commit to it and complete it. I’m not sure yet how this has helped to ingrain my identity with the camera. But I do think I’ve become a better and more concise photographer.