All images by Matt Yessian. Used with permission. Matt was a runner up in our recent contest with Leica.
“The earliest memory of the medium was from my grandfather,” passionate photographer Matt Yessian tells us. “He shot with a Canon AE-1 and let me play around with it (I still have it!). He took a lot of pictures and would do a good job of telling a story in each photo.” Matt continues to tell us that he found inspiration in National Geographic and Life magazine when growing up. But he also admits that he got into it to impress his former boss. Now he brings his Fuji cameras with him everywhere.
“Then the hobby increased to obsession when our first child was born.”– Matt Yessian
What made you want to pick up a camera vs using your phone?
It has to do with intention. If I have a camera with me, I am more aware of the environment and moments that are occurring. My phone just reminds me of my day job and doesn’t provide that same trigger. I have tried multiple times to use my phone, but it is not as responsive and tactile as a dedicated camera. I envy people that can make their phone work for them because it would be a lot easier.
Lots of what you do is personal family photography and travel. You’re a passionate hobbyist! Have you ever analyzed what makes you snap the shutter when a moment arises? What do you think the reasons are?
I am a lucky man to have such a great family, but I probably need my therapist to provide a good answer, though. When I first started, I always tried to create something for the sake of having a “nice picture.” Then it turned into trying to take pictures for the adulation of people on social media. That failed miserably because it was so empty and put me in a bad spot emotionally. Finally, today, I take it to capture a moment. One that is not technically perfect but one that is memorable. My goal is for me or my family members to look at a photograph and instantly take them back to that moment as if it just happened. To actually feel that moment again.
I have done a little paid work for families and it is enjoyable. I would like to do more work for others at some point but it’s tough with my day job so I concentrate on my family. The challenge with photographing family is capturing the moment versus being in the moment. It’s not a perfect science because sometimes I don’t put the camera down at the right moment so I either miss a shot or miss some life. It’s a hard balance to strike.
How has documenting your life changed during the pandemic?
We don’t travel as much or see other people often, so it’s tough to get a variety of settings. Thus, it has forced me to work on noticing the smaller things. Taking the camera while walking the dog, noticing a small kid crisis (like clipping toenails), and the kids laughing/playing are those moments to remember and capture.
Tell us about the gear you’re using. And how do you edit?
What photographers influence you and your work?
There are too many to count but here are a few. I love the style, tutorials, and postings of Kevin Mullins, Sean Tucker, and Benj Haisch, but find fascinating (from a color perspective) the works of Tyler Shields, Thomas Mangelsen and Joel Grimes. And then there are the legacy photographers of Vivian Maier, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Fan Ho for whom I always draw inspiration.