Interview 002: Portrait & Fashion Photographer, Trav Matthews
Design your life, we'll design the rest.
Welcome to our first interview series where we will be getting to know creative professionals and entrepreneurs from different fields. They all have one thing in common, using BRINN to work smarter, not harder.
Interviewer: Where are you originally from?
Trav: I’m from South America. Georgetown, Guyana
When did you come to NY?
I came to New York in 2001, I was about 6 or 7 years old. So I basically grew up here. When I came here I lived in Brooklyn for about 3 years then I’ve been in Harlem ever since. My father lived here then he sent for my mom and me.
When did you first discover your interest in photography?
I’ve loved photography ever since the fifth grade when I was in an after school program. We had the big floppy disk memory cards, like they were literally as big as a floppy disk. One of our assignments was to take the camera home and take photos of whatever we’d like. I remember taking a photo of a painting on my wall and then taking it back to school and editing it and printing it on regular paper. To me, iPhone is the second best thing after a DSLR so in high school, I would take pictures of flowers and landscape buildings. I would be on the explore page and that's where you get so much inspo and that inspired me to shoot more. Then my best friend got her camera and we went out one day and took photos and that motivated me to go out and get my own camera. Then the rest is history.
Are you self taught or did you go to school?
I went to college for 2 years for computer science but yeah, that didn’t work out, haha.
Your recent project, “BODY” is a collection of portraits of different women and really seems to have an emphasis on form. To me, its raw and embodies the meaning of true beauty. I think it is so strong that while sharing the images, you always started with a close portrait of each subject. In a world where women are often viewed as objects, starting with those portraits really shows the respect you have for your subjects and adds an interesting element to the series. Can you talk a little about the idea behind the project and what it means to you?
Body has a lot more to do then with your neck down to your waist. Your face is part of your body, your hands are part of your body. There's different aspects to your body. The models were girls I found on Instagram that pose their body freely, it's not even sexualized. They are just being free in their own body. So I chose those 10 girls. I brought in the acrobatic and abstract poses to make it different and show their curves. I shoot mostly colored women to show them in a different stereotype than they are portrayed in. The world is based off of stereotype and perception and w/e people throw at you they automatically think thats what you are but you can be the complete opposite of that. I just like showing colored women in a different light.
So, I want to take a little about Instagram: On the one hand, it is such a wonderful tool that gives us the outlet to share our work and connect and discover other people - I found you on there after all, but on the other hand, I sometimes cannot help but feel a bit jaded by it - the need to constantly share or you may be deemed irrelevant or getting lost in the sea of artists all trying to use the platform to grow their audience. What are your thoughts on the platform and do you think it has played a role in shaping your career at all?
There’s definitely a bunch of opinions on Instagram whenever I connect with an artist or creative. People tend to base their success on numbers. So for instance say you’ve got 20k followers, you think you’re poppin’ and that’s great for you but that don’t really mean nothing. Instagram has played a big role in me getting opportunities and jobs. The more dope work you put out, the more that will come back to you. I don't really care about the numbers. My thing is create to inspire, so me putting out work, say I get 2,000 likes on one photo, to me, 2,000 people saw and reacted to this photo, wether good or bad. But either way, I created that, someone saw it and will be inspired then they go out and create something and it keeps going. It’s a big circle of good creative vibes and hopefully that will change the world for the better.
You have two quotes on your Instagram bio “Create to inspire” & ”There is beauty and inspiration in everything”. Where do you think your biggest source or sources of inspiration stems from?
Basically, Instagram. The explore page is where I get my own style, per say. So I might take one thing from a photo I like that I find eye catching or dope and I might multiply that. So say I found one hat, I’ll probably put two hats on a model. I’m finding inspiration from multiple photos and taking one element from each, put it together and it becomes my own style.
Trav's Revolver packed right.
Do you have any daily rituals that you practice that help to foster your creativity?
I spend about 2 hours a day exploring and finding inspiration. Everyone is a DM away.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced so far in your career?
Ive only been shooting for 4 years. The first 2 years, I was really a beginner and these last two I'm really picking up. I've learned to shoot film and trial and error and I’m trying to find my whip. I haven’t faced too many hurdles yet. Maybe, trying to get agencies to send me models I really want to work with and no doubt in a year, I’ll be there.
Now that you shoot film, do you think that anyone interested in photo should learn to shoot film?
Yes. to be real and honest, I hate editing. It takes too much time and I have to be super motivated to sit there and my tension span isn’t too great. With film, you shoot it, it comes out, maybe you have to tweak a thing or two. The colors and the quality are just real and true. That’s why I think back in the day, you really felt photographs.
Do you have any advice for young artists who are really trying to emerge and have their work seen but aren’t sure where to start or how to get new eyes on it?
Just make work for yourself and everything will manifest and come back to you. Do it because you love it, there is always someone that is going to connect to your work.
What does designing your own life mean to you?
It means taking control, not making any excuses for what you can or cannot do or what you can accomplish. It means making sure you always progress no matter what, even if it’s two minutes, two hours, two days, two years. As long as you are seeing progression you are doing it right.
Travis Matthews is a portrait and fashion photographer born in Georgetown, Guyana, South America, currently based in NYC.