Spending time with Matthew Jordan Smith at KelbyOne
You know how you have preconceived ideas about a person from what you have read or seen on the internet… well just about everything you have heard about Matthew is true. He is a super-talented photographer who has shot some of the most famous names in the world throughout his impressive career. Hopefully, you have also heard that he is one of the most humble gracious folks that you could meet, and that is the more impressive and wonderful part about getting to spend time with him.
Taking a stroll through his website at matthewjordansmith.com will leave you amazed at his body of work and the clients that he has shot for. So of course I was asking wonderfully probing and insightful questions like “What is Oprah like?” One the most amazing people he has ever met. “Is Queen Latifah as fun as she seems?” Yes. “How do you get such great response and looks from your subjects?” Music is a big key to tapping into the feelings of the moment. I know he has had these same questions asked of him so many times before… but instead of getting an eye roll or a canned response… he gets excited and starts sharing how great it is to be able to be a part of their lives, even if it is just for a sliver of time.
Then it dawns on you… the passion and character of the Matthew makes it a joy to be around him… he genuinely values others and is more concerned about how they are as a person rather than who they are in society… he is not concerned about having them just be another notch in his photography case but he desires for them to feel valued for having spent time together. This comes through in his photography and his personal interaction. The sign of a man not worried about who he is shows through when he is comfortable making others shine in the spotlight instead of grasping for the light himself. And that is the very premise of his latest book… Future American President.
Matthew had an idea to create this book and spend several years and a lot of his own money to make it come true. He travelled the country by car covering all 50 states and met families who were perfect strangers and convinced them to let him photograph their children. Now consider the enormity of that task… just the travel and logistics alone would put a lot of us in the fetal position. Add to this the daunting task of being a large single man going up to families at a park or monument and asking them to participate in this book. In this day an age, I think it is such a testament to the character and charisma of Matthew that so many families felt safe letting him photograph their children.
Matthew carried all of his own gear and set up a real photoshoot for each of these kids. He did this for two reasons… one, to give the book a harmonious look, and two, to give the children a chance to not only think about how they could actually become president, but to have the spotlight (literally) shone on them. Matthew’s heart and passion in this book was to inspire the kids in the book to dream beyond themselves and he realized that he could use his photography to empower the next generation. That is such an opposite mindset from what most of us as photographers think… “How can I use this camera to get folks to notice ME?”
One of the neat things that came from our time together is Matthew talking about Mylio. Now I know that you hear different photographers talking about the gear they use all the time, and most of them say something along these lines… I use brand X because it helps me get such and such a look or it makes my life faster and cooler. With Matthew, it was some of that for sure, because Mylio has really helped him get organized and speeded up his workflow, but the bottom line that he kept hitting on is how it has helped him create a visual time-capsule. Mylio has multiple was to browse your images, but he talked about using the Location view to see what shots were taken at a certain place that had significant emotional value. He then said with a gleam in his eye… “but, my favorite is the calendar view.” He proceeds to talk about how he can look at what he has done over the last week, month or year and go back on a visual journey and relive those times and places and experiences. He pulls up a couple of days that he spent with Queen Latifah and said… “I only had one or two of these images published and they are great, but the real treasure is getting to go back and see the behind the scenes and remember that day and was a joy it was. We tend to get so caught up in rushing ahead, we forget to prize where we have been.” Once again, you can see the joy he has in the getting to share life with those around him and he has found that this product called Mylio has added to his life value. That is the kind of product review I stop and listen to. As a side note: He then will create a memory box of the day and send the person he photographed one as a way to say thank you for letting him be part of their life.
Here is a snippet of him talking about that on the Grid with myself and Mia McCormick.
So we spent two very hectic days taping shows and production spots, and eating Thai food. (I took him to my favorite Thai restaurant to show off my Thai, since the guy is studying both Japanese and Chinese.) The time we spent together didn’t feel like work though, it felt like two friends getting to know one another and enjoying the day. Matthew is man of character who loves life and creates a sense of grace and value around him… and when you are with him, you feel like it is an honor to know him… and I bet those so-called A-list stars feel the same way, and that is why they let him into their lives and allow him to get shots that we only dream of. We could learn a lot about how to be a “successful” photographer from a guy like Matthew Jordan Smith, and I hope we all do.