Richard Photo Lab

Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Matthew Ree

Awww yesssssss! Richard is turning the spotlight back on with our first featured photog, Matthew Ree.

With a degree in commercial fashion photography from Brooks Institute and a Masters in Fine Art from Pratt University, Matthew has honed an incredible talent for capturing fashion, editorial, and wedding photography, and his work has been featured in major publications across the world.

See how photography helped Matthew overcome language barriers, why he downsized his photography studio, and what a film lab has in common with musicians, today in Richard Photo Lab's Photographer Spotlight!

Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography? How did you decide to pursue it as a career?

Matthew Ree: It's been a long journey for me. I first became interested in photography after taking a black & white photography class in high school. I was a shy kid and I was also struggling with a language barrier at the time—my English wasn’t great since my family moved to the US from Seoul, Korea, while I was in high school. However, my photography classes required me to take photos of people and interact with them, and eventually I fell in love with the medium.

I came to realize that a camera is a very powerful tool. It can capture moments, bend a little bit of reality, and it also allows you to escape to a fantasy world. Most of all, I found that not only does a photo carry subjects’ feelings, but it can also carry my own emotions as the photographer. I was fascinated by it.

Like many other photographers, it was once a hobby of mine that became a career. In college, I jumped around many different schools and changed multiple majors from even optometry to business, trying to figure out what I wanted to study and pursue as my career. Then after years of long soul searching, I finally landed myself to major in Fashion Photography at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California.

When I began to study photography in college, I first wanted to become a still life/product photographer. Then as I continued to study more about commercial photography, I felt like I was missing something. I really wanted to learn more in depth about photography, so I continued my Masters in Fine Art at Pratt Institute. When I finished my MFA program, I worked for various fashion magazines including Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, and Marie Claire. By having a lot of experience in different genres of photography, I learned to enjoy every single process of the art.

Image by Matthew Ree

R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?

MR: Mainly, I love to shoot portraits—but I enjoy shooting other things such as landscapes or still life, as well. Photography is pretty much my everything: job, hobby, friend, lover, teacher, stress-giver and my stress-reliever.

During my free time, I love to experiment with other formats and mediums such as large format cameras, 4x5 to 8x10 cameras, and old photographic process such as tintypes, collodion, platinum process etc.

Image by Matthew Ree

R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?

MR: Balancing those very important elements to run a business has always been a challenge for me. However, I tend to weigh a little more to the creative side. A couple of years ago, my studio had many associate photographers and we used to shoot about 200 weddings a year! Money was good, but I was not happy with the output. So, I decided to downsize the company in order to be more in control of the quality. Once I made that decision, it brought more happiness to both me and my clients. People were responding to the work, and it started to bring in more clients who appreciated my style.

R: What is your favorite camera and why?

MR: That's quite a tough question for me since I'm a camera junkie! I have a collection of many different cameras. Rangefinder cameras are quieter and lighter, so they're good for street photography (not so intrusive). Larger format cameras are much heavier and bulkier, but they carry tremendous details so they're great for portraits or landscapes. For weddings, it has to be fast for me. Contax 645 is very fast and a soft focus amplifies the beauty of the skin tone. Along with the Contax 645, the Canon 5D Mark III with 50mm lens is probably my favorite tool for shooting weddings.

Image by Matthew Ree

R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it as a pro?

MR: My first experience was quite nerve-wracking, since you don't see what you're capturing right away with a film camera. At the same time, the anticipation brought me joy. I used to process films myself, so all the steps were like rituals to me. It was quite soothing for me to be alone in the room, loading film in the processing tank and listening to the water dripping to the sink—like meditating.

From the sounds of the shutter of film cameras to the texture of the film grains, I love everything about it. I continue to use it as a pro since I want my clients to appreciate and love their photos as much as I do!

R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?

MR: I believe that is the most important part of the process of delivering the final product. It is important to have that trust between the photographer and the lab. Famous landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, once said that photographing is like composing music and processing and printing is like performing that music. Once you have composed music, you certainly want great performers to perform it the way you intend it!

R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?

MR: The night before a shoot, I tend to watch movies that reflect the mood of the shoot. If I have a wedding, I shy away from any TV shows or movies that are violent or negative. Instead, I watch a romantic movie that will keep me in the mood for the shoot next day!

R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?

MR: Sweet.

R: Chocolate or vanilla?

MR: Vanilla.

R: Dogs or cats?

MR: Dogs.

R: Urban or rural?

MR: Rural.

R: Warm weather or cold weather?

MR: Warm weather.

R: Biggie or Tupac?

MR: Biggie.

R: Early bird or night owl?

MR: Night owl.

R: Crossword or Sudoku?

MR: Sudoku.

R: Breakfast or dinner?

MR: Dinner.

R: Batman or Superman?

MR: Batman.

R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?

MR: Non-fiction.

R: Comedy or Drama?

MR: Drama.

R: Truth or dare?

MR: Truth.

Image by Matthew Ree

R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?

MR: A graphic designer.

R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

MR: Teleportation!

R: What is your favorite word, and why?

MR: "Smile". I believe one simple smile can change the world!