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10 Questions for She Hit Pause

she hit pause Studios was founded in 2004 by Polaroid artist, Matt Schwartz. Schwartz has been photographing large format Polaroids of girls, surfing and travels for the past 10 years. The locations include Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Dominican Republic, Portugal, Puerto Rico, California, Seattle, Vermont, Virginia Beach, New Jersey and in his Beacon studio.  His work has been described as “walking into a dream” and has been used for hotel decor, advertising, and in-store display. He has worked with Anthropologie, The Ace Hotel, The Surf Lodge, Levis, and Billabong and has been featured on W Magazine, New York Magazine, as well as Nylon.

The Milk Store is excited to start selling shehitpause online and has asked him a few questions for Milk Made:

1. Describe to us where you grew up. How do you think that has influenced your photography? What attracted you to polaroid-photography?

I was born in Brooklyn and at the age of 5 moved 30 minutes north of the city to Rockland County. I guess I have no complaints about it, other than my soul craved the ocean. I definitely did not grow up in the most peaceful of environments. There was a lot of fighting between my parents and what seemed like constant craziness. It lead me to fill tons of journals with fairly dark, depressing, and sarcastic words. My photography is the opposite of my writings. Thankfully my mind shifted into pulling beauty into my life instead of constantly pondering about the negative. Now I want to share and experience as much beauty as I can. As I am writing this, I am realizing the silver lining. I also had some amazing times growing up. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents who lived in Coney Island. They were the ones that introduced me to this magical place that led to my first series of work.
My attraction to Polaroids came before this instantaneous world of digital photography and has actually grown stronger, since digital. It was amazing to take a picture and hold it in my hand a few minutes later, while I was still in that same scene. The images were the past but they were also the present. Early on I found that it gave a microphone to my voice as a photographer. Once I started playing around with transfers, it became a challenge, as I did not want to hide in the process. Most of the work I saw was taken by people that were so psyched to do the process, that they forgot to add anything of themselves.

2. Describe the process for capturing your golden-hued beach scenes, faded Coney Island relics, and saucy pinup-style portraits.

The majority of my work has been captured on Polaroids and film. For the Polaroids, I am taking the shot, pulling apart the film and then rubbing the negative onto water color paper. All of the dyes transfer and then when I think it’s ready I peal off the negative. Sometimes I will take a Polaroid or film shot and know that it is perfect as is and leave it. I think from working with Polaroid for a solid 10 years the feel of the work has carried over into film and digital. All of the work are images that I initially take for myself. The fact that I have been selling them for 10 years, as a full time job, still amazes me.

3. How did you come up with the name she hit pause for your studio? What are you intending to freeze?

She hit pause was originally a line from a song I wrote. When my photography started to sell, I was trying to get on a small record label and writing a lot. I wrote the words "she hit pause" about a girl I met , that stopped time in my life. It crossed over into my photography, as I photograph a lot of girls and hitting pause is what photography is to me, I am intending to freeze everything about a perfect moment, almost to the point of a desire to attach temperatures and smells. I want to freeze the perfection of a moment of beauty, whether it is a person that will never be that age again or someone on a wave that will never break the same way. I become a part of that beauty and moment, by photographing it.

4. What inspired your love for photographing surfers?
I’ve wanted to surf ever since I was a little kid. I was always skating but surfing seemed magical. A few years after I started shooting , I bought a board and started to learn how to surf. Initially I brought the camera down to beaches in New York and New Jersey and just shot photographs for myself. I found myself learning amazing things, through the lens. Surfing to me is as beautiful as music or ballet, there is this gorgeous gracefulness to it, that blows me away. When I photograph surfers, I know their next move, I dance with them behind the lens and smile when they smile. A few months ago, while shooting in Brazil, I realized that maybe I am capturing surfing in a special way, because I want to surf like some of these people I see. Possibly, as I get better at surfing, I won’t capture it as well. 

5. Tell us more about your collaboration with the Surf Lodge in Montauk.

People have been telling me for years to check out The Surf Lodge. I finally connected with them a couple years ago and we clicked. It’s always cool to know my work is up in places I dig. Lots of awesome surfers hang out there and bands that I like play there. 

6. Describe the playful “girl with plane” photograph. What makes this one of your favorite images?

I bought a toy plane, that I knew I wanted to use in a shoot, maybe a year or so before the image was taken. I was selling my photos at a show and asked this girl that liked my work if she would be interested in shooting together. I told her to bring over a few bags of clothes and that I had a bunch of fun props. We were listening to music and shooting and the plane made it’s way into the shot. I’m not sure if I told her how to pose with plane or she just held  it that way.  The image stands out to me, as it dangles on this thin line between innocence and playfulness.

7. How do you select your subjects and locations?

I first started shooting friends and then eventually people that owned my work. Now I get a lot of emails from models asking to collaborate. I imagine most photographers would enjoy shooting models. I find that I have to try and deprogram them from what they have done on other shoots and poses that they instinctively go into. As things grow I am shooting more models for specific projects. As far as locations, I am basically choosing wherever I want to go surf and then book a trip. This last chapter of my work has been dominated by the ocean. I have shot in Ecuador, Portugal, Peru, Puerto Rico, The Dominican Republic, Hawaii, Brazil, Costa Rica and lately California. Most of the images of girls I take in the studio or we drive until we both say "yes, this is it.” Right now for my personal work I am on the search for my next calling. Japan seems to keep presenting itself as a top contender.

8. You live in Beacon however most of your shoots take place on beaches or islands, what sparked your fascination for traveling and shooting in these whimsical settings?

I think wherever you grow up you end being drawn to the opposite. I am choosing magical places where I would love to live for a little while or at least soak up as much beauty as possible while I’m there. The ocean is alive, it is the pulse of the earth. It can’t be controlled and changed by the minute. I become a little kid each time I see it. It is like I am seeing it for the first time and can’t comprehend that it is part of our world.

9. Looking at your Instagram and Website, your work appears to be colorful, soft, and it perfectly portrays an ideal vacation. What photographers or artists influence your style?

I always liked old pin-ups by Alberto Vargas and the photography in Playboy and Penthouse Magazines from the 60s and the 70s.  I was more influenced by music than photography, if that is possible. I wanted to take photographs as pretty as my favorite songs. Lately, I have been getting into the work of David Hamilton and Guy Bourdin. I dig all of the classic surf photographers. Sometimes I will buy a book of photography that I don’t even like that much, I may just like the location and the model. 

10. What is your next project? Any dream collaboration?

Right now I am in the process of speaking to some art buyers at advertising agencies. There are some women’s wear and surf/skate companies I like. I am not out to shoot for 10 companies. I would like to shoot for 1 or 2 at the most. I would love to take a company like the Gap and revitalize the brand. Not sure it is a dream, though would be rewarding. It’s funny because sometimes I think I would love to shoot for a specific company and then I see one of their current ads and I get bummed out by the work they are using. The company can be making really cool clothes or sneakers and their ads are cliches and photocopies of other ads. I think Vans has always been a company that has been on my hit list. There are also 1 or 2 lingerie companies I like that aren’t overly glossy. I’m definitely interested in working with more boutique hotels. As I think more about where I want my career to go and try to decide on the "best" direction, I am realizing that I just need to keep producing honest work, whether the end user has it hanging in a bedroom, hotel, gallery or billboard.

You can purchase she hit pause’s work here.

Read more of the Gallery exclusive interviews here.

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