Intense headshot on black backdrop

It’s Magic; Maddox Magic

For all Britain’s Got Talent fans, tonight you witnessed the wonder of Maddox Magic. We first met Sam “Maddox” Dixon back in 2016 shortly after he returned from tour performing with Coldplay. At the time he was transitioning from music to a full time career as magician “Maddox Magic”, specialising in close-up sleight of hand magic and deceptive illusions.

Back then we had great fun treading the streets of East London, photographing as he stunned people into silence on the street with impressive tricks whilst maintaining that unmistakable Maddox smile and unassuming vibe. Read more and see photos from our 2016 shoot here.

For this shoot our brief was to capture more of Sam’s personality, with the addition of a studio setting for May’s front cover of international magic magazine “Vanish”.

Intense headshot on black backdrop

Maddox for Vanish Magazine front cover, May 2018 edition

Maddox Magic sitting on a chair, black backdrop with Rubik's Cube

Rubik’s Cube

Once finished in our Chiswick High Road studios we took a stroll around the block. We’re always a fan of our local railway arches. To others a dingy uninspiring narrow alleyway, to us it provides eye-catching texture, interesting backdrops and therefore photo opportunities galore.

Portrait of Maddox Magic wearing red coat against vertical steel railings

Maddox, Stamford Brook arches

Black and White Portrait of Maddox Magic against shutters set to a vanishing point

Maddox, shutters

A theme to many a Mat Smith Photography shoot is the coffee stop; this shoot was no exception. Artisan Coffee have become particularly special to us – as well as neighbours they also roast their beans in the workshop at the bottom of our garden.

Photo of Maddox shot through window into cafe, with lights behind

Maddox, Artisan Coffee

Talking about the roasters, this was our next shooting location. The mix of rope lighting, London stock, ply and render allows for a great range of scenes all in one venue.

Maddox on bags of coffee beans in a roastery in Chiswick

Maddox Magic, Coffee Roastery, Chiswick

Maddox card trick

Just before sunset we strolled around our local square before heading back to the studio, and as we packed down for the night, we were lucky enough to be treated to a trick.

Maddox Magic, Hoodie, St Peter's Square, Hammersmith

Maddox Magic, St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith

The magic of Maddox as well as, of course, the magic, comes from who he is. Relaxed, personable, engaging. He drew us in and astounded us with a card trick that has left our brains all a-jumble. Afterwards he graciously heard our rookie theories as we scratched our heads attempting to work out what we had just both witnessed.

Mat Smith is a London-based portrait photographer. To see more of his work or to get in touch, visit www.matsmithphotography.com

And here’s Mat’s photo on the front cover of Vanish Magazine, May 2018.

portrait of man in suit with skull and crossbones tie in shoreditch graffiti tunnel

Battling “The Beast from the East”

The combination of outdoor, early morning, winter lifestyle shoots can generally be a little unforgiving on photographer fingers. However, when Graham booked with us a few weeks ago for such a shoot, amongst the planning, the mood-boards, the image consultation and wardrobe styling, sub-zero temperatures did not feature as highly on the consideration list as perhaps they should!

Our surprise battle with that wicked wind-chill began early one Sunday morning, close to Shoredich High Street Station. We love to start early; to capture the pre-dawn light, the empty streets and, from a more practical pragmatic perspective, before traffic wardens have started their shift.

Man with ponytail sitting on pavement with graffiti wall behind, with the word "start" in the jaws of a lion

And let the shoot begin…

It takes a combination of factors to make a memorable, fun, and successful shoot. Some of it is in the preparation, the honed brief, the planning, and of course the photographer’s skill, but once these boxes are ticked, much of the day is down to serendipity and the sheer amount of effort put in by the client. Graham put in effort by the bucket load – both before, and throughout the shoot. Many would have shirked the cold; Graham’s costume changes in the chill and his bare arms (see the portrait on yellow) are testament to his fortitude!

Headshot of man in black army style coat in front of red and white graffiti

Graham – Dawn in Shoreditch

Heating set to full blast, it was time for the car to give some warm relief. The plan was to stop off for a coffee near Bank, but due to a rally and road closures we found ourselves diverted nearer to the Barbican. It’s a running joke here at Mat Smith Photography that the Brutalist Barbican is Mat’s Bermuda Triangle. Once he enters, he and his camera are never to be seen again, at least for a very, very long time. We played it safe today, and used instead for backdrop the high-rise glassy buildings around the danger-zone:

Man with slicked back hair in front of a green tinted glass building in a army style black jacket with silver double buttons

Brutalist Reflection: A portrait of Graham in the eye of the Barbican

Next, a quick stop for a much needed brew & brunch at caravan coffee. Mine was an enjoyable Ethiopian Wote Konga V60 followed by a ludicrouly laden sourdough grilled cheese sandwich, quince jam, with a fried egg for good measure. Graham followed in the same suit, whilst Mat plumped for the smashed avocado, pickled red onion, soy pumpkin seeds, sprouts, manouri – not forgetting a poached egg on top. No food photos, but back to the blog in hand,  here is a portrait of Graham, whilst waiting for his chow:

Man in coffee shop looking out of window

Coffee at Caravan in the City

Back to business, Graham donned his work attire and we wandered up to Bank. Our brief was to capture Graham both for personal portraits and for business use. The stone archtecture of Bank offered us a good contrast to the glassy walls near the Barbican and street art of Shoreditch. Too corporate, however, would certainly not do for Graham’s brief. The choice of orange tie nicely took care of this!

Business man in blue suit, orange tie and white braces in front of grey stone wall

The back streets of Bank

A business man wearing a bright orange tie walking through columns in front of the Bank of England

Suited and Booted by The Bank of England

Black and white photo of a suited and booted man sat laughing on the Bank of England's steps

Bank of England steps

Being Sunday morning, we quickly stopped off at church (albeit not making it past the front door):

Portrait of a man sitting in front of large blue church doors on the steps of a church entrance

A moment’s reflection

And onwards though backstreets and alleyways photographing as we went, happy in the knowledge, for today’s shoot at least, the Beast from the East didn’t defeat.

Man walking down a back street in the city of London looking back at the camera

Till We Meet Again – A backstreet portrait

Inspiring Women – Roundup of Mat Smith’s London Portraits for International Women’s Day 2018

Today’s date, March 8th, International Women’s Day. And the year, 2018, the centenary of women’s suffrage in Britain – although of course we must wait another decade before we the can mark the centenary of equal voting terms for men and women. I was first introduced to suffrage aged 7, by Mrs Winifred Banks, and so, one evening after a photo shoot this week, we re-visited the 1964 Walt Disney classic, Mary Poppins.

I say “re-visited”, for Mat, it was a first.

I hadn’t seen the film for decades, and as well as wincing at the ludicrous “London” accent of Dick Van Dyke, I couldn’t help cringe at the portrayal of Jane and Michael’s ditsy, apparently inept, and often absent, suffragette mother. Many have wrangled over both the positive and negative impact of Mrs Banks and her help or hindrance to the ensuing attitude shift toward women and the roles we fulfil in society. She was, nevertheless, my first introduction to the ever-present plight of women to reach equal standing with men. As I was not, sadly, a “daughter’s daughter” of a feminist, its impact was meaningful.

Today I have been looking back to some of the inspirational women Mat Smith Photography has recently had the pleasure to meet and photograph.

Lady Hale – Portraits for Bristol University

We were commissioned to photograph Brenda Marjorie Hale, Lady Hale of Richmond back in 2016, before she took up appointment as the President of The Supreme Court in 2017. Her role as President follows her appointment as Deputy President from June 2013. In October 2009 she became the first woman Justice of The Supreme Court.

Lady Hale – Now President of the Supreme Court

Lady Hale talked of hoping to use her position to inspire other women and show that they can reach the pinnacle of any profession. She hopes to further improve the gender balance in the Supreme Court moving forward. We wait with eager anticipation to see whether women fill either the position of the new Deputy President or any of the three currently vacant Justices positions later this year.

We ended our shoot in her private chambers:

Lady Hale in her Chambers

Toto James – Portraits for Women’s Institute

“Woman of the Year” nominee in celebration of her work as a Marketing Consultant with leading law firms, and her voluntary work with the Women’s Institute.  Mat Smith Photography was invited to her home for an editorial shoot for the WI Magazine, WI Life.

Woman of the year 2018 – on sofa

You can read all about Toto in this month’s WI Life edition, “The Inspiration Issue”, where our photograph of Toto James is featured on the cover, with a double page spread celebrating Toto, who in her life has blazed a trail in both the business and voluntary sectors.

Woman of the year 2018 – with statue

Mary Kerr – Portraits for Lincoln’s Inn

Mary is currently the Under Treasurer of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.

During our shoot with Mary we loved hearing about a project she, with a wry smile, coined “her baby”; a major £20m conservation and extension project on the Grade II* listed Great Hall and Library, situated within the Bloomsbury Conservation Area in High Holborn – the biggest single project since its original construction in 1845.

Mary Kerr, Under Treasurer of Lincoln’s Inn – in the cloisters

Those who follow Mat’s various personal social media feeds, will be all too aware of the somewhat smaller basement project that fills much of our spare time, and so we were particularly inspired by the 1,247 sq. m, two-storey extension being constructed below ground under the East Terrace of the Great Hall. A day-lit basement providing state-of-the-art teaching facilities comprising a large, multi-purpose lecture theatre and mooting space, 10 flexible advocacy training rooms, quiet study and break-out areas, and additional social meeting spaces.

Mary Kerr, Under Treasurer of Lincoln’s Inn

We look forward to taking up Mary’s offer of revisiting her awe-inspiring project, once it is complete later this year.

Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton – Portraits for American Psychological Association

Commissioned by the American Psychological Association, Mat Smith Photography had the pleasure of photographing one of the most inspiring women we have ever met: Deputy Assistant Commissioner at London Fire Brigade, Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton.

Portrait of Sabrina Cohen-Hatton for American Psychological Association

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton – Deputy Assistant Commissioner, London Fire Brigade

The double studio session held at our High Road Studios, in Chiswick, has been one of Mat Smith Photography’s recent highlights. The brief was to somehow capture Sabrina’s warm, approachable personality whilst dressed in full Brigade uniform, on a stark white studio background, which will be used as a cover shot and feature article in the APA’s May magazine edition later this year.

One of the best parts of any shoot is hearing about the lives of those we photograph. This shoot was certainly no exception. Having left home at 15 and school at 16, Sabrina’s firefighting journey began at her local fire brigade in a small, South Wales mining community. Since then, as well as rising the ranks to become one of the most senior fire fighters in Britain, having served at a number of major incidents, including the Westminster terrorist attack in March this year, Grenfell Tower in June, and the Holborn fire in 2015, Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton also has a PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience, having undertaken a series of night classes.

Portrait of Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, Deputy Assistant Commissioner

She has won two prestigious international academic awards for her research into incident command in the emergency services. It is the first time in history that psychological theory has been used to improve the way officers make risk-critical decisions and her work fundamentally changed the national approach to how fires are fought, to make both firefighters and the public safer.

Sabrina’s book, a firefighter’s memoirs, “Through the Fire” is to be published by Transworld in Spring 2019, which I, for one, can’t wait to read.  And if TV is more your thing, Broadchurch producer Kudos is also adapting her memoirs into a new TV drama series.

Maddox Magic – Portraits in Barbican, Moorgate, Brick Lane

“Magic should be unassuming. It should catch you by surprise, and it should fill you with that sense of wonder”.
— Maddox Magic

Back in Autumn of last year I had the opportunity to shoot the portrait of an entertainer and magician supreme: Maddox.

Check out his video (not by me) and photos from our shoot (by me) below:

Maddox approached me with a brief I immediately warmed to. A range of different crops, everything from a cinematic full length shots to tighter-cropped head and shoulders shot. A range of styles from cinematic to street photography. All with a fresh, engaging, approachable, and cool vibe.

Check out his site here: http://www.maddoxmagic.com/

As with the majority of our shoots, we spent 2 hours together in London to get 5 outstanding portraits. (And as with many of our portrait sessions, the client wants a few more than just 5 from the shoot!)

We made use of the structures found at Barbican to create dramatic shadow and light photos:

Barbican is one of the finest examples of brutalist architecture in the world, a sprawling mass of thoughtfully designed shapes with large open spaces for the public and hundreds of interesting hidden corners, curved walls, enormous concrete pillars.

It’s an urban portrait photographer’s dream place to work, on the right day with the right light. There are so many opportunities for interesting compositions, implied vanishing points, squares of light, dark structures. I love to experiment with depth of field in shots like this one below, I think we nailed it on the final take:

Brick Lane makes a fantastic backdrop for photos. The atmosphere brings out the best in people, and there’s always a flash of colour:

Deadpool – Up Close & Personal – Photo Shoot with Mat Smith Photography

A few months back I had a chance to get up close and personal with the Marvel Comics character Deadpool. We met in a South London Warehouse; Deadpool lounged on a shagpile rug, showed off his weaponry, and we discussed the launch of the upcoming American superhero film, Deadpool, the story of his life so far.

Well, not quite.

My client was Rainbow Productions, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of mascot and character costumes. The nice chap roped into being the anti-hero was the anti-actor and newest member of the sales team, Matt.

Rainbow Productions brief: to make identically sized Deadpool costumes to be shipped worldwide for Red Carpet productions who were in charge of the cinema launch for 20th Century Fox.

mat-smith-photography-deadpool-photo-shoot-thumbs-up-sarcasm

mat-smith-photography-deadpool-photo-shoot-dark-backdrop

mat-smith-photography-deadpool-photo-shoot-side-profile

It was a great pleasure coming face-to-face with the sarcastic superhero himself. I didn’t realise a superhero such as Deadpool could be such a sensitive conversationalist. He asked about my career as a London portrait photographer, and even suggested I make friends with his new friends, whose skins hung all around us in the costume warehouse; Pepper Pig, Tinky Winky, Postman Pat, and my personal favorite, Pingu, to name drop just a few…

On the rug with … Deadpool.

mat-smith-photography-deadpool-photo-shoot-shaggy-fur-rug-white

 

mat-smith-photography-deadpool-photo-shoot-sexy-white-fur-rug mat-smith-photography-deadpool-photo-shoot-gun-headshot

Autumn portraits in Chiswick

Favourite place and time? April in Paris? New York in the Winter? Nope – Chiswick in the Autumn. No better place and no better time of the year for beautiful colours and gorgeous light. Some photographers are busiest in the summer with weddings and the like, but I find one of my busiest times is September-October. I rarely blog my personal portrait sessions but just wanted to post some portrait shots from yesterday’s “Chiswick in the Autumn” session with Lin.

mat-smith-photography-london-back-street-portrait-atmospheric mat-smith-photography-st-peters-chiswick-autumn-colours-portrait mat-smith-photography-sunset-portrait-the-dove-hammersmith-autumn

Lawson Trio Summer 2013

It’s always a funny feeling walking into a concert hall foyer that is familiar to you from years of concert-going (in this case, Wigmore Hall), and unexpectedly spotting one of your own photos.

A funny feeling, but a good one. (That is, if the photo was from a commission. I dread doing this one day to find a pilfered image on display; I guess this is quite uncommon given the nature of this kind of photo. It happens all the time online, but – one hopes – less in the world of print.)

I worked with the Lawson Trio last year, before Clara joined the ensemble. It’s always that photo right at the end of the session, when everyone is freezing, windswept, and tired of lugging bags around, and you probably went on for two hours longer than you planned to – it’s then you finally get the shot:

Mat Smith Photography - BBC Radio 3 - Lawson Trio - Barbican - Urban Chic in London

Anyway not so this year. Like gold-dust, we found a lovely secluded little space outside a property management company right next to Tate Modern that gave us impromptu permission to shoot on their land. So lovely finding “Real Human Beings” from time to time, when London seems so full of officious security guards and companies who are so obsessed with faux health and safety, insurance, PR, and frankly any other reason to not let you shoot anywhere near them.

(Thanks, Neo Bankside – nice people.)

It wasn’t quite without interruption, but mercifully we were left alone after name-dropping the “real human being” who said we could shoot there. Anyway, the result of a little bit of planning, a lot of improvisation, and 2 hours of shooting:

Mat Smith Photography - Lawson Trio outside Tate Modern (or thereabouts!)

Next up, we made use of the fact that photography inside the Tate corridors is permitted, with this great little scene shot across the escalator:

Mat Smith Photography - Artist Concept Shot - BW - Trio laugh - Tate

Finally, onto a favourite location of mine. Millennium Bridge is a footway across the Thames which connects the Tate Modern to St Paul’s Cathedral. Actually many photographers love shooting here, and you often have to fight for the specific spot as we did! This is because it’s such a great place to capture people, movement, old architecture and new.

The really exciting thing for me is that I managed to get my hands on a Microsoft Surface Pro for the best part of a day (colleague of a colleague), so naturally the first thing I did was to install my copy of Lightroom 5 on it, and give it a spin.

It’s very exciting indeed to edit photos directly on a tablet, without the usual restrictions you expect from an iPad. The Microsoft Surface Pro is absolutely superb for Lightroom because it uses a 128GB SSD which makes the process really snappy. Sure, it’s not quite capacious enough for your average working catalog size, but it’s wonderful for throwing into your bag and carrying out some edits over a coffee.

Mat Smith Photography - Microsoft Surface Pro - Lightroom Editing - Wacom

The Microsoft Surface Pro comes with a Wacom digitizer which I didn’t have time to test out fully, but there’s something a little unreal and wonderful about using a pen directly on your photographs in Lightroom without being tethered to a desk and a Wacom off to the side.

Actually I fell head-over-heels with this little computing device, and was surprised that it was even possible to use for serious editing work.

Perhaps I will get my hands on a Surface Pro again to give it a full review here on the blog, but I’ll leave you for now with that edited shot. I brought it back onto my primary editing setup to check contrast and colour, which were both good. I may have gone a little overboard with the blue backdrop masking but it’s quite a fun effect.

So here’s the finished product, an hour of backdrop masking in Lightroom on the Surface Pro!

Mat Smith Photography - Trio Portraits on Bridge over the Thames