Words / Zen Yoshifuku
Zen: How long have you been shooting photos?
Quinn Matthews: Since 2008. I’ve been shooting photos daily since middle school. Albeit, I lived in Idaho for quite a while so not much surf photography. It wasn’t until two years ago when I decided to enroll in an online college and travel rather than the more traditional four-year college route that I got really serious about shooting surf photos.
I feel like your composition stands out amongst the surf photographers. Do you focus on that?
I play around with composition and framing constantly. That’s without a doubt what I focus on most. I’ll be online studying art or other photographers’ work all day, trying to work it out in my head. Then when I get excited about something I write my calculations in my phone and revisit them relatively often.
Your work was published a lot this past year. What was your big break?
It’s hard to pin down one moment as a big break since I’m constantly pushing myself to the tipping point. But I guess for me, last spring right before and throughout the Australia leg of the WCT I feel I started to gain momentum. I got a bunch of projects, shooting Kolohe over in West Oz for his movie, shooting with Kai Neville and the “Cluster” crew in West Oz, freelance jobs with Stab Magazine and Surfing Magazine, and to top it all off, Surfer included me in their “The Now” issue as one of the seven youths making a big impact on the surf world alongside Blake Keuny, Noa Deane, Koa Rothman and a few other surfers. It feels weird saying it, but after Australia I feel like people started taking my work more seriously. I felt like I had more of a presence and belief in myself that I could make this work and do it my way.
There are too many to choose! [Laughs] Top seven would have to be Yadin Nicol, Kolohe Andino, Noa Deane, John John Florence, Nat Young, Jack Freestone and Wyatt McHale. They are the most exciting surfers out there, and have the ability to get a shot in almost any condition.
Are there any surf photographers you look up to or are influenced by?
Nathan Lawrence and Matthew O’Brien are the best in my eyes. Although Matthew doesn’t shoot that much anymore. Both of them are very technically sound, and are really good at framing the subject. Other than that, I take a bit of influence in the techniques and business approach from every surf photographer I know of. There is no rule book or guide on how to succeed so I do my best to learn as much as I can from absolutely everyone. I try and study everyone’s approach.
You have been traveling a lot. Where are some of you favorite places?
I went to the Mentawais this year for a trip with Kolohe Andino and friends for his new movie. The waves we got were amazing. That trip was the best crew, unbelievable waves and a really good time. Also, I spend three months in West Oz at the beginning of the year, which was amazing, too. I went over with Yadin Nicol and his family since he used to live there. Yadin has the place dialed more than anyone, and I got to meet a bunch of local legends. We’d shoot two or three times a day, and besides the possibility of sharks, it was perfect.
What kind of equipment do you work with?
I mainly shoot with a Canon 1D Mark IV and my go-to lenses have generally been the 300mm 2.8 and 50mm 1.2. But I’m starting to play around with a few more lenses in the water and love it. Other than that, I have an old Pentax Spotmatic that was my dad’s, and a Fujifilm x100s that has insane dynamic range.
Do you shoot film?
Yes! I love film. Mainly I shoot 35mm, but I’ve been messing around with medium-format and instant Polaroid film.
Any future projects?
Nothing for certain. Mainly, I’m just focusing on trying to build name recognition and marketing right now. But there are a few projects I’m interested in. I’m working on trying to get a few gallery showings around California. I’ve got a few unique ideas that I’m really excited about, and want to try out. I’d like to make a photo book or two. When I get enough street photography content I’m making a little hardcover for sure. I’d also like to get my foot into the fashion world and do campaign shoots. That’s going to take a while, but I’m slowly plugging along and trying to gather information on how to do it. Travel photography and street photography are always exciting for me, too. I really want to do some trips around the Mediterranean or South East Asia. Those are on the back burner for now. Some day though.