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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

'An Unfettered Sense of Self’: Remembering Photographer Matthew Thorsen

Photographer Matthew Thorsen's pictures have appeared in "Seven Days" for more than 20 years.
Diane Sullivan
courtesy Seven Days
Photographer Matthew Thorsen's pictures have appeared in "Seven Days" for more than 20 years.

For more than 20 years photographer Matthew Thorsen's pictures were a mainstay in Vermont’s weekly newspaper Seven Days, capturing the people, events and landscapes of the state and defining the paper’s visual style. He was well-known in Burlington's art and music scenes, as much for his quirky sense of style and shock of bleach blond hair as for his photographs.

Thorsen died on New Year's Day after a yearslong battle with cancer. He was 51. 

In 2011 Thorsen explained how he connected with the people he photographed to Seven Days colleague Eva Sollberger:

“I just ask them about themselves a lot … If I'm showing up for a story, I don't want to be like, 'hey, I'm Matt Thorsen, I think I'm really neat.' I just start asking them questions, I guess. And plus, sometimes, some places, people don't want you looking at their stuff. They're like, 'oh, jeeze, hey, 'and you know they’ve cleaned the house already, but they tell you not to photograph things, and you end up make a joke about that, and even making a joke about what people are hiding makes them relax, and it makes me relax too. Like, 'oh, you're greasy too.' People reveal an insecurity ,I guess, it makes them a little humble and helps prepare them a little bit for the picture … but to draw out somebody, like a timidity or a genuine non-pose, sometimes it’s hard. But I also like the pose people put out. You know, that's pretty funny.”

Pamela Polston, co-founder and co-editor Seven Days, worked with Thorsen during his 23 years with the weekly paper. She joined Vermont Edition to remember her friend and colleague.

Broadcast live on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.
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