Intensely Proud: Checking Back with Dayv Mattt and his Latest Book

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Interview by A.g. De Mesa. All photos by Dayv Matt.

Last time we talked with Dayv, he just finished his first book, High Street Low Street: Seoul and was in the process of making his follow up, High street Low Street: Colombo. He’s finally done with the book and is currently running a kickstarter campaign to be able to self-publish. I check back on him to see what he has learned with self-publishing, motivating yourself, and photography personal life balance.

A.G.: The last time we talked to you, you were just planning High Street Low Street Colombo. Now it’s finally here. I find it nice that you took your time with it, what made you feel it is finally ready?

Dayv: It took me quite a while to go through the 35,000 photos I had taken in Sri Lanka. Of course not all of those photos were strictly Colombo shots but it was still a big job figuring out which ones were book worthy. Added to that is the fact that my life has become pretty baby-centric since the birth of my child in September, 2014 and working up the courage to go through with the project and ignoring all the self-imposed negativity and doubt took a little longer than expected.2013-01-07 (26)

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OK, 35,000 Photos is no joke, how did you trim and edit it down? Did you do it by instinct or did you involve other people in the process to double check?

Well, as I said, not all of the photos were of Colombo, but the bulk of the photos were, so I basically just went through my tumblr and looked at which photos got the most likes and reblogs, and then added some of my favorites. For the cover, I had three or four (I actually can’t remember) photos that I had in mind. To make the final decision I conducted a poll by asking friends which ones they liked best and had a poll on tumblr. It turns out the photos I thought would be best for the cover came in last, so getting the opinions of others certainly does help.

Now that you have a family, what are the biggest changes in your photographic life?

The short answer is that I don’t really have a photographic life right now. I work a part-time job and then I focus on being a decent dad. I just don’t have the kind of time I feel I need to shoot, and right now I’m all right taking a bit of a break. When my daughter can walk more than 50 meters before needing to be carried and stops trying to eat everything she finds on the ground I’ll hopefully be able to juggle her and a camera. Going on photo walks with her to teach her some street smarts would be awesome. That said the photos of my daughter on Instagram are adorable. Haha

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On to the work, aside from place, what is the biggest difference of the book from your Seoul one? The Seoul book has that nice touch of using a paper based in Korea (Muju Paper) are you going to do something similar for the Colombo book?

The one drawback to my Seoul book was the size. It weighed a kilo so shipping it was expensive and the paper I chose was nice, but too heavy. For High Street Low Street Colombo I’m scaling down the size of the book and using a more luxurious lighter weight paper. It feels really nice to leaf through and the print quality is as good as my Seoul book.

Crowdsourcing is risky but you went at it again. This time, you are actually using Kickstarter. Have you tried or explored other options before going for Kickstarter? Did you study other projects?

Crowdsourcing a photobook is a good way to both gauge how fond people are of your photography and get funding when you don’t have it. ‎I took a good look at kickstarter and indiegogo and looked at how others set up their campaigns. They’re both great platforms but I went with kickstarter simply because I feel like it is more recognized globally and the UI is nice. My rewards are a lot more boring than other projects but I just wanted to keep it simple. I feel like other reward structures wind up being too complicated (though they wound up succeeding, so what do I know!?).

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What’s your motivation or rather, how do you motivate yourself to do a project like this? You seem used to this way of working based on your prior. Is it just natural for you?

I am intensely proud of my photography. That makes a big difference. Even if my project fails, I will still be intensely proud of my photography. I’m also getting older, so giving a shit about what other people think or whether they do or don’t do something affects me less and less. This doesn’t mean I won’t be disappointed if my campaign fails. I’m doing it because the book means a lot to me and I’d like to get it out there, but if right now isn’t when it gets published, I know there are plenty more opportunities to try again.

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Actually, I haven’t asked you this yet, what is your favorite photo book, or some of your personal favorites?

I really like “Presence” by Chris Buck. The idea behind the book is, in my opinion, genius. If you have never seen it, check it out. Truth be told, I have never had the kind of stable living space necessary for photo book collecting. However, since I’d like my daughter to experience a somewhat normal childhood, settling down into something a bit more permanent is desirable in the coming decade. Ask me again when that happens.

After High Street Low Street Colombo, what’s next?

A new location is coming soon. I promise to take some photos now and then. Keep an eye out!

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By ERIC KIM

Artist-Philosopher