MATHEW JASPER GONZALEZ
Words by Olisa Tasie-Amadi
MJG Photography Jazmen Thousand
Mathew Jasper Gonzalez - a.k.a Fjilm - has become one of New York’s lauded and creative photographers on the music and fashion scene. His down to earth and chill personality is what has allowed him to connect with many of the biggest names out there. The likes of ASAP Rocky, Carti, Ferg, Amine, and Brent Fayaz are just a few on a long list of celebrities. Still young in his career, at just 18 years old, Jasper’s career has proven to be on a path for great things as his work ethic and expressive talent allows him to capture some of the best moments in people’s lives.
Since buying his first two Kodak disposable cameras from B&H to go shoot a concert in the summer of 2015, Jasper has nurtured a much deeper connection with photography, and although it wasn’t the path he wanted from a much younger childhood, it has certainly become a great part of his life. He describes his journey as simply the result of the laws of attraction. Being presented with many opportunities in recent times, he has certainly taken full advantage of every bit of it as his unique style has been able to catch the eye of the world. Today, I was able to sit down and listen to the story of his swift rise in the world of photography and his growth through all of it.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before photography?
Growing up I didn’t really have much like that you know? I was always outside not because I didn’t like being indoors but having fun and really just taking in the world and seeing all that was around me. Fashion was my main focus back then, I wanted to make my clothes and all of it. I did have a camera though when I was 13. Mostly, I messed with it but I wasn’t really heavy on photography at the time.
What do you think really inspired you back then?
As I mentioned, fashion was one thing. I really also drew inspiration from music, my culture and soccer too. Ronaldinho was my favorite player haha, he was the goat for me back then. So yeah, soccer too gave me a bit of inspiration with wanting to do great things and doing my own thing.
When did you first start to get into photography or take an interest in it?
Actually funny story. I applied to this fashion school I really wanted to go to which was the priority at the time. This was the summer of 2015. I sent in my resume but I got rejected. So one of my friends later that summer introduced me to the photo stuff. I had seen an editorial in JPG and the vintage look really got me but I still didn’t focus on it then. Then a few days later, my friend took me to this event and I met Gunner Stahl. He had a film camera with him which I kinda found interesting, and for me, It was cool I guess. Started researching a lot online and then I got two Kodak disposables from B&H. I heard there was a rapper having a concert, so I was like lemme go shoot and see what happens. Shot at the concert, got the film developed and when I got it back...I was like yeah this is it cause it was really cool.
Do you think getting rejected made you give up on fashion and pursue photography completely?
Not at all. That inspired me because that summer that I was supposed to chill before going into that school made up everything right now. Since I didn’t get in, I was always outside you know trying to explore because that’s the only way you can really get inspiration, from actually seeing the world. I realized since they didn’t accept me, I’m gonna do my own thing you know? And pretty much that’s what I’ve been doing since then. I might not wear certain pieces of clothes but I could tell you info on any piece and everything about it.
How were you able to build connections with the celebrities and people you work with?
All of the connections or people I work with now all had an organic origin. In the sense that, I never tried to meet them with the main purpose of publicity or “could I get your contact for this or that”, It wasn’t that kind of thing. It was more of me just keeping my head down and doing my thing, and at some point, they felt pretty comfortable having me around and connecting with me on levels that weren’t just limited to photography. Like Ian Connor (Sicko), he trusted me to develop a lot of his film one time. I think things like that shows my relationship with some of the people I work with isn’t just me being the photography guy but also a friend. I feel like a lot of people in this industry try to fake who they are and act differently just to get something but If you’re not really being yourself and doing your shit then you never see the true value or results of the work.
Did you meet any of the people you work with now even before you started taking photos?
Actually yeah. When I was still on the fashion thing heavy, I created a shirt for Carti and wanted to get it to him. I was walking outside one day, as always, and I met Ian Connor. He took it and posted a photo on his page and I guess Carti saw it because fast-forward a bit Carti had the shirt and he told me he’s still got it. I think I also met Flacko too...I was sitting on a bench and he walked by and noticed the shirt and said it was cool. I asked him for some pointers and what he thought about it you know? So he told me just keep working on it and all, and so after that I really tapped into my mind. For me I also thought to myself, like if i’m always seeing these guys around, I might as well start taking photos of them.
What do you think makes your style of photography and work different from the other creators around you?
I think I mainly focus on my work being a lot freer and candid. When it comes to my videos and how I direct them, there could be a storyline but I don’t always follow it. I’d rather freestyle and be more organic than being strict. It’s not always a playbook thing, sometimes you gotta let yourself do your own thing, it’s the only way you can truly create. Like all the videos on my page are shot on my iPhone, it’s all just as it goes.
Is there anyone that you think inspired some of your work and style?
Ferg. Definitely Ferg. That’s someone I can say is truly my inspiration because I can’t say I really look up to that many people or aspire to be like them. Ferg is one of those people I can say I do. He’s a good soul spiritually, mentally, and physically. When I met Ferg, the difference he had from all the other people I worked with was he was kinda like my big bro. He was telling me he messed with my work because the time I met him on the street I came up to him with the confidence and told him straight up like “you mind if I take some flicks of you real quick?” and not really on that fanboy vibe acting all hyper or panicking. You feel me?
Do you think he also, besides being a big brother figure, played a mentor-like role in your life?
For sure. I think being around him definitely made it clear that you don’t analyze your assumptions in life you know? We assume things and our decisions pretty much reflect upon that. I really look up to him. This one time I was in New York and I get a text from Carti telling me to pull-up to the studio and I’m like okay why not but I get there and it’s canceled. It’s 2 am and I’m on live and I’m still chilling there and this kid walks past me and he’s like “are you fjilm?” and I’m like yeah then he walks into the door next to the studio. Ferg texts me minutes later and he’s like I’m in New York, pull up to the studio. He sends me the address and it’s literally next door. So now I’m in the studio, and we’re just vibing and he tells me that I remind him of ASAP Yams cause I’m just free and doing my own stuff all the time. The whole studio goes quiet like dead silent. So I think that was the time I realized he really messed with me and he always shows love and till now our connection is something I feel is always gonna be there.
“You always gotta be outside. Always. If it’s one piece of advice I gotta give to people. All the opportunities are out in the world and that’s where all the inspiration is.”
What is your favorite camera to use and why?
I mainly use a Canon Sure Shot, I got it on me when I’m bored and I just go outside and shoot stuff I see around me. My main one, like my go-to camera though, is definitely the Mamiya 645. A very awesome camera like with portraits and pretty much everything for me to be honest.
Was there ever time you felt it was hard constantly having to buy film and shoot...because you know sometimes it’s a lot to spend?
Bro with me that was a problem for a while back then because I didn’t have a job at the time. The way I was making money was very rationally, it was never like an every week kind of thing. There were weeks where I would go broke because I would develop so many rolls of film, and I would have nothing left in my account. You feel me? I’d even have like more at home on the shelf just sitting there waiting to get developed. Now obviously it’s different, but back then I went broke to get the work done.
Besides shooting film, do you ever work with digital?
Right now I’m using a Canon Rebel my twin gave to me. I really shoot digital video but not really photos. The only time I ever actually shot digital photos was with products like Nike sneakers and clothes. Even then I’d probably borrow a digital camera or have someone lend me one.
You also mentioned some other things you were working on outside of photography...what was that?
Yeah, I’m working on some music too right now which obviously you know it’s something I grew up drawing inspiration from, so definitely keeping that alive and taking it along with me.
I know you’re still young in your career but what would you say is one skill or attribute that you think has really taken you this far in your career?
You gotta stay true to yourself and I mean that to the fullest. Don’t be afraid to do anything and yeah just follow your dream regardless of the circumstances. If you really love something you know? It’s the law of attraction. You love something and you work hard for it, things just fall into place and it all comes together for you.
Do you think ever felt discouraged or at a moment thought “oh things aren’t going well, what do I do?”
I just look at it from someone else’s perspective. Like yeah, he tried something at first and It didn’t work out but he took what he learned from that situation, and applied it into his next actions and made something out of it. Like you can’t just do this just because, real-life problems also play a role in it and definitely tries to affect the flow. This ain’t no Instagram thing you know? You gotta really apply yourself. My first camera cost me $30 on eBay and it wasn’t that good but I put all my energy and all invested my time into making sure I took full advantage of it. You gotta care about it, and I want people to smile when they look at my work. I was never discouraged by being broke but I really felt that I appreciate that people always showed love at the end of the day.
What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any projects right now or have any you plan to work on?
Yeah, I gotta go to Miami in two weeks to shoot an editorial for a brand, and after that, I’ll be in LA on something else. Actually right now, I’m trying to figure something out with Adidas and also trying to reach out to work with Lil Uzi Vert on a video. Also...I’m gonna be dropping my first photobook this summer lol so that’s pretty exciting and that’s it. I was trying to do a gallery this year too, but with everything going on it kind of didn’t work. The same week they were saying don’t go outside and all that was the same week my gallery was supposed to happen. It’s definitely going to be something I do later this year or next though.