As a child, Mat Rick tagged along on archaeological adventures with his parents and found himself fascinated with the film cameras on the digs. The many excavations and the focus on documenting and uncovering stories helped stoke Mat’s life’s passion and career as a photographer. In his work, one feels this heritage, in the great value he places on authenticity and connecting with his subjects.
Mat was recently given the opportunity to travel to Croatia as part of an emissary program for Slingshot, to inspire and empower other people to travel. From delectable dishes to stone-paved alleys, alluring architecture and a chromatic umbrella display, Mat captured the country's undeniable character and charm. See a selection of his photos and read the full Q & A below:
ONA: How did you first get into photography?
MR: Both of my parents are archaeologists, so I had the privilege to grow up around that world and spent quite a bit of time tagging along on digs. In archaeology, documentation is essential, so there were always cameras around, usually 35mm film SLRs. I remember getting my hands on a camera a few times and becoming fascinated by how it worked and what it was capable of. Photography stuck with me and I eventually majored in it in college. I was always shooting, although it would be 10 more years before I began freelancing full-time.
ONA: What camera do you shoot with? What is your “go to” lens of choice?
MR: These days, I tend to shoot with a Canon 5D Mk III with a wide variety of lenses. The 24-70mm lens is hands down the best lens for traveling light. The Leica T and Sony RX100 are also great travel options when you need a smaller pocket camera.
Pictured above: the Bowery bag
ONA: What sort of project drives your creativity? And what is your dream project?
MR: I love projects where I can connect with my subjects on some level. It's one of the reasons that lifestyle and travel photography drew me in. I was not only able to capture a portrait of people, but rather a slice of their life in their environment, whether at home or abroad.
ONA: What stuck with you the most from your recent trip to Croatia?
MR: Honestly? How under-appreciated it seems to be here in the US. I was immediately struck by the beauty and tranquility of life on the Croatian coast. It has everything the French and Italian rivieras have, but at half the price.
ONA: Does your approach differ at all when you’re traveling and photographing professionally versus shooting just for yourself?
MR: It depends on the client, but not usually. Part of my love for travel photography comes from the fact that I love to document my travels whether I'm being paid or not! However, if I am on a trip for fun and with others, I try to make sure I put the camera down a little more and appreciate the experience.
ONA: What are three tips you would give for photographing while traveling?
Tip 1: Don't be afraid to ask to take a photo.
Tip 2: If you have time, try to sit down and get to know your subjects.
Tip 3: Waking up to photograph a sunrise is always worth it.
ONA: What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?
MR: Balancing the business side with the creative side. I'm lucky in that I worked in business development for almost a decade before I went into freelance photography, so I understand how to run a business, but many people don't realize the amount of time you devote into building & maintaining your own brand.
ONA: Describe your style of shooting.
MR: I like to shoot in a documentary style as much as I can, especially with my travel photography. If you take too much time to compose and produce a shot, you may lose that feeling of a moment truly captured. I try to take that style into the commercial world as much as I can, although most of those shoots are more heavily produced. If I can create commercial work that feels more authentic, than I consider it a success.
ONA: In one sentence, what advice would you give to a photographer/videographer just starting out?
MR: Work harder than you have ever worked before, constantly seek and take advice, and keep shooting.
ONA: Camera and lenses aside, what are the other things in your bag that you don’t travel without?
MR: Even though I'm not a big writer, having a notebook to jot down notes and details in is essential. Also, battery packs have been a life saver on more than one occasion. I typically travel with 2 or 3 different power packs that can charge mobile devices, cameras, or whatever I need. Finally, I like to have a book to read on flights or days when I just need to completely unplug - traveling can be exhausting too!