THE LIGHT IS PERFECT NOW Working in the classical traditions of photography, Matthew Fuller creates beautiful color and black and white images that resonate with a sense of place and carry an emotional charge. He maintains personal hands on control of the photographic process from concept to printing every print, including his large format images. A self taught artist, Fuller has diligently pursued his craft since 1987. After establishing his reputation in Austin, Texas shooting for Texas Monthly and various architects, he spent three years in Milan Italy shooting editorial fashion for Rizzoli Publications. His most acclaimed work is the product of self-assigned projects exploring Havana, Paris, Italy, Rio de Janeiro, Texas and the desert Southwest. SEEING WHAT'S AROUND THE CORNER When photographer, Matthew Fuller, steps out the door of his Wimberley Texas studio, he's ready for work. "If I see the shot, I shoot it and that's it". Intuition of scale and perspective, guide him, he says, along with an instant evaluation of style, light, and shape. "These multiple elements work together as I view the whole scene, study the composition and see how the light envelopes it, " he continues. Fuller's philosophy is simple,” no multiple frames of the same image. " Just shoot the shot and move on. I've discovered that if you work something too hard, and if you think about something too much, you lose the immediacy and spontaneity of that moment and image." Fuller's dedication to classical, fine arts photography produces work often described as atmospheric, moody, or romantic. Constantly alert for that previously unnoticed place, environment, or city scape, he prefers the viewer to be part of the scene rather than just looking at it. Travel and fashion photography work in Italy provided him a springboard for many projects in Europe. In Paris, he produced 'City of Light' a dramatic, sparkling night image of the Eiffel Tower which remains his most popular-selling print, he notes. Cuba drew his interest in 1999, and during a six-week immersion in the culture, Fuller produced an acclaimed series of black and white prints, titled 'Particular Cuba.' Cuban citizens in street scenes, at parties, making and smoking hand-rolled cigars, and even costumed for a film found a receptive resolute audience with the Texas photographer. Fuller explained to Southern Arizona Online's writer Cara Rene in 'Cubans' Spirit Burns Bright,' ( March 11, 2000) " I was more interested in giving an honest portrayal of the people. I'm not really politically oriented. I'm making a neutral statement that the human spirit exists in this place. I wanted to show that there is joy, even in a repressed regime." The article goes on to note that Fuller's Cuba series exhibits an eerie illumination, as though new life has just begun pulsating through an ancient being.' While commercial and location work, including album covers for musicians and bands such as the Flatlanders, Reckless Kelly, and Joe Ely are his bread and butter, Fuller's first love is fine arts photography. Moving from Austin to Wimberley several years ago, he brought along his expansive array of large scale photographs taken during his international travels. His own personal window on the world, they command huge physical and visual impact " Images take on another dimension when they're scaled up," he explains. " You're almost there, you have that perspective of reality." " Experimentation is part of the process. " What I do is not a secret; the real secret is dedication and diligence, sticking with it, " he says. "My work is approachable and enjoyable for the people who buy it as well as the casual viewer, and evokes a feeling of place and fond memories." By Patti Jones Morgan BBQ Matthew Fuller's body of work "Fat Smoke" was born one mid-summer afternoon 2014, as the waft of burning wood and grilled meat filled the air with the sensation of summer. He was reminded of the adage that one of Texas's greatest loves is barbecue. We all know about our beloved BBQ joints, the ones we will wait hours in line for, the ones we will drive hundreds of miles for, these are at the heart of the tradition. But what is it about BBQ that defines Texas so precisely? Of course we all love the flavor and texture of the meat itself, but if the same delicacy was served with a tablecloth and candlelight, could we still categorize it under the genre of "Texas barbecue?" Seems then, that the most distinguishing characteristic is the homegrown culture and atmosphere that surrounds the meat, as well as the dedication to its perfection. Fuller sought to shed his own artistic light on this aspect. In order to investigate further, he had to go behind the scenes and into the pits in the early morning hours when the fires were first stoked. What resulted was a moving and grand display of characteristic and atmospheric quality that results from the diligence of that early morning labor. As light filters through the smoke, and the stoked fires burn bright umber in preparation for the hours long process, we start to understand why it is that we love our Texas BBQ. Fuller drew out the color, texture and warmth from the pits and their surroundings, adding to it his own smoke filled flavor and style. A mysterious demeanor has now been affixed to these familiar venues, and we may never see our hometown barbeque joint the same way. By Jen Jenkins Photographer Fritz Henle seen through the lens of Austin area image-maker Matthew Fuller BY ROBERT FAIRES, FRI., JUNE 12, 2009 In "Fritz Henle: In Search of Beauty," the Harry Ransom Center has shone a spotlight on a photographer whose work straddled the creative and commercial worlds, who was as likely to be found shooting Texas high school students for Life magazine, Louisiana oil refineries for Cities Service Oil Co., or a swimsuit spread in the Caribbean for Vogue as abstracted urban landscapes or arty nudes. So in looking at the exhibition, which includes 125 images from the photographer's storied 60-year career, it seemed fitting to draw on the expertise of a kindred spirit to Henle. Austin photographer Matthew Fuller has produced images for everything from burger joint ads to museum annual reports, shot it all from architectural interiors to rock star portraits. He's also a respected fine art photographer who has shown locally at Davis Gallery and Flatbed Gallery and in Houston; Santa Fe, N.M.; and Jackson, Miss. Given that he knows intimately what's involved in the composition of a shot, the capturing of a moment in time, the play of light and shadow, the "search for beauty" even in the confines of a commercial assignment, the Chronicle thought Fuller might provide a valuable perspective on the work of this career photographer and the art and business of taking pictures. What follows are excerpts from our hourlong stroll through this expansive and visually sumptuous exhibition. Austin Chronicle: Did you know Henle's work? Matthew Fuller: Not really. But there are so many great unsung photographers out there. What I've found in 20 years of photography and 10 years of exhibiting is that the dealers have a pretty tight grip on who gets sold and who gets acknowledged. Mainly because they own a lot of that material, so they're promoting their own material. That's why you hear these names over and over and over, and of course, it's Cartier-Bresson and Avedon and these people, and everybody else gets left out. There's probably 50 names, and there are thousands of great photographers that you never hear of. Sometimes you're familiar with the image and not the person. This image [Nieves, Mexico, 1943] is classic and is on the cover of a 20th century photography collection by the German publisher Taschen. AC: Do you like seeing other photographers' work? MF: I love it. In fact, one thing I recommend to people starting out is to see what's out there. It's extremely important to see: Am I reinventing the wheel? Has this been done 50 million times? Seeing stylistic approaches and getting ideas is really important for people starting out. And the [photography] archive here [at the Ransom Center] is one of the best in the world. MF: Every photographer has tried certain things: foreign city locations, urban landscapes, landscapes, nudes, reportage. AC: Everyone cuts their teeth on them to some extent. MF: There are certain subjects that just overwhelm the medium, and the Grand Canyon is certainly one of them. Cowboys and boats are classics. You can shoot 'em any way, and they still have that similarity. AC: There's that inherent drama that's going to play itself out. At some point, that boat is going to tilt, and that water is going to rush up; the wind will fill the sails. And if you've got horses, horses are gonna run. MF: [Looking at Cowboys and Oil Derrick, Texas, 1949] And the cowboys' hats and everything, the costume. AC: And the derricks. You have this nice horizon low in the frame, and the derricks just stick up from the flat land and poke into that big sky. AC: When you see an image for the first time, is there one thing that jumps out at you? MF: Composition more than anything, then I see content. AC: Is this [Policeman in the Rain, Odeons-Platz, Munich, Germany, 1930] an image that would have jumped out at you? MF: Absolutely. The simplicity of it. It has a really wide range of light and shadow. The form. The line. The lone character in the center. The perspective of the photographer is interesting, too. It's not at street level; it's from a building, from a balcony or something. And it looks like just after a major downpour, and everyone had fled, and this one guy came back out. The light reminds me of that as well. The light from the clearing sky is reflecting on the dark clouds and presenting this reflection onto the wet surface. AC: If you take the elevated perspective away ... MF: It's a totally different image. One thing I tell people is that there are a billion ways to approach [creating an image like this]. It could be from the tiny texture of the fabric of his clothes. It could be from underground, in the sewer, looking up. You could move a couple of feet [to the left or right], and it would be a totally different image. So part of the great joy of creating photography is discovering the "it" perspective, the one that works the best. I achieve that by going around and viewing perspectives, seizing on one of interest, and then I look in the viewfinder, and it either tells me that it's right or it's not. I usually don't shoot a bunch of frames of one perspective myself, and I doubt if Henle did either, from looking at this work. AC: The exhibition text says that Henle usually carried two cameras with him: one with color and one with black-and-white film. Can you see a shot and filter out the color in your mind to see what it will look like as a black and white? MF: Pretty much. And more than that, when you're using the square-format cameras, everything is backwards, and when you're using large-format cameras, everything is upside-down, so you're composing upside-down. Your mind just adjusts to it. I don't look at contact sheets when I'm judging an image. I look at negatives. Because you're looking at tonal values. Like this image [Fashion Model With Flower Vendor at the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico, 1945] would have been much more interesting in black and white, because the tonal values are gray and white. Of course, it's for a fashion magazine and they're trying to bring out the sand colors in her outfit, so it had to be in color for purely commercial reasons. But this [On the Beach, Fredericksted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, 1948] looks fantastic in black and white. AC: Do you see in his fashion work some of the same characteristics from his art photography? MF: Absolutely. Especially in the compositions and scale. AC: The exhibition shows Henle working through so many styles, areas in which a lot of different photographers specialize. He has a versatility that's kind of astounding to me. MF: I think in those days it was essential. I don't think photographers specialized much. You were the photographer. You shoot whatever is there. Creative photographers did fashion and reportage for their business and then created images on their own for their personal pleasure. There wasn't a big art dealer scene at that time. So a lot of this kind of material they did when they were on location and had a day off from a shoot or something like that. MF: This [Coal Miner of the Ruhr Valley, Germany, 1967] stands out. So amazing. Fantastic print. Great subject matter. AC: There's so much going on there. The white chest hair against the darkened skin. And that incredible balance of the beauty of the image, as it's composed and through the tone and shifts of light to shadow, and the reportage and portraiture. We feel we know everything there is to know about this guy. We know what his life is like. MF: The glint in this eye and the squint in that one. "It's a tough world, but I'm making it." That's just a hero. A workingman's hero.