Interview: Mario Mattei

Mario Mattei, visionary, social entrepreneur, independent photographer, & family man. He is the President, Creative Director, & Co-Founder of the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers.

Mario is passionate about peacemaking, justice, Jesus, visual arts, & the written & spoken word. He is drawn to storytelling & it’s power to create meaning, to document, entertain, guide, and to connect humanity. Mario is native to the U.S. but resides in Turkey with his supportive wife, Angela, & three small children.

What kind of photography do you enjoy most and feel most comfortable shooting?

I enjoy photographing all sorts of people, cultural events, everyday life, our common humanity, and subjects who work well in front of a camera. If there is a story unfolding before me, I like to cover it visually, from establishing wide shots, to interaction or gesture shots, portraits, close ups, and iconic images for the moment or story.

I actively seek out stories that bear witness to beauty, peace, and hope amongst known areas of tension, mistrust, or stereotypes.

I do like the challenge of working for NGO clients, understanding their mission and vision and capturing their story with my own creative vision.

I do a lot photographically, but it all feels related in my mind. People. Humanity. Hope. Story. Context. Alternative perspective. Beauty. Culture. I can wander an unknown neighborhood or city and enter this ‘zone’ where I’m visually recording it’s essence and also interacting with the people to understand their world through their eyes. I can also enjoy staged, lighted shots on location–crafting the image to be “just perfect.” Two different approaches, both involve people get my creativity flowing.

When taking a pic, do you have an audience in mind?

Yes, but this is always changing. It could be a client or it could be our audience at visualpeacemakers.org, which is very international. When I’m displaying common humanity and stories or images that build peace through understanding, I’m thinking of the audience that is most different from the photographic subjects in hopes to bring the two closer together.

Words, sounds or movements are also part of everyday reality. So, do you think something is missing in your photos?

No. I appreciate a variety of genres and expressions. Audio journalism is fascinating. Simple galleries can move me. Photo essays offer a glimpse into something specific with context and provocative images. Documentaries combine more senses and are effective and very enjoyable. But also, sometimes a single image can leave you reflecting on it for 5 minutes or more.

Do you feel that you are an artist or Technician?

Both. Always have been. I used to be a graphic designer and programmer. When younger I would draw, often military jets, space ships, or other technical things. I preferred engineer tools to draw. I do lean more on the artist side though. I can geek out on my computer or camera, but ultimately geeking out doesn’t satisfy. I have too, I must, create something in the end.

Could you find a slogan to sum up your work?

Ask me when I’m 75 years old. I recently hear an 83 year old leader say that he felt he was really peaking at 75. Wow! Long journey…

All pictures © Mario Mattei

More info

Mario at Visual Peace Makers.

Peachpit, Depth of Field Podcast interview.

Heber Vega’s 10Q.

Global Voices.

The Visual Advocate.
Javier Acebal

About the author: Javier Acebal

I'm a photographer based in Dakar (West Africa). I love to document cultures and people! (but also working for tourism industry).

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