If I wanted water, I would have asked for water.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Capturing the Brewery: Photography by Matt Wiater

Of Pints and Men

Opening Night: Thursday Oct. 6th, 5:30pm-10:00pm (Show runs through the month of October)

Facebook Event Page
Gigantic Gallery
1720 NW Lovejoy #103

I don't talk about art as much as I'd like on this blog, but this first Thursday (ie, today) gives me a great opportunity to discuss a show at the Gigantic Gallery in Northwest--Of Pints and Men. One of the four people at the show (two artists and two photographers) has arguably been doing more to capture the spirit and flavor of the Portland brewing scene than anyone working in the medium of words. Matt Wiater's photos have that rare combination of beauty and revelation--and I also find in them a fair amount of commentary.

Breweries are a fantastic subject. When I first started thumbing through beer books in the mid-1990s, I was attracted principally by the photos. (Only later did the stories captivate me.) They revealed a strange world that somehow contained both immensity and modernity but also tradition and detail. Matt's bread and butter are photos of breweries and beer, and they are as revelatory about the nature of breweries as any you'll find.

[Roots Brewery]


What I think makes Matt's photos unique is their narrative quality. He largely shoots in black and white, which strips the visual noise from the photos. This allows the compositional complexity to emerge--rarely is the focal point of a Wiater photo ever the whole point. In the corner of the shot of a fermenter, you'll see hoses and buckets, the dribble of water--these are not visual clutter, but evidence of what happens in a brewery. Even a simple piece of equipment, beaded with condensation, tells its own story.

[Deschutes Brewery]


I don't know enough about photography to know what the equivalent of a writer's "voice" is, but in Matt's case, his work is identifiable for its stillness. Even in the middle of a throng of people, Matt's eye is drawn to a point of quiet. When he shows brewers at work, there seems to be something reverential and monastic in their movement.

[Alan Sprints, Hair of the Dog]


Finally--and I think this is what makes Matt's photography especially appealing to those of us who live in Portland--there's a sense of humanity and generosity to Matt's work. In literature, some writers degrade their subjects, while others obviously like all the characters, even their villains. Film directors have a similar relationship to their actors. It can be distance and remove (Kubrick), contempt (Aronofsky), or affection and generosity (Soderberg). Matt is solidly in the Soderberg camp.

[Matt Van Wyk, Oakshire]


[Organic Beer Fest]


The show has its gala kick off tonight, and I hope you can go down and see it. I, unfortunately, have a meeting and will have to drop in later. In my stead, go and tell Matt how great he is (and don't go just because Deschutes will be pouring free Chainbreaker White IPA--that's just icing on the cake); in my case, this post will have to suffice.

1 comment:

Alan said...

Matt won the 2008 Christmas photo contest: http://beerblog.genx40.com/archive/2008/december/yuletide2008

He had other entries, too, and your description of his wonderful work is spot on.

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