From Muscle Cars to Jane Fonda Recreations

Behold
The Photo Blog
July 18 2013 11:57 AM

Avoiding Pigeonholes: From Muscle Cars to Jane Fonda Recreations

Downtown 2008
Downtown, 2008

Matthew Porter

Photographer Matthew Porter certainly doesn’t have to worry about being pigeonholed.

Known primarily for his images of model muscle cars, Porter touches on nature, film and pop-culture icons, pre–World War II avant-garde movements, midcentury modernism, and even the Tasmanian tiger in his other work—and, in certain cases, almost all of the above compressed into one image.

“I’ve always wanted to have a really varied style. It’s something I’ve always been interested in, and I think to my benefit and also my determent certain things came to the surface,” Porter said referencing the muscle cars.

Advertisement

Although his collective work is varied, there are themes that run consistent within his projects. Sometimes simply having multiple themes or symbolic components is enough to call a body of work a “Porter.”

One thing consistent is Porter’s desire to put his mark on everything found in his images. For the muscle cars, that meant creating his own cinematic backgrounds he used throughout the series. “I had to photograph the cars in the studio, but for the backgrounds I’d go to New Mexico, find a hill … and I liked finding my own source material,” he said.

Highland Park 2010
Highland Park, 2010

Matthew Porter

Valley View 2013
Valley View, 2013

Matthew Porter

Giant 2008
Giant, 2008

Matthew Porter

In that case, it was a way of incorporating photography both in and out of the studio. Porter isn’t necessarily tied to location, shoots both film and digital, and enjoys the blending of both old and new technology. “I get excited about thinking about how you collapse as many topics as possible in the frame… photography is a good place (to do that), where the dinosaurs and caveman or cowboys and zeppelins can coexist in one image,” he said.

Porter applies that philosophy when making images of things that no longer exist, such as his work on the Hindenburg. “There isn’t one I can photograph, so I used technology to solve that problem,” he said. Or when he was inspired to restage iconic Jane Fonda images. Porter said he chose to make iconic portraits of Fonda because he was interested in the “decades of her life where she reinvented herself.”

Scissor Life (Jane Fonda 1982)
Scissor Life (Jane Fonda 1982), 2013

Matthew Porter

Barefood (Jane Fonda 1967)
Barefoot (Jane Fonda 1967), 2011

Matthew Porter

For his newest work, Porter is going after multiple-exposure imagery shot with film in his studio. Although he had been using multiple elements in his previous work, he wanted to collapse all of his ideas into one frame. Some of those ideas include Stuart Davis paintings, Arne Jacobson chairs, Navajo Saddle blankets, and soil he brought back from Tasmania, where he believes the remains of the now-extinct Tasmanian tiger (or Thylacine) are contained.

Each of those elements or influences can be found in his work “Isle of Mountains,” part of his new series that borrows from “the utopian idealism of the pre war avant-garde … being eclipsed by midcentury modernism,” Porter explained.

Porter admits finding a way to describe his work can be complicated, saying even he has a hard time writing a concise artist statement about the new work. Still, it’s all part of a vision that has made his body of work both unique and varied, something Porter has strived to achieve.

“I’ve always wanted to create an exhibition that looks like a group show,” Porter said. “So you would walk into the space and for a second think there were a bunch of images by different artists.”

Isle of Mountains
Isle of Mountains, 2012

Matthew Porter

Single Pedestal 2013
Single Pedestal, 2013

Matthew Porter

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories to the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
Quora
Oct. 22 2014 9:51 AM What Was It Like to Work at NASA During the Challenger and Columbia Disasters?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 9:54 AM The Simpsons World App Is Finally Here I feel like a kid in some kind of store.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 8:43 AM Thunderstruck: Rock Out With Mother Nature’s Evil Side
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 9:39 AM Gertjie and Lammie, a Magical (and Bizarre) Friendship
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.