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Interview: Matthew Troyer's Unseen Heroes

Interview: Matthew Troyer's Unseen Heroes

Lives and works in Sarasota, Florida

Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?

My family always had some form of artisitic oulet so growing up art was encouraged. I am from a very small Amish town in Ohio so there were not many opperunities. My dad worked for an advertising company so I did get introduced to the adobe programs and loved graphic design. We moved to Florida in 2005, my senior year of high school, and I had a wide option of classes to take like digital design, web design, and TV Production/Film. After graduating I stayed local for college as a film major. Not feeling at the time that college was the right path for me I enlisted in the Marine Corps after learning I could be a combat photographer. It was the greatest adventure of my life traveling the world capturing images and teaching. With always more to learn I am currently in art school as a senior at Ringling College of Art & Design and looking froward to applying to grad school this fall to further my practice and teach again.

Gisselle and Myrtha

What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?

The two largest influences on me are my upbrining in my small amish town of Sugarcreek, Ohio and largely my time spent in the Marine Corps. currently a lot of my work is based on themes of the military experience and exploring trauma related to PTSD and Trauamtic Brain injuries, both of which I suffer from. Photography remains my passion and main artistic outlet but as of late I have experimented with appropriating old photographs from service members as well as playing with surface and material.

First draft for book for my latest series 'Of innocence and of experience'

What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?

After coming from the niche world of photojournalism/documentary I was more interested in commercial and editorial photography. I had bought my own lighting kit and during my free time practiced with lighting on location. I think portraiture gave me a bit more control which I feel I lacked in photojournalism. Now, I like to take the style and practices I enjoyed from editorial and commercial work and blend that into documentary and fine art work. I really look at the military experience and combat trauma from my perspective. I am also interested in familial relationships not just blood related but created/chosen families. This stems from my own closeness to family and the military which is like a giant extended family. I am also interested in exploring what I call "unseen heroes". serving with 18 year olds who did such heroric things has always made me intersted in other who are unseen doing amazing things.

History Refracted #1 (Self Portrait)

Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?

I've had amazing mentors who taught my what visual story telling is about. Jeremy Lock, 7 time military photographer of the year, was someone who mentored me early on after my first deployment and changed my outlook completley. Wes Kline, one of my instructors inspires me in teaching and in my practice always challeneging me to expand my work. As for photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia is my favorite photographer.

First draft for book for my latest series 'Of innocence and of experience'

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration from meeting people and hearing their stories. Military veterans tend to stick together and I love hearing their stories and connecting with them. I love the amazing stories of everyday people as well. We all do amazing things and have interesting connections that people may not always see. I like to explore these.

History Refracted #2

Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?

A series I recently worked on titled 'History Refracted' I think really pushed me to working through some of my thoughts and feelings regarding the military and helped elevate the work I was creating.

History Refracted #3

How did it begin? and how did it evolve?

Initially i was very hesitant to make any work that consisted of my military experirence. I did not want to be piegon-holed as that veteran artist who only does work involving the military. I realized though i have a unique perspective and stories to tell that can either help people who have been through the same experiences or help those who have not get a glimpse into it.

U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant. Demetrius Munnerlyn 1991/2003

What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?

1. Give it (photography knowledge) as freely as you've got it.
2. Photography and art is like a muscle, you need to work it out. So keep creating
3. You never stop being a student. Even as a teacher, you learn from your students

Shooting my images with a 9mm handgun for my series "Of innocence and of experience'

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a book for a new series 'Of innocence and of experience'

Of Innocence and Of Experience examines photographs of U.S. service members deployed in support of the global war on terror; peeling back the modern-day warrior to see the child they grew from. Personal imagery collected from each member of the military is overlaid with an image from their childhood. The inherent humor that comes from this stark contrast is broken by the bullet holes shot through physically destroying the paper snapping the viewer back to the reality of the destruction of war physically as well as emotionally and mentally. Each service member shown grew from their adolescence to adulthood participating in one of the worst aspects of human nature, war.

My photography set up on location shooting for my series 'Familial'

If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your art practice and give your younger self a single piece of advice what would it be?

Photograph more, shoot RAW, Archive. (I am missing a lot of my images from Afghanistan)

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Thompson 1989/2018

About the Artist

Based in Sarasota, Florida

Matthew Troyer is a documentary and fine art photographer that lives and works in Sarasota, Florida. He will receive his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and Imaging from the Ringling College of Art and Design in 2022. Troyer spent nine years serving in the United States Marine Corps as a combat photographer where he documented combat operations and training in Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Thailand. He taught photography as the faculty supervisor at the Defense Information School on Fort Meade, Maryland. He now uses his prior military experience, expanded knowledge of fine art photography, and creative conceptual development to create work exploring combat trauma, memory, family, and unseen heroes.

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