A Salford University student’s photography project aims to break the stigma around the Heavy Metal culture.

Matt Billington, a 22-year-old from Manchester, has been photographing heavy metal fans to explore identity within the culture. The photographs depict different heavy metal fans in their own environment.

The project originates from a university module Matt was taking and he has taken shot’s of 6 people so far, including a heavy metal couple.

The photographer: Matt Billington. Credit: Matt Billington

As part of the project, Matt discussed with each subject what they felt were the main misconceptions around heavy metal, and he described the fanbase as being “big softies.”

The inspiration for the project stems from Matt’s personal experience of bullying because of his identification with heavy metal culture. He said: “I’ve grown up being into metal, and I can remember being in high school and getting really badly bullied because I had the long hair, the metal tops, painted fingernails, boots and all that business.”

He continued: “It was physical and verbal bullying, then it got posted online and that created more. So I ended up just shaving my head and going completely against it because I wanted to blend in and I didn’t really like being obviously into that culture, which is what the culture is about really.”

The pictures capture a variety of fans, often dubbed as ‘metal heads’, dressed in their own authentic style.

Credit: Matt Billington

Yasmin, from Lancashire, was one of the subjects of the project.

When opening up about the photoshoot, Yasmin said: “It’s nice to have pictures taken of you and obviously Matt’s a really great photographer. It made me think, ‘okay yeah that’s me’ and I thought I’d look horrible, in the pictures, but they turned out really nice.”

She continued: “I was really happy with them, I thought they were really lovely, it reminded me of how comfortable I am to be myself.”

In an interview with Callie Treanor, photographer Matt touched on the murder of Sophie Lancaster. When asked about it, he said: “It’s discrimination based on your own appearance and getting singled out and murdered for that is such a horrible thing to happen, it’s a well recognised thing in the culture of metal.”

In 2007 Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, were violently attacked by a group of teenage boys in a Lancashire park, this subsequently lead to Lancaster’s death at Salford Royal Hospital.

Matt featured a heavy metal couple in the project to try and raise more awareness about the case. He said: “My most recent shoot is of a metal couple as well and that’s trying to make it relevant to that incident and raise more awareness because it has been forgotten about a bit and I’m trying to bring it back to the forefront.”

Matt continued: “Metal is coming back in to popular culture now, H&M for example, you’ve got Slayer t-shirts, Metallica t-shirts and in a way it’s capitalising on that uniqueness.”

Heavy Metal couple James and Gena, Credit: Matt Billington

When asked about discrimination within the community of metal heads, Yasmin said: “I think it’s just really sad that, if you don’t like how someone looks, it’s okay to beat them up. If you don’t like it, just look the other way. You don’t have to make a comment about it and there’s no need to pass judgement on it, your opinion isn’t needed.”

She continued: “When I go out, my mum does get worried that sometimes someone might do that to me, even though I’m not a goth, I’m a metal head, it still can happen to anyone, it shows you how low society looks at metal heads sometimes.”

Credit: Matt Billington

Matt’s project brings the uniqueness of metal heads to life and hopes to raise awareness and appreciation of heavy metal culture. Hopefully the increased popularity of metal in mainstream fashion will help the general public appreciate the fun loving culture of the metal head community.

If you’d like to get in touch with Matt about the project, click here.

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