People in the Trenches


“People in the Trenches” is a photo blog, designed to capture the real heart and soul of Oklahoma. “The underlying theme is regular people doing everyday stuff. The mundane is what ties us all together…I love people who are not afraid to stand out and be different in some way…I’m not necessarily drawn to the manicured or the pretty.  I like stuff to be real,” Tanya Mattek told me.

When Mattek started out, she really just wanted to improve her photography skills. But she soon found that the subjects of her photos were quickly captivating her.  “I read somewhere early on that you should either shoot what you love or what you hate.  I love people.  I love meeting people. I love getting stories. I love the connection I make with others, no matter how brief it may be. It seemed like a no-brainer to start shooting people with regularity.”

And thankfully, Norman has provided Mattek with ample opportunity to capture the common man. Present in Mattek’s work is an honest and humble point of view, which captures the beauty of an inspired artist becoming increasingly familiar with her surroundings and bringing that essence to the camera lens.

“Oklahoma is my home.  I’ve lived here for thirty-five years. Over time I’ve come to appreciate the people, its unique beauty, the hold it has over me.  I often romanticize urban living, but living in a university town comes with a unique set of perks.”

“People in the Trenches” started as a blog, which lent itself to a camera phone photo-a-day project. From there, Mattek took the next step and got her professional setup. That’s when she snatched up a Pentax K-5 and started shooting around town.

In terms of her own artistic journey, Mattek is forever evolving, and “People in the Trenches” has left her with a soft spot for all of the local artists, of whom she now belongs.

“I admire people who have a vision for an art installation and then do the work to make it happen…I admire slam poets like my son and quiet poets like my dad, who published his own work.  I admire my talented nephews, who are all performers. I admire all the junior high band directors out there. The world is an ugly enough place.  Artists and creative types paint it with beauty and wonder and whimsy.  I admire anyone who’s willing to share that with the rest of us.”

Mattek has also received admiration for her work, with thousands of Facebook likes and tons of followers, all captivated by the images she produces and the journey of an artist doing what she loves.

Not too bad, for someone who still labels herself as a beginner.

To check out Tanya Mattek’s work, visit the “People in the Trenches” Facebook page, or check it out on


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