Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, Jennifer Connelly, Martha Stewart, and Samuel L. Jackson… just a handful of the celebrities that Matthew Jordan Smith is best known for photographing. An American photographer, Matthew has worked with countless notable personalities over the last 30 years. His work boasts numerous magazine covers, advertising campaigns, and editorial assignments for Olay Skincare, Pantene, Revlon, Sony Entertainment, HBO, Showtime, and others.
Matthew’s multiple appearances on the hit TV show, “America’s Next Top Model,” can also be added to his hefty resume. He has also been featured in In Style, Essence, Photo District News, Rangefinder, Zoom, and Professional Photographer. A native of New York City, Matthew has taught at the prestigious School of Visual Arts, the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops in New Mexico, and has led seminars in Italy and Japan. Today, he is a Nikon Ambassador and an active volunteer in the photographic community.
Matthew is currently based in Japan, working on a personal project, and divides his time between New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo.
Matthew’s love of photography has inspired several personal projects, including three published books. “Sepia Dreams,” published by St.Martin’s Press, is a collection of striking photographs and wise words from 50 celebrities who speak candidly about their success. “Lost and Found,” sponsored by the Microsoft Corporation and endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, features moving portraits of families dealing with the loss of abducted, missing, and exploited children. “Future American President: 50 States, 100 Families, Infinite Dreams” is a collection of portraits of children from every state in the union. book was created to inspire children to dream big and to know they have infinite possibilities.
I had the pleasure of meeting Matthew at The Makeup Show in New York, where his work was displayed. I was so moved by the images that I had to connect with the man behind the lens. Matthew’s gracious and calm demeanor is both captivating and intriguing. I had to get to know a person who decides to leave the buzz of New York City to work, focus, and indulge in his craft.
How did you get your start in photography?
My father is responsible for introducing me to photography. He gave me my first camera when I was 12 and taught me how to use it and even taught me how to develop film. at was my beginning, and it grew from there. Years later, I went to art school and majored in photography, then went to New York City and got a job working as a photo assistant.
What is your favorite part about living in Japan?
There is so much I love about living in Japan, but if I had to pick one thing, it would be how the culture has changed the way I see the world and that has filtered into my work. The respect and dedication to work is in every part of life here and it has a strong in influence on you when you live here.
What is the best part your job?
For me, the best part of being a photographer is being able to share my point of view in my images. In many ways, photography is a visual diary of your life—who you met, where you go, how you feel. I love that I get to share this and document my life. It’s never the same; it’s always full of surprises. Photography has taken me all over the world and given me a life I could never have dreamed of having.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I received came from one of my mentors, Gordon Parks, who told me it’s OK to be afraid to do something but never let the fear keep me from trying. Another mentor told me his biggest mistake was not doing a book of his photography, and I never forgot that. Today I have three published books and I’m working on my fourth book now. I was very afraid to do my first book but Gordon’s words were in the back of my head and I pushed past my fear and never looked back. Fear is just a part of success; it has to test you to see if you really want something.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?
I am not sure what people think about my journey, but the biggest misconception today is that photography is easy, but it’s never been easy to make a career as a creative. You have to work hard and smart for everything. It may be easier to use a camera today but that doesn’t make someone a photographer or give him or her a career. Photography is not easy, but if you follow the path others have created, you can have a wonderful life as a photographer.
What are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful for being blessed with great parents and mentors who helped guide me along my journey. Today, I try to give back by helping other photographers with their vision and journey. I am grateful for every day I get to share my work and passion with the world.
You can check out more of Matthew’s work here!