Wanderer Interview: Matthieu Bühler

DERIVE recently spoke with fellow wanderer Matthieu Bühler, a Tokyo-based graphic designer and photographer. We first met Matthieu in 2017 when we photographed the neon streets of Tokyo together. Since then he has gone on to create a solid body of explorations and has been featured by Lomography, Fubiz and others.

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Tell us about your dreams and thoughts of what the 'city' as a place means to you generally.

Cities to me are hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of stories and experiences coming together in a packed space. Kind of like in a movie: the city is the set, its people are the actors. The action is what happens in everyone’s daily life.

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You recently visited Hong Kong only a few weeks after I was there too (as featured in Derive Wanderer Magazine #3), how do you think our journeys of the same place at a different time compare and connect?

I feel that we all come with our hopes and dreams to a certain place when we start exploring and wandering around a city like Hong Kong. We keep our eyes, hearts and minds open to see what it has to offer. At the same time we both share a very similar passion for major cities particularly in Asia. I think it’s very intriguing to see how we can perceive the same space in a very different way. To communicate this either through an art form like photography or just by having a verbal conversation about it is what can make us feel connected. Today’s technologies have made it easier to share these kind of experiences and perceptions even though we might not have been in a place like Hong Kong at the same time.

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How has your background influenced your photography? e.g. How does the place / time you grew up in compare to where you find yourself now?

I was all about cities since I was a child. I grew up in a small town with only 20,000 people, so I was naturally attracted to any place that had to offer more life than that. I remember when my parents would drive through a large city at night I would gaze with big eyes out of my window in the backseat and just look at all the lights and the hundreds of thousands of souls living their life amongst others. It just felt very exciting to me. Cities always meant for me that a lot of different stories would live together in a space that is more mysterious than anything I knew from my small home town.

The fact that I know live in Tokyo and that I still think about living in other major cities in Asia is definitely due to the fact that it is an environment I was always attracted to. It’s one of these things that excite me where I just have no exact explanation for why it is that way. It’s almost mystical to me. Photography helps me to capture this mystery without having to express it verbally. Probably because I can't put it into words. 

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What draws you to wandering the night?

Wandering at night is something that comes very close to what I’d call absolute freedom. The fact that you can’t be seen that easily and you can become an observer without bothering other people has something very liberating to me. When I wander, I love walking by all these restaurants and bars that shine from the inside out and to see what the guests are doing, how they talk and laugh. It’s at this exact moment that I feel the most connected with a city and its people. 

Of course my fascination for light and how it fills out spaces adds up to my passion of wandering the night. I am particularly drawn to the lights of big cities and how they reflect on buildings, streets and people. 

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What are your next big plans for your creative journey?

My next plan would be to shoot a short film or documentary that is set in a big city in Asia. I would, of course, prefer to shoot at night and to capture the mood from my photography and to translate it into moving images. 

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See more from Matthieu Bühler:
Instagram: @mattmaddsen
Twitter: @mattmaddsen

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