Photographer Q&A: Mateo of Foto By Mateo

“Gaudy God” by Mateo

I met Mateo in Chicago, at a kickball game, of all places. I was instantly captivated by his dream-like photography and wanted to share it with Ms. Behaved readers. -Bianca James

Name: Mateo

Age: 25

Location: Born Pittsburgh, last 5 years, Chicago. I spent 6 months in Hawaii after college in 2009 as well.

What do you do, in your own words, and how long have you been doing it?

I try to re-create moments of fantasy and reality. I have been practicing and improving my vision for about 10 years.

When did you start taking pictures?

As soon as I could hold and understand a camera, 6 years old?  I am a third generation photographer, and an only child. I had a lot of practice time and lessons.

What motivated you to get more serious about your photography?

It’s the best feeling in the world, to be able to connect with my subjects and images. Another influence has been my entire life and all of it’s insanities. Taking photographs is very grounding. Like painting your fingernails.

What subjects are you currently most interested in shooting?

I’ll know it when I see it. I hardly predetermine faces and go seek them, but have a general subconscious image to work off of.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a nude series of images as well as my usual editorial  fashion projects. You may view my work at .

Your photos from your Nudes series have a very intimate and personal feel. How do you connect with your models to capture these shots?

We will usually have a drink or two to really get into the mindset, and put the fact that they are naked and somewhat uncomfortable aside. Sometimes the model is just ready.
You shoot a diverse array of people. Where do you find your models?

They are just there. You have to look around and have a vision. And they definitely have to be receptive to being a model.
How do you conceive your photos?

A general phrase will strike me. Such as, “naked upside down figure with oil and water contributors.” Or, It will be a requested assignment from a client that we both work on mutually.

Are they a collaboration with the models, or do you generally direct the shoot?

Life is a collaboration, I do not need to get into that. As for shooting, we almost always have a perfect balance of “head to toe” symmetry.

What are the major influences behind your work?

Any of my mentors, muses, or peers who know how to create and hold their own shoot, or concept. Social constraints and boundaries. Inhumane living conditions being accepted by everyone as “the norm” and my trying to snap people out of it.

What artists do you feel a kinship with?

I feel a strong kinship with many of my close local artist friends, here in Chicago, and those who are far away as well (Miami, NYC, Berlin).

Whose work do you respond to?

I respond mostly to my very best friends, and those who I place on a pedestal in life and are not yet obtainable. I rarely follow a certain artists career unless I know them personally.

 What keeps you motivated/inspired?

The constant change of seasons. You have to work around them. And the simple passing of time, the feeling of something fresh.

Do you have a favorite piece of art or project that you’ve created?

My favorite image to date is titled, “Patrick Demarchelier”. It was one of the images shot during my shoot with designer Suzannah Kuhlemann ( on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Why does it stand out to you?

I feel as if it has set the bar so high for myself, that I don’t ever have to worry about coming down. I can only continue to improve, and exceed my own expectations.

Check out more of Mateo’s work at Foto By Mateo.

Read more photographer Q&As here.


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