The Urban Prisoner
The book is a classic, Weber’s camera captures New York without pretense, and with love and attention to the small yet extremely significant moments in the life of a city that never stops. It reminds me of the movie “MEAN STREETS” by Martin Scorsese.
The pictures say it all. They say it loud and clear. I love the street fighting pictures, the funny moments like the dog looking longingly into a club doorway, the Van Gogh sleeping under his own poster. Many of the images are rare, unique and one of a kind.
Donna Ferrato Author of “Living with the enemy”
I like to think that I am a very good street photographer, cause hey, this is what I do … but then from time to time I stumble upon somebody else’s work, and I say to myself “BOOGIE MAN, YOU NEED TO WORK MORE, THERE ARE SOME KILLER PHOTOGRAPHERS OUT THERE” … this is what happened when I saw Matt’s book. Every single image was a shocker, and many of them seemed like he felt they were gonna happen before they actually did, you know, a lot of crazy “right place at the right time” situations perfectly captured! And then I went through the book again and again, discovering new amazing moments I missed before … the book is a killer,and the way Matt sees the world is beautiful, raw and completely different.
What an amazing body of work!
People often say things to me like I’ve inspired them etc. and I pooh pooh it. But while I was going through the Urban Prisoner – I guess I felt the
same sort of “inspiration” — an overused word but I’ll use it anyway. When I am frustrated with shooting the street, the people, the struggle to do
something – these images will help me.
The book itself is the best photography book I have in terms of what I guess you call print quality / paper / layout etc. The printing is sublime ( a word I haven’t used in a long time). I’m not much good at describing or critiquing photographs – the best I can do is come up with the following musical analogy:
if you were to make a slide show from the book, you’d want a soundtrack with Tom Waits, Robert Johnson, and early Janis Joplin while she was with the Holding Company.
Man – there are some shots where I say to myself – “I can’t believe he got that.”
To cut to the nitty grit: I don’t suppose it makes for a recommendation, in a general sense, to the generalist hobbyist—but for anyone passionate about street photography in any of its myriad aspects it’s probably as close to a must-see as a book by a lesser-known photographer can be. Matt made most of these pictures when he was a New York City cabbie. The pictures lack prettiness and don’t even try for slickness: his cabdriver’s New York is overcast and gray, closed-in, seen in detail (even in the broader views, the detail is often what’s important). It conveys the brooding sense of foreboding of the mean streets, like you’d better stay wary if you want to stay safe. As street photography it’s really rather masterful, conveying the sense of quick cuts and glimpses—scenes that exist for a moment or two, gone as quickly as the startling spectre of a jetliner as it takes off past the roof-peak a row house. Some guys have the knack.
The book is well printed, well-sized, honestly laid out one picture per page with no fluff or gee-whiz, and kicks off with a brief essay in English* by Ben Lifson.
I’ve only been through it once, but I got two impressions from this work—one was that it seems like it was put together from a much larger body of work that must be just as strong. At least, the editing eschews the single, self-contained, self-congratulatory image in favor of those that build with cumulative effect. This is most noticeable in the mirroring and shadowing of subject matter between facing pages. On pages 64 and 65, for instance, a standoff in a grubby alley between two black men clutching each other by the sleeves is mirrored by the facing picture of a rat and a cat staring each other down nearly nose-to-nose. There’s a lot of that, the picture on one side of the spread informing and amplifying the one on the other.
My other impression is that, like good jazz, The Urban Prisoner is going to endure repeated encounters without exhausting its rewards.
A fine and good book of “street,” then, unpretentious yet confident, balanced between the plainspoken and the virtuosic like the pictures themselves balance the despair of dire straits and hard circumstances with the joys of observing, and appreciating, the city’s moments as they pass. Matt Weber’s Leica shows us a lot, but I’ll bet he sees a lot more.
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