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Interview with Matt Jacob | GBPW Episode 171

3 min read

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Quick summary

Matt Jacob is an experienced photographer who specialises in cultural portraits. Through his work, he aims to tell the viewer an honest story about his subject and their culture. In this episode, we talk about his background, inspiration, and the photography techniques that help him achieve incredible results.

Matt Jacob

I would suggest for any artist to diversify into the NFT market these days.

Matt Jacob

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Eagle hunters in Mongolia by Matt Jacob

In this episode, I speak with cultural portrait photographer Matt Jacob. Matt takes outstanding photographs of people in different cultures. His work is vibrant and emotive, often challenging the viewer to think deeply about the subject in the photograph.

We talk about:

  • The workshop that helped Matt Jacob improve his portrait photos
  • The definition of cultural portrait photography
  • Tips for aspiring portrait photographers

& much more!

If you’re interested in improving your portrait photography, this episode is perfect for you! Matt shares a lot of helpful lighting tips that will inspire you to pick up your camera and start shooting right now.

Here is a preview of our conversation with Matt Jacob.

Cultural portrait of girl in Uganda by Matt Jacob

Q: How did you get into photography?

Matt Jacob: After I picked up a camera when I was flying and travelling around the world as a pilot, I wanted a way to share those experiences with my friends and family. Being a pilot is a lonely job. The ego in me wanted to tell people what I was doing.

Coming from a technical/scientific mind, I understood how a camera worked. I picked that bit up quite quickly. My creativity was lacking. I tried all types of genres. I enjoyed wildlife, street, and landscape photography. It wasn’t until I got invited by a friend who was running a workshop in Mongolia back in 2017 that it all clicked for me.

Wide cultural shot by Matt Jacob

Q: Do you have any tips for photographers who are just starting out in portrait photography?

Matt Jacob: On the first day of the workshop, we were going around different houses just being introduced to the families. The photographer didn’t take his camera with him.

It was the first day and I was like, “What are you doing? We’re here on a photography workshop. Let’s take photos.” He said, “No, that’s the last thing you want to do. They don’t want to have a lens shoved in their face on the first day. We’re strangers as much as they’re strangers to us.” That goes a long way.

During those 10-20 minutes that I had with him, he showed me doorway light. We put our cameras down and he said, “Just watch the light on my face as I open and close the door.” You could do this at home, right? You can do this anywhere. If you have some light coming through the door, just monitor the light. It seems so simple now, but it’s really the essence of everything.

Portrait of Indonesian woman by Matt Jacob

Q: How do you want people to feel when they look at your photographs?

Matt Jacob: Curious and emotional. I always want to spark some emotion with photos.

I really want people to ask questions about it or ask themselves, “What is this, where is it, and why don’t I know about it?” There’s a definite desire to want to educate people as well through these photos. It’s important to me for people to ask more questions when they see a photo.

(This transcript was edited for clarity and length.)

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Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
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  1. I had to listen to Jacob’s podcast twice to get an understanding of him and his photography. I found the 10 minutes his photographer friend gave him a great piece of info. Looking at his website shows he really is a gifted photographer and was interesting how he really explained the question you asked. His work shows what it takes to be a great photographer with subject, lighting, and where he is shooting his subject.

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