As New York City prepares to play host to the biggest Pride event in history, we spoke with one of the LGBTQIA+ community’s rising stars, Matt Bernstein. A current NYU student, Matt’s ongoing photography series merges makeup with human rights messages, particularly those highlighting concerns affecting the queer community. Fascinated by his work and keen to delve deeper, we spoke with Matt about his work and inspiration.
Where did you grow up and when did you move to NYC?
I grew up in Westfield, a small suburb in New Jersey. I moved to New York City two years ago when I was 18 to study at NYU, not really thinking I would be doing anything else but study. I study photography and marketing at NYU.
Your recent LGBTQIA+ photographic series published on your Instagram account (@mattxiv) is hugely popular. How do you curate the messages you share, and who or what inspires them?
People who followed me 6 months ago would only really consider me a photographer, because that’s mainly what I did. Things took a turn away from photography as I began to feel confident in expressing myself through experimenting with makeup. New York City has an atmosphere of acceptance, which made me feel grateful and finally feel comfortable to embrace my passion for glam and beauty. I leveraged my social platform to showcase my new content and people really connected with it. I do take my own photos but the true emphasis for me is on makeup and using beauty as a form of self-expression and protest. Some of the messages in my recent posts derived from archival protests and things that I’ve seen, in which case I’ll credit the source. A lot of ideas are constantly streaming in my head, either stemming from my childhood or my own experiences being queer. I then like to think about how I can package and phrase these messages to be bite-sized and easy to digest. I really try to get my messages across quickly to ensure things remain relevant. I like to pay homage to queer history, but also to current and ongoing issues. It’s important for me to stay on top of LGBTQIA+ news so that I can further express my opinions and add my take to on-going social conversations.