The following is an interview I recently did with Featured Artist Matthew Aron Roth. He is a boyhood friend of mine who has found a niche in action sports photography; however, he and I both know that there is not one characterization of him as a photographer. It is a passion of his that has run eternal since I can remember. This is his story.
ANDREW F. CHAPIN. I remember you in middle school walking around, the only one with a camera around his neck. You’ve always been unabashed in your pursuit of that passion. Why is photography such a passion?
MATTHEW ARON ROTH. For me photography is a passion because of the challenges it presents to me. These challenges and obstacle are what drive me to succeed. When things are easy to overcome, for me there’s no reward in accomplishment. That’s where my passion stems from.
AFC. Whom did you dream of becoming as a kid?
MAR. As a child, I dreamt of going on archeological digs for dinosaur fossils.
AFC. When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer for a living?
MAR. I think I knew I wanted to a career in photography when I would sneak out of gym class in high-school to go print in the dark room.
AFC. Who has influenced you as a photographer? As a human?
AFC. How did others early on view your interest in photography?
MAR. Early on my family and friends were always supportive of my interest and pursuit in the photographic arts.
AFC. What were your first shots?
MAR. Some of my first shots were of my friends skating and surfing and as I’m sure you can remember there wasn’t one backpacking trip where I didn’t have my camera and zip-lock bags full of 35mm film.
AFC. What was your first camera? Do you still have it?
MAR. My first camera was a Canon Rebel 2000. I received it as a Bar-Mitzvah gift from my Aunt Linda. Of course I still have it, it doesn’t work anymore – it’s all beat up – but it’s on one of my bookshelves. It helps remind me of where I started.
AFC. Where did you go to college and what did you take away from it (how did it influence)?
MAR. I went to 3 different schools. First was Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.); then, after realizing the program and curriculum wasn’t for me, I came back home and got my associates degree in photography from Nassau Community College (which has a stellar faculty and facilities). After that I went on to the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington D.C. to obtain my BFA in photojournalism.
So, from my “5 year plan,” I took away that you may think you’re on the right path only to get to your destination and realize it was the wrong choice. I learned it’s ok to back up, collect yourself and begin again. It influenced me by [instilling in me to] never give up and always move forward.
AFC. What has been your favorite shoot and why?
MAR. I cannot recall any specific one shot I favor over others. However the ones I remember and are the fondest are those that challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone.
AFC. What is your comfort zone?
MAR. I find that I am most comfortable shooting action sports. It is possible for me to see the decisive moment in the fast paced action of extreme sports. Whether it’s a climber meticulously balancing up a rock or ice face, a mountain biker charging down hill, a skier/snowboarder cutting into snow, a skateboarder launching into the air, etc., I can see that split second when they’re at their peak and create an image from it.
AFC. What are your favorite action shots to take?
MAR. I don’t have one type of action shot I prefer over another. My favorite images come from any shot that can make the hairs on the back of my neck stand-up and fill me with a deep sense of euphoria.
AFC. What validates the work that you do?
MAR. Knowing I am doing what I want for myself validates the work I do.
AFC. What are your hobbies and interests outside of photography?
MAR. All of my hobbies and interests are those activities that I photograph. Travelling, mountain biking, rock and ice climbing, surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, etc.
AFC. What’s your plan for life?
MAR. My plan for life? Like the 5 year plan? There is no such thing, it, it’s important to live in the moment and live every-day like it’s your last. No regrets; no fear; no looking back; just to live in the present and move forward.
AFC. In this world, what does Matthew Aron Roth value?
MAR. There are many things I value – family, friends and colleagues of course are at the top of the list. But that’s what most people say, one of the conceptual things I value is how a snowflake can become a wave. Most people don’t think about that and as a result don’t value the little things they can’t comprehend.