Unbelievably Beautiful Portraits by Matthew Priestley

A photographer based in Mesa, Arizona, Matt Priestley has a portfolio filled with stunning portraits. Manipulating shadows and light, each of his photos look like they could be a part of a magazine spread.

Flipping through his Flickr page, you can't help but see his progression, his experimentation with style and his growing emphasis on the artistic side of photography. Gorgeous and inspiring, to say the least, and definitely one to watch.

I was able to connect with Priestley to ask him about his work. Read that interview, below.

How would you describe your style?
I find it difficult to describe my own style, but I've heard things like Old Hollywood, gritty, raw, classic, and film-like. Of course some are less gritty and raw than others, but I think film-like is one of the more common adjectives.

How has your style evolved?
I started with drawing when my parents bought me a book on how to draw the human face. The symmetry that it revealed was at times a curse. It made me see myself as asymmetrical. I became obsessed with the ideal. When I passed my teenage years, I became more comfortable in my own skin, and this knowledge of symmetry became how I viewed beauty. Everyone has an angle at which they look the most symmetrical. This translates to a subconscious impression of beauty for the viewer. So I would say my style has evolved by attempting to find these angles and to infuse story and emotion into the shoot. I've also learned (and am still learning) that cutting corners in editing is one of the worst ways to sabotage your work. I respect the individual shots and give them the creative time and focus needed to make it the most impactful, and I've learned that even the tedious things like skin editing are part of what creates that impact. I'll be learning this more and more for the rest of my life I think.

Who are some photographers that inspire you?
Annie Leibovitz understands light, beauty, and story more than any other, and because of that, she has a great influence on my work. Steven Meisel is nearly as good but in a more startling way. They have a lot in common to me. I enjoy most their similar use of very soft light.

What would be your dream job?
I have my dream job overall, which is to get paid to make people look as beautiful as I see them, and to tell stories through that. My dream shoot would be a spread in Italian Vogue, of course. I have a long way to go I think, but what a fun journey.

Are there any quotes that you live by or that inspire you?
There aren't any quotes that I constantly think of or refer to, but Annie Leibovitz said, “a very subtle difference can make the picture or not.” To me, that is an insistence that the details ARE the picture. I may or may not be successful at perfecting the details that make up the photo, but the more I work, the closer my finished photo looks like the idea in my head, which I think is a great accomplishment. It's the only daunting and satisfying goal in photography, execution.

Matthew Priestley

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