I N T R O 

Über Matt könnte ich unzählige Geschichten erzählen. Das beginnt bei unbeschreiblichen Party-Nächten in Bangkok, als wir uns das erste Mal trafen und sich daraus eine enge Freundschaft entwickelte, über ungemütliche Gestalten die uns in Warschau bedrohten bis hin zu stundenlangen Filming-Missions für diverse Projekte auf der ganzen Welt. Unsere Wege kreuzten sich immer wieder irgendwo zwischen seiner Heimat Oklahoma und Ost-Europa. In den letzen Jahren konnte ich während unseren Reisen öfters beobachten, wie stark sich sein Interesse für Street-Photography entwickelte. Matt’s aufmerksames Auge und sein absolut furchtloses Verhalten, bescheren ihm unfassbare Fotos und ein steigendes Interesse der Öffentlichkeit an seiner Arbeit. Genießt auf den folgenden Seiten einen Einblick in seine Fotos, die während unseres Trips in Matts Lieblingsstadt Athen entstanden. MAXI SCHAIBLE

Hey Matt! Where are you right now?

Right now I am living and working in Barcelona for a month or two.

You‘ve been all over the globe filming for skaters atlas and travelled more than anyone else i know. Do you have a most memorable stop from your Skaters Atlas trips?

I have amazing memories from all the countries, that I have been lucky enough to visit. I would say South America in general is my favorite place, because of the people. I guess I would have to choose Santiago de Chile as a base right now, if I had to pick. But I can’t, so thats why I keep going.

How did Skaters Atlas start?

In 2010 I knew I could not make a living from making traditional skate videos and I never really wanted to work for the big companies. I had this idea to make a video magazine to combine my love of making documentaries and also filming skateboarding. I got a Job on a history channel, working for a month and made $7000 dollars. After my first paycheck I bought a ticket to Vienna where i met a good friend of mine, John Dichtel. I know the whole world thanks to him and Florian Hopfensperger (Burny). When i was 18 i lived in LA and met those guys. They were the key to open my eyes and my heart to the whole world.

I had this idea to make a video magazine to combine my love of making documentaries and also filming skateboarding.

Skaters Atlas never had add-banners on the webpage. Just some logos popped up in the beginning of the clips. As all the travelling must be quite expensive, I wonder if Skaters Atlas  has ever been profitable for you? 

I would never say profitable, because of the hours and money that me and my partner Julian put in. In a couple cities I did make some good money from it. I would say, that I got about half of the trips paid for, by the time it was all said and done. But it also taught me a lot about marketing, business and how to conduct myself in that world. It was a way better decision than spending the money on college. I just kind of jumped into it and did it. I never even finished high school. Film making and photography have given me so much in my life.

You did 10 cities in only a few years. How long have you been in each city? 

At the beginning, I would only stay 2 months in a city and then try and move onto the next. As myself inflicted production schedule relaxed, I found myself staying in each place for 3-4 months. It all depends on visas and money at the time.

In every city you had around 10 topics which were at least 6-8 video edits. Did you collect all the content on your own, or did you have some co-photo/videographer who helped you out?

I would say, that I filmed 95 percent of all content. I had a couple of tricks given to me to put in parts and a couple double angles here and there. But I would say mostly me. Thanks to all the people, that did contribute and help out. Lots of people helped me on this journey in more ways than filming.

I know the moments can happen all the time, anywhere and anything. You have to be outside a majority of the time to capture the right moments.

How did you plan the topics for each city and was there a city where you had absolutely no idea what you will end up with?

I waited until I landed in each city and got a vibe for the scene. Sometimes I already had things in mind with friends or good skaters from a certain place. I would start filming skating immediately. Then I would start asking about artists who skate. What local brands could I bring into the mix. I went to Chile with no idea for the most part. I wrote Diego Rodriguez, who is the editor of Revista Descaro in Chile and after two Skype talks he invited me to come stay with him. I got there and he handed me a list of names and numbers and told me he was going to California for a month. He said, I could stay with his brother in his apartment in the center of the city. I had no idea what was going on there.

I guess many skate media/companys have offered you to work with them, including the berrics. Why you never agreed to cooperate with anyone and what about the berrics offer?

I was always strict about keeping my content under my direction. I never wanted anyone to tell me, how to make videos or what to feature. I did do some work for the Berrics for one of their own series. They actually paid the fastest out of any skate company I worked with, so I will give them that. My stuff should be pure and not taken away by the industry.

Lately you slowed down with Skaters Atlas and got more into street photography. You also just released your new webpage How are things going so far?

Things are going well. I just had a show in Costa Rica and Cologne in the past couple of months. I started focusing more on photography after realizing the story telling tool that it has. I was in all these beautiful cities for skating and it just kind of naturally transitioned, as I became more curious about people and different cultures. I get the same satisfaction of going out and shooting a roll or focusing on a subject and making a documentary project about them as I do going out for 6 or 8 hours and coming home with 1 or 2 tricks. I still love skating, I just love my cameras and my projects more right now.

Your images are full of spontaneous, beautiful, weird daily situations. I´ve seen you going really straight forward capturing people in any situations.Do people sometimes get mad at you for shooting them?

Thank you for saying that. I try and layer my images with multiple stories and people placed throughout the frame. Last week a guy grabed and pushed me around at a vegetable market. He eventually calmed down, but it took a minute. I had another incident this year in Cologne. A turkish guy got super pissed, and he was only in the background of a photo of someone else. I stay alert and ready and don’t use headphones in dangerous areas. I am always checking my back. South America really helped me increase my awareness around myself.

In Athens you got up every morning around 7am to capture images in the streets. Around 1pm you came back and went straight to a filming mission with us far into the night. So i guess this time shedule helped you to loose half your weight?

I lost my weight before that. But it defiantly helps me to stay in shape. Walking around in the cities every day makes you eat and try a lot of different street food. So walking, skating, biking, dancing all day helps me stay skinny. When I am in a new city, I cannot sit still. From my personal experience, I know the moments can happen all the time, anywhere and anything. You have to be outside a majority of the time to capture the right moments.

The political situation in athens is basically as fucked as it can be and like our taxi driver said  „if things doesn‘t get better soon, there will be a civil war“. What was your experience about the situation there?

I could see, that they were hurting. Lots of closed down businesses. Lots of imbalance. The refugee situation from the middle east is only adding that much more pressure. That being said, the people are still generally happy in my experience. I want to go back, sooner than later. It is for sure one of my favorite places in Europe.

You filmed a lot of things with Mario and i know there´s a plan to release a part of him soon. When can we expect to see it?

I have had the good fortune to visit 12 countries with Mario throughout the last 5 years. We are waiting for some last minute footage and a good way to release the part and we will make it. This is our 4th part together.

Mario is known for being really picky about his coverage. How do you like filming with him?

I like filming with him a lot. He can get stressed out, but so do most people. He is for sure one of my best friends. We have our ups and downs like every relationship. Especially, when you are on the road so much. And we are both crazy guys in some respects.

You told me you got around 700 rolls of film not being developed. Did the number increase?

I would say right now everything is developed, minus the 10 rolls I shot this last week in Barcelona. I just have not scanned in about 200 rolls from last year and a couple hundred rolls from 2010-2014. I really want to get it sorted. I know there is a lot of gems in all of those rolls that I have not seen.

I remember you had a plan in mind to release a book. You showed us some of the prints and i would be really excited to see this book. Any news on that?

I am still working on a couple different books. Some are in different stages. I just shot a project in Colombia about a corner in the city where all the Mariachi Musicians are working. It is called „La Playa“. For some reason they call this ugly corner „The Beach“. Be on the look out for that and my other project that has pictures from all of my travels, Obsessive Observations. I will be updating my instagram with info about that when I have it. @mattphippsfilm

Lately you slowed down filming skateboarders. Do you think there will be a comeback for you in the skatemedia-industry?

Not really sure. I think I could do some documentary work about skaters stories and the art they create. Never say never. But right now I am happy where I am and where I am going. Thanks for including me in your project, Jan. It was a pleasure to be on the trip with you and I look forward to the next opportunity to work together. Cheers Vienna!