He’s been taking photos since he was ten years old. He and his father developed film and prints in a darkroom under their stairs. Matt Brandon (@digitaltrekker) now calls Malaysia home and shoots for NGOs. His images have been used by Honda, (the) BBC, and Bombadier. How does Matt manage to produce such stellar work? What are the secrets of his exotic captures? Read todays Photog Friday to learn more about fascinating photographer Matt Brandon.
Name: Matt Brandon
Country of residence: Malaysia
Brief Bio:Matt Brandon has been shooting pictures since he was 10 years old with his father’s Cannonet QL rangefinder. 40 years later, he now collaborates with NGOs to tell their stories and to train their field staff to do the same. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by clients such as Partner Aid International, NeighborWorks, the BBC, Honda Motor Corporation, and Bombadier Transport Corporation and others. His photographic pursuits have taken him to India, Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives, Philippines and Malaysia. Now based in Malaysia, Matt and his family have lived in Asia for much of the past 15 years. If you are looking for a photographer for your next assignment please give Matt a call or email him.
How did you first get interested in photography?
My father got me interested in photography by giving me my first camera. He later built a darkroom under (the) stairs where we processed our own film and developed our own prints together.
What do you like to shoot?
I like shooting environment portraits in exotic locations. I’m fascinated by culture by the differences and similarities of the world around us. One of my personal goals is to help break down barriers of ethnocentricity through photography. I love shooting for NGOs and helping them tell their story.
What’s your approach to photography, your philosophy? What do you look for? How do you set-up a shot?
My approach and philosophy are to treat my subjects with the respect they deserve. I want to be able to show them or give them an image that they could be proud of. Whether the beggars on the street or wealthy merchants each deserves images that convey dignity. You can still hold this philosophy and take street shots where people are not necessarily camera aware. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. If at all possible I like to spend time with my subject and breakdown is much of the cultural barriers as possible. This can take minutes or it can take days and sometimes it never happens. But it’s a goal, and when those barriers are lowered or even removed in the heart of the subject can be seen in truth can be photographed.
What is the best photo you have taken? Why? Background and details, please…
I don’t know if I can tell you what my best photograph is. I have some favorites but they change from season to season. I also have favorites in different styles and genres. I have a shot of a lady who’s going into a trance during the Hindu festival of thaipusam. I like this because there’s immense amount of emotion in the woman’s face and there is movement in the photograph. Then, I also like the portrait of the young shepherd girl that dawns the splash page of my website. I like this because she’s so beautiful and her eyes are so full of life.
What gear are you using? What else do you want to buy?
I shoot a Canon 5D and a Canon 5D Mark 2. My lenses are typical of people that shoot my type of photography. I use 70-200mm f2.8 IS, 17-40mm f4, 24-70mm f2.8 and my favorite the 85mm f1.2. As far as camera bags go, I have a whole assortment of think tank and I don’t use anything else. I love their modular system as well as the new multimedia system.
Which area of photography would you like to explore further (macro, landscapes, portraits)
I think the one area that I would like to explore more is landscape photography. Landscape takes an immense amount of patience which is something I’m always lacking. So this is an area of growth for me.
Where do you see your photography 5 years from now?
My life has taken so many turns so quickly there’s no way I could say where I’ll be in five years. I can imagine that I’d be doing four or five workshops year as well as many workshops here in Penang. I still would like to be shooting for NGOs and other nonprofits. I would love to do more documentary and feature work. One of the things that I’m working on right now is to include my wife in more of my work. So in five years from now I would hope that she would be my assistant on all my shoots. Family is important for me and this is one way to keep them involved and for us to stay together.
What the best advice you would give to fellow photographers?
My advice would be to be tenacious and never give up. This is a hard business and often times you don’t feel or believe you can make it. It is in those times is when you have to just keep going by faith. Don’t lose hope as Winston Churchill once said, “Never give up.” Also, give your self the freedom to fail. We learn from our mistakes and if you are not making mistakes you are not moving forward.