Meet Legend of Light : Matthew Jordan Smith
Tell us a little about yourself… Who you are, where you’re from, what you shoot/specialize in.
Recently, someone asked me what my hobby was and I said, photography. Then they asked what I did for a living and I said photography. For me, photography is not a job, it's my passion. If I wasn't paid to create images I would still be a photographer. I was born in Brooklyn, New York but now live in Tokyo, Japan. I've been shooting for three decades now and I love new challenges. I moved by base to Tokyo a little over a year ago. Many people ask if I was scared to make the move but, in many ways, Tokyo is like NYC, so I feel at home here in more ways than I feel in other areas of the States. I specialize in celebrity and fashion/beauty portraits but people know me from my celebrity work. Today, I speak about photography all over the world, shoot celebrity and fashion/beauty work for varies clients, host a photography podcast and have a private online photography course.
How did you get started in photography?
I got started in photography when my father gave me a camera as a kid. He taught me how to process film and print my first images. From that moment on I have been hooked on photography.
What/who are some of your main influences?
In Photography, I've had many influences throughout my career, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Horst P. Horst, Hiro and Gordon Parks. Today, I'm my work is influenced by my surrounding and I'm constantly looking for new experiences to filter into my work. It's important to live a full life so your images can reflect your passion for life. I try my best to enjoy life to the fullest. Travel is one of the ways I enjoy life and living abroad has only fueled this more.
When did you start shooting with Profoto?
I first began shooting with Profoto back in the 90's. My photo career began in the 1987 as a photo assistant and I was able to work with all types of lights that way. When you get to work with all the different lighting options, its easy to see what works best under the rigorous shooting conditions working photographer put on our gear. It was a no-brainer for me and Profoto has never let me down.
What Profoto gear are you currently using?
Today, I find myself using the Profoto D2 lights a lot and also the B1x on location while traveling. I have also added the Profoto A1 to my camera bag. On larger assignments, I rent Pro-10 strobe packs and even as I write this, I'm prepping for an advertising assignment in New York and putting my rental gear list together. For that assignment, I'll be using Pro-10 packs and heads.
Do you have a favorite lighting setup?
In terms of a favorite setup, this would be hard to pin down. I LOVE using my Beauty dish (Soft Light Reflector) and many people thing it is the only light modifier I use, but if you come with me on my assignments, you'll see I use many different light modifiers to create the look I'm going for. I own many different light modifiers and every time something new comes out I give it a test drive. In the last few years I've started using the Narrow Beam Travel Reflector and I've always been a huge fan of the Magnum reflector.
What is one thing you’re able to do with Profoto lights that you weren’t able to do before?
One thing I LOVE about Profoto that I wasn't able to do with other lights, is dial the power down. Most companies don't give you the option to shoot with very low power if you want or very high power from the same strobe. I love that I can do this with the Profoto D2 strobe lights. I also love that I can travel and not worry if my strobes will be okay. I'm always on a plane and my gear has never let me down.
What is the most important piece of advice you’ve received pertaining to photography?
The most important advice I received as a young photographer was to to true to my vision. This means you must first have a vision for your work and where you want to go. If you don't you're always looking at others and trying to copy what they are doing. When you have your own vision, that goes away and you get comfortable in your own skin as a photographer.
What is your biggest challenge being a celebrity fashion and beauty photographer? How do you overcome it?
The biggest challenge with shooting celebrity fashion and beauty work is just working the relationships. Now that I'm in Japan, I'm shooting Japanese celebrities and it's a bit different for sure. The fashion/beauty work is about the same but because I'm in a new market, all my contacts are new and it's exciting to make the connections. You must always keep yourself out there when you work in this field. With every challenge, you overcome it by putting yourself out there and meeting new people.
What is your dream assignment?
After 30 years of shooting, I've done many amazing dream assignments. I've shot a lot of assignments I would never have dreamed would come my way. Today, my dream is bigger than shooting any celebrity or advertising assignment. Today, my dream is to have stronger impact on people around the world through my work.
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