Growing up my father always had his camera but it was just a hobby. I remember looking at family slide shows in the living room with my entire family and really enjoying seeing the photos on the wall. My father kept his camera on the desk in my parents bedroom and I used to sneak in and play with the camera and then try and put it back the same way so he wouldn't know I had touched it. There is a photo of me as a kid playing with a toy camera. I must have been around 4 or 5. My family moved to South Carolina from Brooklyn, NY when I was five and this shot was taken in NYC.
Years, later my father gave me a camera of my own at the age of twelve and then turned the kids bathroom into a makeshift darkroom. My Dad taught me how to process and develop my own black and white images and once I saw my first photographs develop in front of me I was hooked and I've been hooked ever since. Still it was just a hobby for me and then I found out about Gordon Parks and James Van Der Zee. I read a book by Gordon called "A Choice of Weapons" and "The Learning Tree" and it changed my life because for the first time I saw someone who looked like me doing photography as a career and not just a hobby. That was the first "light bulb" moment for me.
After high school I went to Art school at the Art Institute of Atlanta and was turned on to magazines like Vogue, Glamour and Zoom out of Italy. A professor there made a statement that all the truly great photographers worked in New York, Paris and London and if we wanted to be in that class we should go to one of those places. I decided that day to go to New York. I heard for the first time about photo assistants and that people from all over the world came to New York to work as photo assistants to the best photographers. I packed my bags and off to NYC I went to become a photo assistant. It was very hard my first year and I literally lived off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, (I still crave them from time to time).
The first person I worked for was a photographer named Bruce Buck and he traveled a lot doing fashion catalog work, so I got to travel all over America with him as his assistant. Then I met other great photographer and started working for them and traveling the world. Paris, London, Italy, Scotland, etc. It opened my eyes and after three years of working as an assistant I started shooting on my own. However, I was still assisting during the days when I wasn't shooting and one day an agent to a photographer I worked with asked to see my portfolio. I was going on a trip with the photographer as an assistant to Paris. When I came back the agent said, Matthew I am going to be your agent! I'm changed agents but I've been shooting every since and it's been 22 years now.
I have been very blessed in my career and in this blog I will do my best to share as much information about my career and shooting style so come back often.
Always Dream Big,
Matthew Jordan Smith