To put it simply, Mathieu Young has it going on. At the age of 16 he knew he was on to bigger and better things. By graduating early from high school he waved goodbye to his past in Chico, California and hello to his big dreams outside the borders of his childhood town. He was destined for greatness and since 2008 he's been on quite the ride. As a pilot it's no surprise that his career has been going up and when you see his work there's no wonder why. From his selfless work with MPower to his ultra cool pop up music and dinner series Kensington Presents, Mathieu continues to grow his talent. We had the chance to meet with Mathieu and let's just say it was fantastic! We're proud to feature this dedicated and talented photographer here on our blog.
Tell us about your art and how you got involved with photography.
I’ve been a storyteller since I was a kid. It used to get me in trouble, until I found an outlet for it. I couldn’t wait to get out of the small Northern California town I grew up in, so I graduated high school early, at 16, and fled south to attend UCLA. I took a BA in theater directing, but found a passion for photography when I was given my late grandfather’s Pentax Spotmatic camera.
I cut my chops directly after college working as a photo assistant, and then a photojournalist. Both turned out to be amazing training grounds for the skill set and mind set that I lean on today. My first real assignment was a dream come true: covering the 2008 elections for CNN. After that I had independent photojournalism stories land in Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, The New York Times, and a first place finish in the International Photography Awards. I attended the Eddie Adams Workshop in 2011, and signed with my first rep the same year.
In the years since I have split my time between marketing and PR work for the major TV and Film studios, and lifestyle advertising for national brands. In the last year I’ve been lucky enough to work on shoots for amazing clients including Samsung, Marriott, Petfinder, Bose, Showtime, WGN, and Amazon Studios.
What was a pivotal moment for your photography career?
Several years back I found myself stuck in a box that was entirely of my own creation. I had developed a style that relied heavily on strobe lighting, and was realizing that it was limiting, and not 100% “me”. I spent the next few years doing test shoots, spec shoots, and expanding my portfolio to include more natural light, friends and family, lifestyle and travel, and now find myself in a place where I can be much more free with my photography, and find that shooting integrates more seamlessly into my life. I used to really separate shooting from “real life”, but now the lines blur really beautifully.
What has been your favorite set to work on? Why?
I have been lucky enough to work on many amazing sets with many amazing people in many amazing cities. I love the opportunity to meet new people and see new places.
One of my favorite shoots has been traveling to Tanzania two years in a row to do the marketing for an amazing social enterprise called MPower, who provides solar power to communities that are off the grid in Tanzania. It’s one of those dream assignments that I worked hard to manifest: an exotic location, a challenging shoot, and a deeply rewarding experience.
What is one of your proudest moments in your career?
Seeing your work in print is always great, and winning awards always feels good, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the people. Seeing photo assistants and digital techs I’ve worked with go on to start amazing careers of their own is definitely one of those proudest moments.
What are some other things you enjoy when you aren’t shooting?
I consider myself pretty well rounded. I’m a licensed pilot and love flying my Piper Sport around Southern California. I host a monthly music series in LA called Kensington Presents. I recently founded a new company called Art of Freelance that is dedicated to helping freelancers with education, community and accountability.
What is your favorite part about being on set?
Other than the unlimited supply of Topo Chico? The best thing about working with a big crew on set is that you get to see so many people’s creativity combine into a single frame. When you have an amazing team of Creatives, Producers, Models, Stylists, Hair and Makeup Artists, Lighting Assistants, Set Dressers, etc etc and everyone is putting their heart and soul into creating a set of images, the feeling is unlike any other.
What does #createmoments mean to you?
I am a big believer in creating moments. For me, this ties into a long held belief that we need to be the authors of our own lives. Two steps to happiness: Write the story of the life you want to live, and then live it. It’s especially exciting for photographers, who can literally make a business out of offering people a glimpse into their life.
What advice can you provide for future photographers?
The freelance lifestyle can be the ultimate freedom, but it’s hard, and you have to go into it prepared. We have all become very good at curating what we share of our lives via social media, and so success can seem tantalizingly easy, but it will be incredibly frustrating if you’re not prepared for the long haul. Being a creative freelancer means thinking of yourself as a business, and getting over the fears and uncomfortable feeling of selling yourself. You need to create community and accountability for yourself, because that’s something that we traditionally found in a workplace setting. You need to be a voracious consumer of information about your industry. You need to be willing to think like an entrepreneur, and take the to heart the old saying “we’re the only people on earth willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40.”