Snapshots: Matthew W. Taylor
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in San Diego, California and moved away to Portland, Oregon in 2011 when I was 17.
When did you get into photography and why?
In a lot of ways, I got into photography out of necessity based on other things I was involved in. It’s not an origin story I’m keen on, but nonetheless it’s what happened.
I had an incredible mixed media teacher in high school named Dustin Sniff. Although our main focus in that class was film theory and videography, he was the one who not only made sure I had a camera in my hands, but taught me how it worked. I’ll never forget his simple, straightforward illustrations about exposing an image, and how the physical event of capturing light even works; with his arms widening and shutting while we’d recite “aperture open, aperture closed.”
From that class in my first year of high school until my junior year of university, I’d pick up a camera every once in a while to have fun; but for the most part I dedicated my time to studying my chosen discipline, English literature. I mostly kept the flame somewhat alive by buying photo books and reading The Sartorialist But as you may imagine, a time came where I had a change of heart.
As I was wrapping up my third year, I had a minor identity crisis, as I hear many twenty-somethings do. What ended up pointing me in a new direction was working on a print project commissioned by the school with my friends and continued collaborators, Megan Clark and Benjamin Holtrop. In addition to this, I took an advertising class on a whim from an amazing professor named Joel Marshall, who would end up introducing me to a whole world of creative possibilities I hadn’t ever known of – that world being creative agency.
After taking that class, I confidently left my former programs behind me and finished school studying advertising and film. From there, I apprenticed at an advertising agency for about a year before joining Jaguar Land Rover in their Portland studio. It’s not primarily photography-focused, but they’ve been amazing at seeing my potential in that regard and throwing photo and art direction projects my way.
I can never be thankful enough for the (however unintended) route I’ve taken so far. These things don’t happen in a vacuum. I’m still as uncertain in where my photography will go as I was as a seventeen-year-old beginning university, but I’m okay with that. I’ve slowly been realizing it’s more about how you learn and who you meet along the way.
“Getting into photography” has essentially boiled down to three points of truth for me in recent times: Shoot film. Study the creative process. Never get a big head.
Where would you say is the best place to shoot? Where is place you haven't been to, but always wanted to?
I personally prefer a well-equipped studio with a lot of different people in the room to influence what ends up being created. I know a lot of photographers who understandably prefer working alone for shoots, but I think strength is in agility and in numbers.
I’ve always wanted to visit both London and Paris, and thankfully I’ll be visiting both with my girlfriend this fall.
Coffee or tea?
Definitely coffee. I usually make myself some before I leave home for the day, and then grab an americano somewhere in town a little later in the morning.
Whats your morning ritual look like?
I try to be up by 7:30 each day. From there, I usually employ some combination of reading the Wall Street Journal, checking emails, and reading through articles I’ve let pile up in Pocket. I’m usually out the door on the way to the JLR studio by 8:30. All in all, the central facet that my routine revolves around is how long the water takes to boil for my coffee.
How would you describe your shooting style?
I would consider my style up until around 2012 to be incredibly documentarian. I would simply try and shoot what I was seeing in the best way possible. This would usually be coastal trips, skating, rock shows, or hikes around the Inland Empire. Moving to Portland definitely had an effect on my process, with more time being taken to frame city shots, or doing profiles on friends I met in college I found interesting.
In 2015, the portraiture of Benjamin Heath and Ryan Plett absolutely rocked my world. This would continue to snowball as I discovered the unbelievable potential of using photography to tell the story of a movement, brand, or person defining what inspiration means to you. I suppose there’s a balance between establishing your own style and attributing creative inspiration to other sources. I’m continually inspired by the way folks like Justin Chung, Taylor Hoff, and Edwin Negado do this. Needless to say, I’m a firm believer that creativity can be commodified in the right context to lift everyone up. To elevate the way we chose to tell stories; whether for a brand or for ourselves.
Nowadays, I try and keep a hybrid system on hand, like many do. A good mixture of Canon 5D for digital, and recently a Pentax 645. Clients seem to be catching on that shooting film can mean a better outcome. My style is definitely not unique, and I’m not as technically verbose as many of my peers, but I’m not letting that stop me from honing my eye.
What type of music do you listen to? What is your favorite song now?
I’ll listen to any music I can find. What I believe is worth mentioning is that The National’s Trouble Will Find Me has remained my favorite album for more than three years. Right now, I’ve really loved Gabriel by Bear’s Den.
Any big plans/projects in the future you'd like our audience to know about?
Foremost, I always recommend following along with the independent studio I run as a founding member and art director with my business partner Ben Ewing. We have quite a few commissions in store for 2017, and I can’t wait to share them. Additionally, I’d encourage everyone to keep their eyes open for new creative coming from both Jaguar and Land Rover brands. It’s been a wild time at our studio, and I’m crossing my fingers that some of our efforts will see the light of day soon. Finally, a short film I directed with my friends Benjamin Holtrop and Richard Smith is currently in post production, and I’m hoping to have it finished soon.