by Cormack O'Connor in New Photography on Monday 25 March 2013

We’ve long been big fans of Leonard Mattis and his unique approach to hairdressing and art presentation. His studio space in Sydney’s Surry Hills is a clean, white and minimal breath of freshness into the often boring world of “hair cuts.” We caught up with Mattis for a quick chat about his latest art photography collaboration with Grace Cassio and why hairdressing to him is about a lot more than the actual chop.

LAEM: How did you and Grace Cassio come to collaborate?
L: I met Grace at the ‘Pieces of Me’ solo exhibition by Lexi Land held at the Studio in September 2012. We hit it off, exchanged details then earlier this year I asked her to shoot the interior of the studio for me. Not long after, I had the idea for the hands series and asked her if she was interested in shooting that as well. She loved the concept and we shot the next week.

LAEM: How did you come up with the concept?
L: The concept came about while I was cutting a client’s hair. I often focus on my hands and their movement in a meditative kind of way when cutting. There is such a fluid elegance to the way the hands and tools engage, so I thought it would be great to try and capture this.

LAEM: How did you get into hairdressing?
L: I grew up in the East of London, but then moved west to study Business at Westminster University. The West End totally consumed me, and living there I became a lot more aware of people, fashion and music and the way they interacted with each other. I left university half way through my second year and started looking for work but didn’t have much direction. I bumped into a friend on East Ham High Street, she was working at the local salon. We hung out for a few hours, I met her boss, and she offered me a job off the cuff. The rest is history!

LAEM: Tell us about your studio.
L: The studio is what I like to think of as a hybrid space fusing form and function, it primarily operates as a hair salon then multi-tasks as a commercial art gallery providing a rare cohesion of local emerging artists and high-end styling. The studio is tucked away in a tranquil, hidden location in the heart of Sydney’ creative hub. The crisp white walls and floor serve not only as a backdrop for showcasing artists but also my personal taste for design and all things minimal.

LAEM: How do you think art and hairdressing connect with each other?
L: I think it’s natural for art and hair to connect. Like art hairdressing represents ideas and thoughts. We create shape and form around bone structure on each individual client. Initially seeing the end result with our minds (during the consult), we then create with our eyes, hands and tools.