Matthew Murphy is a New York City-based photographer specializing in theater and dance. His work appears regularly in the Arts and Leisure section of The New York Times, and additional credits include Bravo TV, New York Magazine, Playbill, Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, Broadway.com, Broadway World, Dance Magazine, The Financial Times, Dance Spirit Magazine, Movmnt Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Time Out New York and The New York Post. Matthew is a former member of American Ballet Theatre.
Some of Matthew's work will be showcased in the debut of Ryan Scott Oliver's "35MM" on March 7 and 12 at the Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo, Brooklyn (16 Main Street, Brooklyn NY 11201) at 8pm (Doors open at 7pm). Tickets for March 7 and Tickets for March 12!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a dancer/writer/photographer? I'm very lucky to come from a family of artists, so my path into the dance world felt somewhat inevitable. I grew up going to the dance studio with my mom and sister and then spent evenings watching my dad rehearse or direct theater productions. I was always excited by all aspects of the theater and dance world, so when I began my photography career I knew I wanted to make productions and the artists involved in them the focus of my work.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? There are so many people I'm itching to work with. My little gay boy dream is that I'd get to photograph Bernadette Peters or Stephen Sondheim at some point in my life, as they were some of the first artists I became enamored with when I was young. Then, of course, my big gay boy dream would be to photograph Beyonce. But really I'm excited by anyone who is eager to collaborate on a project and wants to be in front of the camera. I love being surprised by my subjects.
3. How did you get involved with 35MM? It's not much of a secret that Ryan and I have been together for about two-and-a-half years, so my involvement with the show really began when he showed interest in creating songs based around several of my images. As he would work on them I then found myself inspired to create new images for some of his compositions.
4. What excites you about having your work featured in the show? My work has largely been showcased online or in print, so to have it take on another life as a piece of theater feels thrilling. Galapagos, where we're performing the show, is a very sexy space, and I am anxious to get in there and play with shaping the images in the venue. We've planned some exciting ways of presenting them.
5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? Ideally I want them to come away from this feeling everything about the evening felt truly original, from the songs, to the photos, to the presentation and the casting. We are so lucky to have such an incredible cast, and I have no doubt people will be blown away by their talent.
6. Creatively and artistically, did you shoot the pictures any differently for this theatrical endeavor? Many of these images existed before Ryan started writing songs for the show, so my main goal was simply to create an image that had its own specific mood, emotion, and energy. I love to create images that evoke a sense of story but don't give everything away. Another through line of the work in the show is the saturation of color.
7. Prior to your photography career, you were a dancer with ABT. Looking back, what did it mean to you to be part of ABT? How do you think the training you received helped you in life? What is your most cherished memory of your time with ABT? What made you want to leave dance? I think my training as a ballet dancer instilled and great sense of discipline in me. I also think groomed the perfectionist in me and made me value the idea that you never stop learning.
My time at ABT was a life-changing experience. I joined the company when I was 17 and got to tour all over the globe and perform on some of the largest stages in the world. Not only that, but I was working alongside the world's best dancers and watching them dedicate their lives and bodies to excelling in their form.
I don't think I'll ever forget the first performance I did with the main company at the Metropolitan Opera House. I was new to the company and essentially doing a walk on role in "La Bayadere," but my heart was pounding in the wings and when I walked out on stage and took in the expanse of the audience it was an incredibly proud and humbling moment.
My career came to a rather sudden end when I came down with Chronic Epstein Barr virus shortly after my 21st birthday. I was somewhat debilitated for two years and that's when I found photography. It was a heartbreaking end to my dance career, but it brought me to my current life and I honestly think that illness was the worst and the best thing that ever happened to me.
8. You are also a writer with articles published in numerous magazines such as Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit Magazine, Playbill, and Movement Magazine. What made you want to start writing? While I was dancing with ABT I had a blog for about four years which got me extremely interested in writing. As I transitioned away from my dance career, I found that I had a knack for interviewing and writing about artists, so I pursued opportunities to be published in some of the national dance and arts magazines.
9. What have you learned about yourself from being a dancer/writer/photographer? I've learned that with hard work you can make exciting opportunities for yourself. And with each new opportunity, whether good or bad, you can find something exciting to learn that will make the next effort stronger.
10. What's the best advice you've ever received? No one's going to make it happen but you. You gotta set goals for yourself and keep working toward those.
Also, I'm a huge believer in the idea of faking it until you make it. I think everyone, no matter what level they're at is essentially faking it until they make it to the next tier and that process continues as you acquire new skills.
11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Ryan, of course. And our dog, Tommy.
12. Favorite way to spend your day off? Favorite way to stay in shape? As a freelance photographer, the concept a day off is somewhat foreign. That being said, whenever I have a free hour or two I love to go to see movies (PINA was a recent favorite), and find a new restaurant to eat at with Ryan. We recently discovered Sfoglia on the Upper East Side and it was incredible from the food all the way to the service and everything in between.
To stay in shape I work with Mark Fisher Fitness in midtown a few days a week. It's really become a great place for me to focus on myself an hour at a time while gaining strength and socializing with people in the community.
13. Boxers or Briefs? Usually boxer briefs. But I love a good pair of briefs when the time is right.
15. Superman or Wonder Woman? Catwoman.
16. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would be like Storm from X-Men so I could control the weather to always have the perfect light/temperature when shooting outdoors.