THE LIFERS PROJECT
Matt Alberts, a skateboarder and photographer, discovers a 1850 CC Harrison lens that he believes belonged to his fourth great-grandfather, a pioneer of the wet collodion photography process in the early 19th century. Inspired by his family legacy and his own experiences as a skateboarder, Matt embarks on a heartfelt journey, exploring his family's legacy. Through his camera lens, he captures the essence of life, uncovering hidden stories and forging a powerful link between past and present.
Matt Alberts has spent over a decade capturing people’s souls. Based out of a 28-foot airstream and mobile darkroom that attaches to the back of his truck, the photographer uses the wet plate collodion process to create portraits that are charged with emotion and reveal the true essence of his subjects.
Matt Alberts has spent over a decade capturing people’s souls. In Matt's lens, the outdoors isn't just a backdrop; it's an integral part of his artistic process. The landscapes he navigates with his 28-foot airstream and mobile darkroom become more than settings—they are dynamic collaborators. Using the wet plate collodion process, Matt creates portraits that are charged with emotion and reveal the true essence of his subjects.
Matt's photographic journey traces back to a defining moment in his youth, when he was arrested for skating at 13 years old in a town where skating was illegal. This pivotal experience not only solidified Matt's purpose behind the camera but set the stage for an exploration of identity and self-expression.
In 2011, Matt came across the wet collodion process. The technique produces images by rendering silver nitrate to the plate, delivering a final product that is striking in its emotional depth. Because of the sensitivity to UV light and long exposure times, wet collodion is believed to see beneath the skin and reveal one's soul and character. That’s right, tattoos do not appear in these photographs.
Matt was not the first in his family to find the wet collodion process. In the early 19th century, Matt’s fourth great grandfather, F.A. Gilmore, and his son, Lowell Gilmore, were wet collodion photographers in Binghamton, New York. They were pioneers of the process, taking more than 30,000 photographs a year – $1 per dozen.
In 2013, Matt embarked on his own creative journey by starting The Lifers Project - a collection dedicated to capturing images of athletes who have dedicated their lives to their passions outdoors. It becomes a testament to the belief that each athlete is more than the sport they pursue. For ten years, Lifers not only upholds his family legacy but reinvents it, breathing new life into age-old traditions.
A significant piece of Matt's journey unfolds as he suspects that his 1852 bronze CC Harrison lens may have belonged to his fourth great grandfather. This suspicion propels him to uncover more about his family's history, leading to the discovery of over 200 original tintypes and photographs in his father's basement.
As Matt questions how his family legacy has shaped his perspective on identity and passion, he continues a tradition that began over a century ago. His work becomes a tribute to his family's legacy, connecting the past and present through his craft. It emphasizes the importance of seeing people for who they truly are, beyond surface appearances.
In essence, Matt's journey unfolds as a poignant exploration of roots, unveiling familial mysteries, and navigating the convergence of past and present through the timeless lens of photography and the outdoors.
Visual Elements: The film aims to redefine the boundaries of documentary filmmaking by blending fiction films with real-life narratives. The result is an innovative and emotionally charged experience that offers both the polished look of Hollywood and the authenticity of documentary storytelling. The goal is to create a true “show don’t tell” film with high entertainment value, challenging traditional expectations of the documentary genre in the outdoor space.
Cinematography: Ideally, the film will be shot on 35mm film, characterized by its rich, warm tones and unique texture, adding a nostalgic quality to the storytelling.
Recreations: Abstract, recreated scenes will serve as narrative beats, adding a cinematic layer to pivotal moments in Matt's life.
Narrative Layering: The film will employ a layered narrative approach, seamlessly weaving together Matt's personal journey, historical context, and the stories of Lifers. This layering will create a multi-dimensional viewing experience, allowing the audience to connect emotionally with both the individual characters and the overarching theme.
Symbolic Use of the Vintage Lens: The 1850 CC Harrison lens will be a symbolic thread throughout the film, representing the passage of time, continuity, and the bridging of generations. Its use will be heightened during pivotal moments, serving as a visual metaphor for Matt's connection to his family legacy.
Audio Elements: Verite moments and abstract scenes will play a central role in driving the narrative forward. The goal is to allow the audience to emotionally connect with the story without relying heavily on traditional documentary voice overs.
Every morning before a shoot, Matt blasts "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac out of his airstream. We'll find a way to license that song.
This film aims to answer the universal question: Where do we come from? This journey of self-discovery is a shared human experience that touches us all at some point in our lives.
The film encourages intergenerational conversations. It invites individuals at the crossroads of self-discovery, skateboarders, photographers, and those interested in human stories that inspire a more connected world.
In essence, this film is an invitation—to converse, reflect, and connect with a broader narrative that touches the core of our shared humanity.
We will submit to top documentary festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, Big Sky, and DOC NYC, and establish a robust festival circuit in outdoor-focused events like Mountainfilm, BANFF, 5 Point, Coast, leveraging my alumni status.
One of the most exciting prospects for this film is hosting a community screening art show in New York City, showcasing the film alongside Matt’s original tintypes and his fourth great-grandfather's work. A parallel event on the West Coast is also in the plans.
Ideally, this film will live on an online platform such as The New Yorker, Short of the Week or The LA Times Short Docs to reach the largest audience possible.
Matt's 4th Great GRANDMOTHER
Matt's 4th Great Grandfather, self portrait.
1826. The first permanent photograph was produced by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce using a process called heliography. However, the process was slow and required a long exposure time.
1839. Louis Daguerre introduced the daguerreotype, which produced highly detailed images using a polished silver-coated copper plate. The daguerreotype was the first widely used photographic process and quickly became popular. However, the process was expensive, time-consuming, and it required the photographer to have a license to practice.
1850. The wet plate collodion process was developed, which used a glass plate coated with a thin layer of collodion and then dipped in silver nitrate. The plate was then exposed and developed, producing a negative image that could be used to create multiple prints
1856. The ferrotype, or tintype, was introduced. This process used a thin sheet of iron coated with a black enamel to create a durable, lightweight image. The ferrotype became popular for portraiture, particularly during the Civil War era.
The tintype was eventually replaced by newer photographic processes, but it played an important role in the development of photography. It was one of the first affordable and accessible forms of photography, allowing people of all backgrounds to have their portraits taken.
Pre-Production - February 2024
Production - Spring/Summer 24 (9 days)
Post-Production - Fall 2024 (23 days)
Film Finished - October 31st, 2024
Film Festival Circuit and events - 2024/2025
Film Digital Release - 2025
Jordyn Romero is an award-winning filmmaker known for creating powerful, globally resonant films.
Hailing from the Rocky Mountains of Santa Fe, Jordyn's upbringing ignited her deep love for the outdoors. Armed with a BFA in documentary filmmaking from Chapman University, she has produced work internationally (Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Scotland, France, El Salvador, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, and Canada to name a few). Amplifying voices that need to be heard, she explores stories of womanhood, identity, and the human spirit.
Her acclaimed film, We Are Like Waves (2022), tells the story of one of the first female surfers in Sri Lanka. The film achieved distribution by The Los Angeles Times, received awards at numerous festivals, and propelled Jordyn to be recognized as an Oscar-Qualifying director.
Jordyn works primarily as a director and producer in documentary filmmaking, branded content, and commercials. She isn't afraid to get her hands on a camera either - whether submerged in pumping surf or trekking through remote locations with a backpack filled with camera gear and electrolytes. She's directed and produced work for brands like Patagonia, Salomon, The North Face, and Specialized.