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Portrait of Molly Matalon

Faces of Feeld: Molly Matalon

Michael Costain

November 20th, 2023

The photographer will never kiss and tell…unless it leads to more kissing.

Molly Matalon is a New York-based photographer who describes herself as “driven by romance.” This past summer, when we decided to hire a Feeld member to visually translate the connection, vividness, and sensuality that Feeld brings into people's lives, we knew Matalon was our person. Her work is imbued with a humanity and immediacy, and an incredibly rich body of work that explores themes of desire, power dynamics, eroticism, and all other elements that drive romance. 

Matalon’s work has been published in a monograph with Palm* Studios, and exhibited in numerous solo and group shows over the last decade. In this interview below, edited lightly for clarity, she reveals some illuminating details around her practice as an artist, her experience on Feeld, and how photography and community have brought meaningful connections and warmth into her life. 

Tell us about your work. How do you define your own artistic practice?

My practice has changed a lot throughout my life, but what stays the same is my interest in relationships and romance. I’ve photographed my mom, I’ve photographed couples, friends, lovers, and people in my life I wish I was dating. I made a book about romantic love. Nowadays I make pictures of my boyfriend and our life together. I’m still driven by ideas of romance, and often joke with my boyfriend that I consider myself an erotic photographer (joking…but not?). My practice has always been a matter of taking pictures of beautiful things and looking back later to see what I’ve done.

How did you first begin your work? Who/what inspired you to start taking photos?

I grew up in the time of the internet when it wasn’t entirely an algorithmic echo chamber—people explored all corners of the web, and it felt like a place where you could really discover. For me it was reading interviews with photographers on small photo blogs that no longer exist, or talking to strangers in chat rooms, sometimes becoming friends with those people. I spent many years of my life online. I took pictures of my friends for their Myspace profiles and pictures of my mom for her online dating profiles, when that became a thing. I’ve always wanted my pictures to be flattering, and for subjects to like how they look.

Who are the subjects of your photos? How do you find the people you want to capture in your work?

The subjects of my photos are the people in my life, but they’re also the fruit and things I’ve left on my kitchen counter until they start to look weird enough to take a picture of.

How do you approach taking a portrait?

It always starts from a place of attraction. I try to keep things light and easy, and don’t like to rush things. Wait, you were asking about making pictures? 

How would you describe the connection between photographer and subject that takes place in a sitting?

It depends on the photographer and the subject! In the past I’ve been drawn to the nervous energy you get when you’re around someone beautiful. Connection can also come from knowing every part of a person. There’s a challenge in making pictures where I’m super comfortable, and I’ve been trying to figure that out lately.

There’s a sense of warmth in your photos—how do you access this?  

There are two kinds of warmth. One kind is literally the light is yellow and looks warm, and the other is a sense of genuine connection. The former can be faked but not the latter. Sometimes it’s as simple as that!

How do your ideas about sexuality and intimacy inform your work? What sort of photos and/or artistic work do you think best capture a sensibility of connection?

I used to take those ideas really literally, from a place of fantasy and not real life experience. Pictures of roses for romance, pictures of fruit for sex, pictures of men for desire. I still think all of that is true and important to my work, but I’m also trying to mix in more domestic scenes as my life plays out and I get to experience romantic love and figure out what it looks like. Sometimes I think I’m really nailing it, and then it’s just a picture of someone's face, but maybe that’s nailing it. And, well, I think film and photography best capture that kind of connection. 

Who comprises your photo community? Who are your collaborators? Who are your inspirations and references? Who do you hope sees your photos?

My photo community are friends in my life, like Caroline Tompkins and Amanda Hakan. The people in my group chats, like Bobby Doherty, Ryan Lowry, Corey Olsen, and Chris Maggio. The people I’ve met online and still look to for feedback, like Jamie Allen Shaw, Maisie Cousins, Damien Maloney. My collaborators are the stylists, cinematographers, and crew members I work with, like Erynn Lamont, Ashley Guerzon, and Kenyon Anderson. The people who aren’t photographers but who have fresh insight, like my boyfriend Steven Latham, or Chapman Newnum. My inspirations are those who’ve come before me and did it better, like Diane Arbus, Wolfgang Tillmans, Robert Mapplethorpe. My references are old magazines, vintage porn, paintings, memes, pictures I take on my phone as sketches.

How long have you been a Feeld member?

For a few years now. I was on a road trip once listening to Dan Savage and he brought it up, and I thought that it sounded fun

What is something you’ve learned about yourself on Feeld?

Prior to Feeld I had an idea about non-monogamy and was theoretically in favor of it, but in practice wasn’t sure how that would work or if I would feel weird. But it turns out watching my boyfriend with someone he’s met on Feeld, and telling him about my rendezvous, leads to us having more fun together as a couple. 

Describe your most recent experience on Feeld.

I went to a wine bar and had a really fun time making out with a guy in a booth.

Describe your first experience on Feeld.

Never kiss and tell unless it leads to more kissing. 

Who was the last person you recommended Feeld to? And why?

Kinda feel like I’m always recommending it because there’s nothing like it.

Describe a moment when you felt meaningfully connected to another person or people, either on Feeld, through your work, or during your everyday life.

Just yesterday my boyfriend, dog, and I were on an 8 mile hike. It was the most intense hike I’ve ever done. There were tons of incline, wild, worn-away trails, and moments of rock climbing. My boyfriend helped me stay positive, encouraged me to keep going, taking breaks when we needed to, and it was the first time in a while that I didn’t feel alone while doing something hard. We got back to our car and it was such an amazing feeling of accomplishment and I felt so proud of us. 

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