It happened in a fraction of a second when the New York City subway car door opened and Paul Matzner saw both men texting. He framed them and clicked, but it wasn’t until Paul returned to his Shorewood, Wis., home that he realized the social statement he had captured.
“We live and work in close proximity, but we spend an inordinate amount of time not acknowledging each other when we are together,” Paul said. “Mass transit seems to heighten that isolation.”
Paul spent four April days in New York to make pictures and visit photography galleries, including Howard Greenberg, Lawrence Miller, Bruce Silverstein, and Felicia Anastasia. He had never been to Brooklyn, but on a “space to spare” website he found an apartment in the borough.
He spent his time walking the streets and exploring Prospect Park, the DUMBO area – Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass – the Fort Greene area, as well as making frequent trips to Manhattan to visit such places as Bryant Park, Central Park, Chelsea, Chinatown, and the High Line, the new elevated park in lower Midtown.
“When I'm out with my camera I am looking for people that interest me,” he said. “Everyone else seems to be ignoring those around them.”
Paul said his goal is to show people as they are, “just being themselves, relating to each other or their environment.” Discussing his art philosophy, he said that a writer once called Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work “the poetry of human encounters on the street.” To Paul that’s a beautiful description that serves as an inspiration. “Life is full of discovery and I try to make that happen with my camera.”
Street photography in New York City is his favorite pursuit. “My senses are fully engaged and it feels like great images are possible wherever I wander. I find that just walking around with a camera opens me up to whatever happens, rather than always having a planned goal in mind.”
A CoPA member since 2006, Paul retired in 2010 after 23 years at Quad/Graphics, where he was a customer service representative overseeing the production of magazines and catalogs. Previously, he was a photographer for the City of Milwaukee in an 18 month federally funded position at City Hall, and also worked for the Milwaukee Public School System in its recreation program and as a substitute teacher.
Self-employed as a photographer, Paul holds a bachelor of science degree in early childhood education from the University of Wisconsin –Milwaukee and is certified to teach nursery to third grade.