Through the Lens with Matt Spike
We sat down with Matt Spike to talk fetish photography.
What inspired you to start exploring photography?
It happened at an early age really. Both my grandmothers were photographers – my maternal grandmother was a professional photo retoucher, and my paternal grandmother was an amateur photographer. They were both really passionate about photography as an art form. So, I guess it’s in the blood!
How did this innate passion develop into the fetish photography that you’re known for today?
I was known on the fetish scene as an escort and from some solo movies that I did on XTube.
My big break into fetish photography happened with an ad on a hook-up app. The ad on my profile simply said I was available for photo shoots. Within a year, I was starting to be seen as a specialist portrait photographer for social media.
This reputation continued to develop – suddenly, I was being published everywhere.
I pretty much just fell into my own shooting style and things kept developing from there. Soon, I was international, shooting porn stars in the US.
What are the foundations of a Matt Spike portrait?
A lot of what I’m into, fetish-wise, goes into my work.
My biggest fetish passion is leather, and my past work as an escort has definitely given me a lot of scene inspiration.
The lighting is usually dark and shadowy – very much a hard-light approach. I really try to recreate the atmosphere of sex clubs. A dark cruising vibe, with low lighting.
You’ll find that aesthetic at the heart of most of my images.
What drives the creation of identity in your portraits?
I think the overall aesthetic of the image – along with the fetish gear itself – drives the identity created in my work.
Fetish gear is transformative. It’s a way of escaping the social norms of society. You look recognisable but you’re creating a persona away from your true self.
Coupled with the dark aesthetic of my shooting style, my clients enter a journey of self-discovery. I help them form a new identity through the imagery. Whether that is a representation of their true selves or what they would like to embody – it really depends on the client.
Usually I style the client, although sometimes they have their own ideas of what they want to get from the shoot. I try to push them out of their comfort zone and push their limits. My name itself is a pseudonym from my escort work, and I draw on these experiences to help my clients explore and create their own persona.
A lot of things go into it. As well as the style and the lighting, I also use verbal and physical prompts. I try to make my clients comfortable in their own skin, while pushing their boundaries. To express themselves without fear of ‘the norm’. By doing this, they really begin to open up and show emotion. They create the identity through expression, discovering a part of themselves in the process.
Is this creative approach specific to fetish photography?
Photography gives people the chance to escape their everyday lives – regardless of the type of shoot. It’s a form of cathartic release. The creation of a new identity and self-discovery leads to an increase in self-confidence for those involved.
If there’s something you particularly want to gain from a shoot, express this with your photographer beforehand. The import thing to take from an experience like this is to be proud and love yourself. Feel great in your skin and let the lens capture that sense of euphoria. It’s not just a creative process after all, it is a very emotional one.
Many of my clients tell me how they leave my shoots with a new sense of confidence. A few even tell me about how much sex they’ve gotten from the portraits. It’s definitely a positive process!