MATT SUESS has been a full-time professional photographer since 1990. A photojournalist for 17 years in New England, Matt has been a landscape/nature photographer, educator, and publisher since 2006 when he moved West. Matt exhibits in Arizona each winter and locally in Montana. The rest of the year finds him teaching photography to small groups and individuals in-person and online and doing select commercial/architectural shoots as well. He lives in Bozeman with his fiancé and their dog.
Want to learn more about Matt and his career? You can do that here.
You started your career as a photojournalist. What did you learn about photography from that experience?
My career as a full-time professional photographer began in 1990 when I was living in New England working as a photojournalist, which I did until I moved West in 2006 to pursue landscape photography and education full-time.
Those 17 years of photojournalism truly shaped my life and photography in numerous ways. I was exposed to all types of photography such as studio work, portraits, news, sports, and more. I had to think fast and get the best shot I could, sometimes under extreme stress and deadlines. And I learned how to create publishable images regardless of what gear I was using.
You live part of the year in Arizona, and most of the year in Montana. What are the greatest challenges in shooting in these environs?
I think the greatest challenge—and this applies to anywhere really—is to do what you love and to do it safely. Being properly prepared goes a long way towards creating great shots while minimizing any potential dangers.
In Arizona I had to learn about staying hydrated in the hot and dry desert to being safe around rattle snakes, poisonous spiders, killer bees, javelinas, and more. In addition nearly every plant and tree has needles or thorns. The desert is a beautiful landscape, but it must be treated with care and respect.
Coming to Montana some 4 years ago I had to learn about safety hiking in the mountains. So I had to learn about bear and moose safety, dealing with higher elevations, understanding unpredictable mountain weather, etc.. When it comes to the actual photography though, both locations are similar in the sense that I am simply looking for great light. The landscapes are visually different of course, but great light is great light no matter where you are.
Large format photography seems to be your preferred means of artistic expression. Why do large formats appeal to you so much?
Yes, I love printing large. Some of my most successful photographs have sold in sizes up to and over 10 feet in length! And for me it’s all about the emotional impact that only a large print can achieve.
Many times I am photographing grand vistas. These scenes simply don’t have the visual impact I want in small prints. I print large so the viewer can truly appreciate the detail and the feeling that I want to convey, and to share the awe I experienced when first photographing the scene.
What are you experimenting with right now in your work?
Currently I am going back to my roots with photography and am working on producing more black and white photographs. There is something so pure with a b&w image that can get lost when color is introduced. Almost every detail in your image from the cropping to the light to the textures—it is more difficult but more important to get right than if you were shooting in color.
I am also looking for simpler scenes right now, scenes that can have a more emotional impact. A lone tree on a hill with dramatic clouds interests me more right now than a killer sunset in front of the mountains with a river in front reflecting the color for example. I think people are getting a little oversaturated with all of the colorful images on social media these days, and I want to get back to simpler photographical designs and muted colors. It’s a way to be different, and a way to challenge myself as well.
I am also enjoying getting back into some specialized commercial/architectural photography. Last year I travelled to Missouri three times photographing some amazing resort property there and I loved the challenge of using my fine art photography skills to showcase the property in a way others haven’t seen it before. I am looking forward to working with a few select clients interested in my commercial/architectural photography who are a little bit closer to home this year.
In your photography school and private lessons, do you follow a fixed set of principles for instruction? What are those principles?
I teach a number of field, classroom, and online workshops and perhaps the most important principle I teach my photography students is to just have fun with the camera again.
Photographers get too distracted with all the technical stuff regarding photography that they quickly forget why they like photography to begin with. Everyone is worried about things like megapixels, shadow detail, sensor size, camera brand, software, etc.. Photographers can get so wrapped up with all this tech stuff that I have seen people lose their love of photography over it and not even want to pick up a camera.
Photography is technical for sure, but it is also emotional. We photograph subjects we love seeing and want to create a great shot of it. So I teach the technical in simple terms, make sure everyone has the basics down, then I try to enhance each individuals passion and show them how they can release that passion through their own photography.
When it’s all said and done, the technical means little when compared to the emotional response one has when viewing photographs.
When not working, how do you like to spend your time?
In a way I am almost always working, because I almost always have a camera nearby and you never know when you are going to come across great light.
The majority of things I love to do for recreation can yield great images. Of course I love the outdoors so I enjoy camping, hiking, exploring, traveling, etc. So whenever I am out there I’ll have at least one camera and lens with me.
I am also fortunate that my fiancé, Whitney Hall, is a fine art wildlife painter who loves photographing her own subjects to use as reference for her paintings. We enjoy exploring this great state of Montana with our blue heeler always on the lookout for new and inspiring vistas and subjects to photograph.
Connect with Matt
SHOP PRINTS: https://fineart.mattsuess.com/