Matthew Jones is a straightforward guy. He answered all of our questions with such clarity that we can't help but compare it to how he approaches his photographic work. If you still haven't seen Matthew's work, we highly suggest you do so. Here's your chance along with a few nuggets of advice and words to ponder on. And for some reason, we can't seem to shake off a line from a Johnny Cash song while we're looking at his photos. ...in the mud and the blood and the beer...
Hello, Matthew! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine! We’re so glad to have you. Please, introduce yourself.
Hey there. My name is Matthew Jones and I am an advertising photographer based out of Atlanta, Ga.
How did you start your journey with photography?
I think I was about 15 when I picked up my first camera (currently 28) as I wanted to shoot my friends while we went out skating. I asked my folks for a camera and my dad had an old 35mm Minolta stashed away in his closet. By the time I actually learned how to use it, the camera fell apart and with the repair being significantly more than the value of the actual camera, I was left at a bit of a loss.
My parents, cautiously aware that this may very well just be an expense fad for me, told me if I wanted a new camera I would have to save up and get it on my own. So $575.75 later I was finally able to purchase a new setup. A Canon Elan 7. I remember putting the last quarter down on the counter the day I bought that thing. Ever since then I really just stuck with it. Maybe I felt it was my only option at the time as it was the only thing I felt I was really decent at that I thought I could make a living out of.
How would you define photography?
I’d define photography as the process of capturing light but that’s probably the technical response…
What’s your favorite thing about it?
The places it takes you and the people you meet shooting, for sure.
In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?
Ah, that’s so subjective. Probably a bit too tricky for me to answer, ha. I’ll say I’m always really drawn towards the use of light, whether natural or artificial.
What’s your favorite subject?
I’ve really enjoyed shooting people on motorbikes over the past couple years but my attention span is also limited, so I suppose I’m currently trying to rediscover what I’m truly passionate about. Maybe follow up in 6 months? Ha.
What are the things that influence or inspire your style/images?
I think I tend to pull most of my influence from movies. I should be better about digging through other artists work (which thanks to Behance, I have been) but I usually tend to zone out into Netflix.
If you could have a dream collaboration with an artist/photographer/painter etc, who would it be?
I’d really like to collaborate on a personal project with Recom Farmhouse (a retouching studio). I think they do some really incredible work. The Aston Martin Lagonda project they did with Tomek Olszowski has been burned into my brain. Everything about that series is just stunning.
How do you stay creative?
Staying creative is a constant struggle and one that I certainly have a hard time coping with. To be honest, I haven’t quite figured it out. But I’ve currently honed in on the fact that exercise and staying away from alcohol may be a major player for me, at least. Going for a walk, getting the blood flowing and letting your mind focus on things aside from, “how do I be creative” alongside gaining a clearer mindset in general. If that makes any sense…
How do you deal with creative block?
See above, ha. And also, listen to pop punk. Yea. I said it. Taking Back Sunday, Mayday Parade, some old Underoath? Anything for those good feelings.
You make really clean photographs. Is that the style you're going for in your work?
That’s an interesting one as I don’t think I’ve ever heard that, haha. I normally hear you’re your work is “gritty, yet refined. Dark and moody, yet not depressing”. But never, “clean”. Thanks!
How do you come up with your shots? Is there a certain process that you undergo to create your images?
For a good while, I would have a few things in mind but would mainly be shooting by the seat of my pants. Hanging out, riding with friends, letting authentic situations unfold and snapping away. Though more recently I’ve been trying to take a step back and go in a different direction — set out a plan, have a shot list and even a story board in an effort to create a series with an actual purpose or underlying narrative.
How does your commercial work differ from your personal photography?
My personal work tends to be pretty strong whereas my commercial work is usually pretty miserable, ha. No, but really, I feel that sometimes commercial work can be a bit restraining. I feel like you’re hired for your style, then a mix of creative directors, account directors, clients, etc are thrown in and it becomes something completely different. And for some reason, it seems rare for client/agency to approach you and say “We want your style” and actually follow through. At least in my experience. The few of those that I’ve where we’ve been completely on the same page have been incredible though. So it’s a give and take.
What can you say about photography in this day and age? How do you establish yourself as an artist and photographer?
That’s a tough one. And there’s no right answer. But for me, I feel like my work really started to take off once I started shooting things the way I wanted and how I saw them, rather than constricting myself to what the subject/content/final image is, “supposed” to look like.
We really admire the work you've put into your car/motorcycle shots. What do you like specifically about shooting those images?
Oh, this is an easy one for me! The experience in its entirety is just an absolute blast. People crash, bikes/cars break and we all usually tend to be able to sit around a great meal afterwards and laugh about it.
Some of your shots have that cinematic feel to them. What inspired you to go for that particular style?
I don’t think it was really a super conscious decision. Probably more so simply what my eye and emotions were drawn to.
For you, what is the most challenging thing about creating content nowadays?
Oh man. I have trouble with coming up fresh work. I think as photographers we’re all guilty of scrolling through Instagram every free second we have, so it’s easy to lose confidence, be intimidated and feel like you’re not good at what you do.
How do you see yourself and your photographic work in the next ten years?
Ha. Right now I’m just trying to figure out what my life and career will look like at the end of this year.
How would you describe your style in three words?
How does a perfect day look like for Matthew Jones?
Lost in Tokyo.
What song, movie, and book inspired you the most?
I’ve rarely ever been able to stay consistent enough with an interest to have an all time favorite, but I can say that right now I have a project in mind where the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight is coming into play as an influential factor. The Place Beyond the Pines is also a favorite.
I do know I was binge listening to Bobby Bland’s “This Time I’m Gone For Good” track when I shot my last little series, “Currents”.
Any photographer/artist that you follow religiously?
Dean Bradshaw has the cinematic, blue hour feel absolutely dialed in. Huge fan of his work.
I also really love Alex Rank. I think he pushes the boundaries in every sense. Are the images terrible? Maybe. But maybe they’re so terrible that they’re great? To each their own, I suppose. I just know that I can’t stop looking at them.
Aaron Smith has also always been a big influence. We focus on completely different content but I still love how clean his images are. He’s great with light and also really knows the business end of photography.
What would you be if you weren’t a photographer?
I definitely could’ve been a great lawyer if I would’ve focused a bit more on academics as a young’n. I’m really great at arguing. But you don’t think about those things when you’re young. Option B would be a race car driver? But also currently have this heavy fascination with transitioning into producing? Orrrrr, starting a pop-up mazemen ramen stand in Atlanta.
If you could have one camera/and or film to shoot with, what would it be?
I think the saying is, “the best camera is the one that you have with you” and I’d probably add on to that with, “the camera you have with you is the one you never have to think about”. So right now, for me, that’s the Ricoh GRii. It lives in my pocket. I never know it’s there and 99% of the images I shoot with it is garage, but at least it allows me to constantly be shooting in any situation. And when that 1% comes into play and you get a really strong image you realize why you have it.
In your opinion, how should people handle failure and success?
I’m really the last person capable of answering that question, but I will say that I started reading a book the other day called, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” by Mark Manson. It’s a really easy, incredible read that I would suggest to anyone in the millennial age range.
Whiskey, coffee, or beer?
Cold brew in the morning. Iced, Vanilla, Almond Milk Latte (sorry, I know) around 6pm and a tall, neat glass of gin once the sun is down. But I’m working on eliminating the last one.
Any last words for our readers?
Take every word I say with a grain of salt. I’m constantly still trying to figure this whole thing out, lol.