A world-renowned photographer is portraying Chile’s wine world in a new light. Former rock and skateboard photographer Matt Wilson might be the bad boy of wine photography, but his emotive pictures are certainly turning heads and gaining him accolades along the way.
The winner of the Born Digital Photography Wine Award 2012, has a refreshing approach to wine photography which moves away from staid barrel room portraits and tired landscape shots, instead focusing more on the characters of wine, the color of the landscapes and he frequently gets a winemaker to smash a bottle of wine against his head.
What’s the difference between photographing wine and rock ‘n’ roll? Not that much it turns out. “Wine is a lifestyle, and rock and roll is a lifestyle!” says Matt who also travelled the world with Hip Hop groups like The Roots, Mos Def and Method Man. Matt likes to photograph animated subjects though, and he does admit “musicians tend to be more animated than your average winemaker.”
But the wine world is changing, and it isn’t just Chile that is starting to shake off the old conservative image of wine. “It’s now about the Millennials,” says Matt commenting on the new interest in wine and buying power of young consumers. “Wine is becoming more accessible to young people.”
Wine has also become cool again. Celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are doing it, footballers like Messi are doing it, even Metallica have their own sommelier on tour. The appeal of Chile for Millennials, Matt believes, is not far behind. “I think it is a young person’s country,” says Matt. “There’s so much adventure to do here: the Atacama, mountains, skiing, rafting…”
Through his photography he is trying to show that side of Chile to the world. As the ‘go-to’ guy for Decanter, Wine Spectator and numerous other wine publications, Matt is representing the country on an international scale. As well as portraying real characters of winemaking, he specializes in documenting the manual workers and the reality of winemaking, deep in the vines. His down and dirty approach often leads him to discover some unsung heroes of the wine world. When shooting at a historical winery in Maipo he started chatting to a vineyard worker who had been working there 50 years and that was his last day before retirement. “I just suddenly thought that this guy was older than me and had worked his entire life in that vineyard… I like showing the pride in people.” The portrait of his well worn but proud face was unfortunately lost in the earthquake, but similar portraits of vineyard workers are key in his wine photography portfolio and one of the reasons he won the the Born Digital Award.
As well as focusing on the real workers of the vines, Matt photographs the vineyards and typical wine situations, but often in a slightly new light – bringing the action into the foreground. “Matt’s style is so brilliantly bold it’s like a hairdryer blasting rock music into the face of an ant,” says wine expert Olly Smith about the photographer.
From the experienced hands of grape pickers and the stunning vineyard landscapes to the bottle smashing and cheeky portraits, Matt is showing Chile’s wine country through a different lens.
By Amanda Barnes
A vineyard landscape
A devastated worker after the Earthquake
Huasos in the countryside
Tending old vines
To see more of Matt’s wine photography visit www.mattwilson.cl
Photos used are copyright of Matt Wilson, please seek permission if you wish to use them.