13 Sep 2011
As a photographer there are times you simply have to embrace what’s given to you and build off of that.
I have a good friend in photographer Matthew Carbone despite the fact that we have never actually met. Since I started my blog experiment, I have started to take my photography a lot more seriously and I have reached out to Matthew on several occasions with questions, advice, and inspiration. Taking a good picture requires skill but it all begins with how a shot gets framed … and that takes creativity.
I started to realize my shortcomings as a photographer when I was in Spain earlier this year. Yes, I got some good shots while I was there but that’s because I started paying attention to what I was doing after watching what another fellow traveler (Mike Chino from Inhabitat) was doing. Looking at his pictures in real time as he took them was really interesting – he saw things that I didn’t and I was humbled. I decided then and there that I needed to start stepping things up. Since then, looking at the photography work of others has helped me to become a better photographer.
I told Matthew that I was going to write this post and asked him if he would answer some questions -
Tell me your background, how did you get to this point in your career?
Background…I’m 26, originally from Washington DC area. I went to school at Ohio State where I was recruited to fence on the varsity team. Majored in political science. Junior year I became interested in design and how it affects society. When I say design I mean this in as broad a sense as possible; graphic, product, industrial, architecture, urban, etc. I had always been interested in design but it was then that it became so much more. I felt that design could change our lives and help solve many of the social problems we face today. I contemplated changing majors, but didn’t. I thought I’d try to take part in the process either by working in commercial development or an urban planning department.
I graduated in 2006, and found a job with the Columbus chapter of the AIA in the spring of 2007. My duties at the AIA were everything from running the website, designing all communications, design awards, creation of the Center for Architecture, marketing efforts, and program creation/support. As a tiny staff, and sometimes by myself, serving 700 members we wore a lot of hats.
It was in spring of 2007 when I started that I bought my first camera. My subject matter went from my awesome dog -> Columbus on walks -> Traveling to cities (New York, Boston, Chicago, London, San Fran, etc) to develop my “eye” and to experience architecture -> small architectural and construction commissions -> Getting a break and photographing the largest corporate project the city’s had in over a decade. It was then that I felt I could do this full time.
To answer your question, no, I never had any formal training. But in January of 2010 I was off on my own.
You obviously travel for work quite a bit, how did your business develop? Did you have a “big break” or a patron sort of client?
So there hasn’t been one particular patron, I’d say lots of small ones. I knew 700 AEC people from my time at the AIA, that certainly helped get me started. From there my business is based on personal relationships, often leading to referrals.
Also, I took a couple of chances that paid off. I cold called a number of firms across the country, one offered me the opportunity to photograph a beautiful residence in the Hamptons. At the time it filled a hole in my portfolio and offered an experience. I wouldn’t make any money but my expenses were covered. I shot the project, got great portfolio piece out of it, later shot two well paying jobs for the same client. Since then I’ve photographed 8 more houses in the Hamptons, with probably 3 more this year. One of those being for the original client.
I put myself out there, and it paid off.
Never had a gallery showing. Something I’ve thought of but never pursued.
I suppose what I am trying to say here is that if you aspire to become better at something, try and find someone whose work you admire and try to understand it. I know as a person who considers himself a designer it would be in bad taste to tell you to copy the work of others – so let’s be clear that I’m NOT telling you to do that. What I am telling you to do is slow down, try and understand why you like what you are looking at, and think about how you can extract the process out of what you are looking at so that you can apply it to your own work.
Matthew is a photographer whose architectural photos I admire, and if you think your photography could use some inspiration, I suggest you find someone whose works appeals to you. If you don’t already have someone in mind, I would suggest that Matthew Carbone is a good place to start.
You can contact Matthew and look at his work from his website – the information is listed below. Just in case you didn’t realize but all the photos in today’s post were taken by Matthew who graciously allowed me to use whatever images I wanted.
Matthew Carbone, Photographer
Thanks to Matthew for letting me pick his brain and use his photos – in addition to being a good photographer, he is a super nice guy.