Based out of Nashville, Jake Matthews delivers infectious images that express more than just a photo, but emotion and story behind them.
Jake focuses on the power of storytelling behind his imagery, and his frequent trips to Kenya display his abilities to the fullest.
We had a chance to interview him about his journey through photography and experiences with storytelling around the world.
Where is home?
For me, this is a loaded question. I’ve been on the road so much lately, that I honestly feel the most at home when I’m traveling. But I grew up in Memphis and am currently based out of Nashville.
What brought you into photography?
I’ve always been passionate about adventure and people. Eventually, I just decided I wanted to be able to capture my adventures so I could remember them. I went out one day with my iPhone 4S four years ago and took my first set of pictures and I haven’t stopped taking photos since.
Did you go to school to study photography?
Nope, completely self-taught. I’ve just shot every day for 4 years and worked my butt off.
How would you describe your photography style?
I shoot lots of stuff, but what I enjoy the most is my photojournalism around the world. And I like to describe my style with that as- creative storytelling. I like to capture stories around the world in a unique way that is modern and innovative, yet also genuine and accurate to what is actually happening with a people, place, or culture. I want to give people a new insight as to what life is like all around the word.
What time of day do you prefer to shoot, night or day?
I’d say daytime. I like to be constantly moving and going spot-to-spot and picture-to-picture, and the light in the day means I don’t need a tripod or long exposure. So it keeps things exciting.
The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration, what/who inspires you the most?
I’m most inspired by the thought of making a difference. I don’t care about being famous or making tons of money. What gets me out of bed in the morning is the idea that my photography can somehow bring the world together and allow someone to relate and feel close to someone in a completely different culture across the world that they’ve never met. I think photography if done right can show us how similar we are as humans, no matter where we’re from. And it’s that thought that inspires me every day.
Who’s your favorite photographer?
Steve McCurry, hands down. He shoots all around the world and always has a perfect balance of a person’s intimate personality and their cultural environment in his photos. He tells the stories of his subjects better than anyone I’ve ever seen.
You’ve been working around the globe but more specifically in Kenya. What has that experience been like? What has been the biggest adaptation?
Man, I love Kenya. This place (I’m here in Kenya now, actually, as I’m writing this) truly feels like another home to me. The people here are so kind, joyful, and energetic. And the simplicity of life is something I think everyone can learn from. And on top of that, it’s just absolutely beautiful. For me, I’ve learned more from my traveling to different cultures than I ever have from any school or book. I’m now in Kenya for the 4th time, and this time I’m taking photos for children’s academic books to be used in schools all around Africa. And the other times I’ve come, I’ve been a photojournalist for an NGO that works to bring street children off the street. I love getting to use my photography for the greater good here. Like, I feel like my talents and gifts are being paid forward, and that’s what gets me so excited every day about taking photos here.
As far as the biggest adaptation, I’d have to say it’s the sticking out. Here, I stick out like a sore thumb because I’m white and 6’3, and here, well just about everyone is black and under 5’10, so I can’t ever blend in while taking photos, which presents lots of challenges. People are always staring at me, approaching me, and that can make it difficult for me to capture the candidness and authenticity of a culture the way I like.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
Hmmm….at any other time in my life, I would’ve said the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, but I got a Canon 24-70 f/2.8 only 2 weeks ago and I’m obsessed.
It’s an extremely diverse lens capable for all sorts of situations, and for me, I love shooting raw candid moments in my photojournalism, so I usually only have a split second before the moment is gone. So having a flexible zoom lens like the 24-70 allows me to never miss a moment.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you? I
‘m really just a goofball. I meet so many people through photography and they ALWAYS say, “Oh, you’re a lot different than I expected. You’re just a normal guy.” I’m just a high energy guy and don’t take anything too seriously.
What’s the best part of being a photographer?
EVERYTHING. No, really. The traveling, the excitement, the creating, and the stories- I cannot state enough how lucky and excited I am to get to do this for a living. I truly am getting to do what I love most in the world, and I realize how fortunate I am for that.
What’s your best advice for aspiring photographers?
Stop making excuses. Shoot every single day. Remember to enjoy it and don’t get too stressed. Don’t compare yourself to others. And take risks. Be bold. Jump on opportunities. Do that, and you’ll be a success.
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” -Paul Coelho/ The Alchemist