Matthew Jordan Smith is an amazingly successful beauty/fashion/celebrity photographer based in LA. Years ago, I was fortunate enough to intern with him. During the internship, we had photo shoots for Pantene, People Magazine and America's Next Top Model... to name a few.
His first book, Sepia Dreams has wonderful collection of his earlier work, featuring photographs of Tyra Banks, Iman, Halle Berry, Gordon Parks and many more. I most recently met up with Matthew to assist him in photographing Elizabeth Smart for his latest book, Lost and Found.
Matthew has such a kind heart and is devoted to share his talent and knowledge with budding photographers. His new blog, shares behind-the-scenes of his photo shoots --which include his equipment list and exposure information. Quite a rarity. I consider him a dear friend with a wonderfully kind soul. I am so glad we have been able to keep in touch.
Here is our interview, exclusively for you:
01. When did you decide to become a photographer?
I decided to become a photographer asking reading a book about the life of Gordon Parks. My father gave me a camera when I was very young, however it was just a hobby in the beginning and I didn't know you could make a good living being a photographer. Once I read about Gordon's life it made it real because he looked like me and made many things happen for himself simply by having a strong faith and working hard.
02. What equipment where you using then? What are you shooting with today? (cameras, lenses, lights...)
03. How did shooting film shape the way you shoot today?
I am very thankful for my history with film and I still shoot it today. I don't see it as being a choice of film or digital as many do, but simply another tool in my arsenal of options in making images that stand the test of time. I always have personal projects going on but one of my two books that I've just completed was shot exclusively with Kodak film. That project could not have been done with digital. My background in film simply give me more options and helps give me a foundation for understanding how light works and the range of film and digital. I'm not sure what type of photographer I'd be if I only had a digital background but I'm fairly sure it wouldn't be a good one.
05. I remember you saying that you were quite a shy child? How did photography help?
07. You met Tyra at the start of her career ---please tell us how you helped "discover" her and what it was like working with her before she became so famous.
09. On any given shoot, how many people are on set? (models, art directors, etc....) Does it ever become stressful having so many collaboraters with opinions on set with you?
12. What is the best advice you have been given?
I've been given great advise on so many levels in my career, but one thing I'd like to share is to become comfortable with your own decisions. In the beginning of my career I was always looking for the approval of other on my work until someone sat me down and told me that I had my own vision and that no one else could really pick my images. From that day forward I slowly became comfortable selecting and editing my work and with my vision. The secret is to find what you love and only shoot and show that. If you like it then it's not the shot. You have to love it!
Thank you, Matthew!
Next week, we'll have another interview with Jennifer Causey.