Subtitled “A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday,” his book frames those moments in life when feelings are too intense for words. Those times when, if you’re watching them fictionalized on a stage in a darkened theater, the singing and dancing take over.
In a picture titled “Big Day,” a beaming bride-to-be in her underwear and veil vaults through a bridal shop as if she’d just flown out of the white satin gown her maid of honor is holding. You can almost hear Natalie Wood trilling “I Feel Pretty.”
But this isn’t the only shot that brings the clean urban polish of “West Side Story” to mind. In “Dinner for Two,” a couple marches hand-in-hand past a Seattle fish market like a pair of Rockettes, flinging legs to the sky. One of them clutches a red snapper by its tail, managing to give the dead fish a little romantic pizazz.
Before the idea of a book came to him, Matter, who began as a portrait photographer, had been shooting dancers for his website. Word travels fast in the dance world, and he soon had requests from performers around the country who wanted to work with him. Most of the pictures in the book were shot in New York, but not all. Chong Sun, a member of the Washington Ballet Studio Company, is shown rocketing through the air in front of the Capitol. He’s being yanked across the street by his mother, who’s striking a perfect pose of rigid determination.
The backstory is that Chong’s mother had just arrived from Beijing to watch her son perform in “The Nutcracker.” When the two showed up to meet Matter at Union Station — and both were wearing orange shirts — the photographer saw the makings of a family drama. A father of two young children, Matter wanted to capture the desperation a little boy might feel as his mother marches away in anger.
So when the traffic cleared, Chong began to jump. And jump.
“I had to jump, like, 100 times,” Chong said. “The photo is great, but it was painful. The ground was really hard, and it was winter, and I had to take off my coat, and every time I landed it was painful.” Proof sheets along the margin of this page document the missteps.
“It was an almost impossible shot to do,” Matter acknowledges.
Rachel Bell knows something about an impossible shot. Enthralled with Matter’s website, the Dance/USA communications specialist and occasional dancer agreed to drape herself over the muzzle of a cannon poking into empty space on Baltimore’s Federal Hill. The photo shows her on her back, arching over the cannon’s tip with her long hair and short dress fluttering. One leg is cranked up to the sky. She looks like a human pinwheel, just one deep breath away from plunging into the void. The photo is titled “Surrender.”