American photographer Matt Lutton has dedicated years to his ongoing project Only Unity, a multi-layered portrait of Serbia in the aftermath of Yugoslavia—and he hasn’t done it from afar. Lutton has lived and worked in Serbia since 2009, documenting the complex climate of a country that he says is still “emerging from the hangover of the 1990s, where atrocities were carried out in their name just across newborn borders, and constructive reflection about the consequences of those years is long over due.” As a documentary photographer, the image is everything—it unveils the nuanced stories that wait to be told, and a website that understands that is crucial. Lutton recently switched to Beam, PhotoShelter’s new portfolio website platform, where the image takes precedent.

Lutton’s Only Unity was nominated for the POYi Emerging Vision Incentive in 2010 and won the BURN Emerging Photographer Fund in 2012. A winner of Magenta Flash Forward 2013, Lutton is the co-founder and editor of the photojournalism website Dvafoto and a member of the Boreal Collective.

As Lutton continues to explore a people that have been left with an identity to piece back together, worn by the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the wars that took place then, Lutton hopes his images will have an impact. Not only does Beam help showcase Lutton’s images in an effective way, the platform also caters to his career as a documentary photographer, allowing a space for both new portfolios and archives to live under one roof, so that editors and clients can access the plethora of stories Lutton has covered over the years. We asked Lutton to tell us more about how Beam is working for him.

Only Unity is currently on view at Artget Gallery in Belgrade, Serbia through December 4, 2013.

Matt LuttonThe famous black birds of Kosovo in flight over Mitrovica on the night of the first anniversary of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. February 2009.
© Matt Lutton / Boreal Collective

As a documentary photographer what were you looking for as far as website templates/design goes?
“I’ve had a number of websites over the years, from ones I built personally to paid website design and hosting, and I’ve realized what I really want is something simple, clean and image-oriented. I need to have captions and other information available quickly, and the ability to keep my contact information easily accessible for editors. My latest design with PhotoShelter does all of these things well, and is an improvement on my old custom PhotoShelter website (which was way too cluttered) and the sites I had before, which were just too complicated all around.”

What made you choose to go with a PhotoShelter website on Beam? And how long have you been using PhotoShelter?
“I’ve been a user of PhotoShelter since 2005, when I began using them as an online backup and archiving service. A few years after that, I think, I started to use my public PhotoShelter site as a public archive that was searchable and had images available to license directly. This was a supplement to my main portfolio website. It was a few years ago with the first customizable websites that I combined my portfolios and archive on to one site hosted by PhotoShelter, and transitioning to the new Beam service this summer was a logical and happy progression from that.”

Matt LuttonAn amusement park in the center of Pristina, Kosovo. June 2008.
© Matt Lutton / Boreal Collective

What is the template you are using and what made you choose this particular template to showcase your work?
“I am using the very simple and clean Element template, with a few custom changes to the colors and fonts. For me, the image-focused layout and lack of clutter works very well.”

Did you customize your site at all? If so, how did you find that process?
“The customization of the template took a little time to learn and there are still some changes that I would like to make, but on the whole I’ve been able to tailor my design to suit my aesthetic and practical needs.”

Matt LuttonA drunk Serbian soldier during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Belgrade. January 2011.
© Matt Lutton / Boreal Collective

Matt LuttonUros Popovic lights his cigarette from the embers of a Christmas Eve bonfire near Velika Hoca, Kosovo. January 2011.
© Matt Lutton / Boreal Collective

What Beam features do you find to be most useful?
“The integration of tumblr and instagram feeds is very interesting and something I’m playing with. It has been useful as way to keep an easily updated ‘news’ feed of my recent work and travel on my site. The tools for updating and customizing the Beam sites on the back-end is also very nifty and useful, with changes to the design displaying in real-time which makes development easier.”

Can you talk a little about your ‘Archive’ section and why this is important to have?
“Although I made an effort to emphasize my portfolios and photographs on my new website, it is very important to my business to have a large archive of my images and stories available to editors and clients. As a documentary photographer I’ve worked on a number of stories in my career and my business relies on re-licensing images, and the PhotoShelter service makes this easy for me and my clients. The ability to archive my images and have them available anytime or anywhere for my own use or to license directly to a client is essential. It is often easier for me to find a picture by searching my website rather than searching through a stack of hard drives.”


Have you received any feedback about your website design?
“Though I never publicized that I had a new website design, since I switched over to the new design a number of colleagues and friends mention casually that they had enjoyed the new clean simplicity of my site. At the same time, my clients who need to use my archive and the other resources on my website have had no problems transitioning from my old PhotoShelter design.”