Having arrived in New York a few weeks ago, San Francisco transplant and professional photographer Mat Rick
has big ambitions to take on the NYC market. Mat has the hallmarks of success, with extraordinary talent and an easy-going west coast sensibility that all clients love working with. Mat is a also rare hybrid of a photographer, having a great eye, 10 years of marketing/sales experience and a great understanding of how to use social media to his full advantage, which has resulted in some great jobs and clients in a relative short amount of time. Let’s find out more from Mat, one of our new drinking buddies and neighbors.
I grew up traveling the world with my parents who are both archaeologists. My dad always had 35mm SLRs around to document the work and I loved using them. In college, my interest grew to a passion and I ended up with a major in photography. Figuring it would be too hard to be a full-time photographer, I entered the business world, working in business development at different media companies for a decade, grabbing an MBA along the way. Even though I was shooting all the time on the side, I realized how unfulfilled my business work left me and made the choice to jump into the photography world full time in 2013. I specialize in commercial and editorial lifestyle photography for a wide variety of clients.
It’s pretty simple – if you want people to see your work, you have to put it out there, and social media offers the perfect medium for that.
How do you promote your work?
I try to always be communicating my work to the world, mostly through social media. If I have a new project or client whose work has gone live, I make sure it gets broadcast over all my different channels. The results are not always immediate or calculable, but it’s an essential part of communicating the story of my work. It’s pretty simple – if you want people to see your work, you have to put it out there, and social media offers the perfect medium for that.
I worked on a fun editorial story with The Bold Italic for April Fools. We set up a fake scenario about a guy making artisanal air out of a workshop in San Francisco. The funny part was, some people actually believed it was real when the story ran!
How do you find your clients?
So far, I have been extremely lucky to have most of my clients approach me. This doesn’t mean I’m sitting back and letting the work come to me – it’s a product of the constant push on social media and LOTS of emails. My past career in business development taught me that if you want big clients, you have to go out and get them yourself, no matter how good your work might be.
What’s one of your most memorable Shoots?
Recently, I had the opportunity to photograph the new, unreleased Mercedes AMG GT super car at the legendary Laguna Seca raceway in California. Not only was it an incredible shoot, but I was shooting alongside other incredible car photographers from a variety of magazines. At one point I was positioned in the trunk of a car, hatchback open, bracing myself with my feet as we zoomed around the track shooting the car. Talk about a rush!
Mercedes AMG GT Super Car
I think it’s important for photographers to constantly see what others are creating to push yourself.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Everywhere! I often say that the only thing I like better than taking photos is LOOKING at photos. I’m often on Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, various photo blogs, or when I can find the time, kicking back at a coffee shop with a few magazines. I think it’s important for photographers to constantly see what others are creating to push yourself. It would take forever to list all the photographers I admire, but it’s always a combination of those that are creating beautiful work from a unique perspective, and those that are good about engaging their communities to find new clients.
What type of gear do you use?
I primarily use a Canon 5D MK III for client work, though I have a variety of medium format and 35mm film cameras that I love to use when the circumstances allow. I primarily like to work with natural light, though I am also used to lighting setups of all kinds. As long as I have a camera with a good lens on it, I can make it work.
How would you describe your visual style?
I feel like my visual style is a full on embrace of light, color and clarity. While I admire those photographers who create moody, desaturated photography, my shots are usually vibrant and full of energy, using the natural light to make images jump off the page or screen.
I worked on a large campaign for Prezi, shooting multiple stories in multiple locations. I was part of the creative process which allowed me to create stories featuring a few of my friends – this image was of my friend, Art, who besides being an amazing photographer, is also building a startup focused on photography named Priime.
Definitely. This move is part of a larger career change, beginning to focus exclusively on commercial lifestyle photography. When I was building my client roster on the West coast, I initially worked with a number of startups, often shooting everything from executive portraits to lifestyle to product photography. Moving forward, I love the idea of working with agencies who already have a larger creative concept and are searching for a photographer to carry that idea into production – allowing me to drill down my focus and create better work.
When I heard about the “giant” snowstorm Juno (headed to NYC just weeks after I moved here), I thought it would be a perfect time to get out in the streets to capture images of New York streets without any traffic.
I’ve always found that the best work is created when everyone feels the most comfortable and at ease.
What’s it like to work with Mat Rick on a shoot?
I was lucky to start my professional career in sales and business development and learn the key lesson: relationships are what matter. I’m very professional about my work, but I’m also a very laid back person and try to impart that vibe on a shoot or in a creative meeting. I’ve always found that the best work is created when everyone feels the most comfortable and at ease. In the end, it’s about having a passion for what you’re doing, and enjoying the company of those you’re working with, be it clients, assistants, or talent.
One of my first clients was Juniper Ridge and their concept was fantastic: distilling natural scents from nature using traditional techniques and bottling them in colognes, soaps, etc. Working with the awesome team there involved going on camping trips to epic locations, hiking remote trails, foraging natural ingredients, and drinking whiskey by the campfire. Oh, and taking some photos too.
Authenticity is so important these days as social media has closed the feedback loop – if you’re fake, people are going to call you on it.
You mention your Instagram account is a “narration of your life”. How does that relate to your photography?
I often try to ensure my Instagram account reflects moments in my life that just happened, or at least what I’m thinking about. Authenticity is so important these days as social media has closed the feedback loop – if you’re fake, people are going to call you on it. Similarly, when I work for a client, I want to produce images that go beyond just being beautiful, and tell the story of exactly what the client is trying to communicate to their audience. Brands have a personality just like people, and it’s important to be able to convey that.
You’ve started to do more video work, how did that come about and how is that different than photography?
Keeping up with technology is always a huge part of staying successful in any industry. In my prior career, I saw the transition from print to online ads, online ads to social media campaigns, and online campaigns to full multi-media campaigns that tell stories. As a photographer, it’s important to see your role as a visual artist, and embrace all the new mediums for translating concepts, even if you don’t necessarily specialize in them. Although my focus is on photography, I’ve had the privilege to shoot a few brand videos and promos, which I see as another amazing extension to enhancing a message.