Matthew Hashiguchi is a documentary filmmaker and photojournalist who has zeroed on a fascinating theme, the many subcultures that create the tapestry of American Culture. He photographs immigrants and minorities, showing the diversity of cultures in America and how they each become a part of the common and unique American culture between them.
This experience has given him a unique perspective on things, and it was a pleasure interviewing him. Read the interview below to find out what he has learned.
Do you have a goal as to what you are trying to do with your photography?
Being honest and truthful is a goal of mine. I was brought up in the school of journalism, and even though I’m not strictly in the world of journalism anymore, I still stick to the ethics and goals of journalistic truth.
Your photos cover a wide expanse of cultures. How do you choose your subjects?
I’m interested in underrepresented cultures… the minority. So, wherever I am, wherever we are, there will always be a minority.
When I was living in rural Ohio, the gay/drag queen scene was certainly outnumbered, and it being a very conservative area, they were not favorably viewed. So, I wanted to discover and present their community to those outside of it. Maybe those who were unfamiliar with drag culture, or those who had preconceived thoughts about homosexuals would gain an understanding for the choices of others. I want to tell the stories of those who don’t have the opportunity, or means, to tell their own story.
How do you get in with different groups of people to shoot them?
I try to become part of that culture… I shot a film on New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward a few years ago, and actually moved into the 9th Ward for a summer. We lived in the same neighborhood as the characters whose stories we were telling. We shopped at the same stores, walked the same streets… and actually experienced what life was like in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. That’s important…
It takes time, and may not always go as planned, but the more dedication you insert into a project, the better your result will be. I wouldn’t say I’m part of New Orleans culture, but I made very good friendships, relationships and connections while there. And, that would not have happened had we not moved there. Our intentions were understood and, I think, embraced.
You are a documentary filmmaker. How do you think this has influenced your photography?
Working in documentary film has allowed me to discover the internal story of a person. Film has the advantage of using sound, narration or editing to reveal the internal. That can certainly be done through still images, but I think it’s a bit more challenging and unnatural.
So, with my photography, I’ve been doing portraits that make an attempt to reveal the internal, externally. Photography, for me, used to be about that “decisive moment.” And, it’s not anymore. It’s about the internal. The individual perspective.
When you look at this tapestry of American life you’ve created in your photos, what kinds of thoughts occur to you as look at the whole of it?
We are all the same, yet try very hard to be different, or point out others as different.
You’ve also traveled overseas, and shot overseas. Are there any observable differences to shooting inside and outside of the united states, or at the end of the day is it all the same?
The biggest difference that I noticed was in how each country’s government influenced its population. In China, Communism has certainly removed any aspect or understanding of private or personal space.
I also noticed a vast difference in privilege. In the United States, we have high expectations in lifestyle. We need the best phone, computer or car. We expect to be fed, warm and entertained. Whereas in India or Indonesia, expectations in life were not as padded or as frivolous as ours.
What kinds of moments are your favorites to capture?
The one’s you can’t see.