Matt Georges

Date of birth: September 3rd, 1983

Place of birth: Grenoble, France

Place of residence: Montpellier, France

Years snowboarding: 18

Years taking pictures: 10

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Tell us a little bit about what life was like growing up for you. Where you come from, what life was like growing up, your family and all that kind of stuff…

I come from St. Hilaire-Du-Touvet, a little village at 1000 m. altitude, near Grenoble, in the middle of the french Alps. It’s a little ski resort with only 3 T-bars where my mom and dad teached me how to ski when I was 3. Winter time was pretty tough at that time in the 80’s so we moved down in the valley when I was 7 as it was way easier to go to school. I discovered snowboarding and skateboarding when I was 12. At first I was definitely more into skateboarding. We had a little crew and would just skate all day long. As a teenager you obviously need lots of money to go up to the mountains, buy all the equipment and gear, not mentioning the lift ticket. So I was only snowboarding couple days a year in a resort, otherwise during the winter, my brother and I, used to build up a little snowpark in our downhill garden. It was full of rails and small kickers and we would just spend hours and hours until night time. When I got my driving licence and more money I could ride a little more at bigger resorts and go on holidays with friends. And that’s pretty much at that time, when I turned 18-19 I started taking photos. Just to get some souvenirs of all our little adventures.

Did you take any formal training? University or the like
At first I have tried to enter a famous movie maker school in Belgium but didn’t get admitted. I didn’t really know what to do with my life so I went to Sociology and Psychology University for a year. This way I could have some time to think about my future. At this university I could take some art and painting courses three times a week and also do an internship wherever we could find one. I got one at a Serigraphic Screen Printing Company and loved it so much that I decided to quit university and learn graphic design and print technics. Quickly I got a job at Freestyler Magazine in France but my parents wanted me to get at least a degree/diploma so I went back to university, at a graphic design/typography school for two years and then got admitted at The National Art School, while working at the same time at the magazine. It were pretty intense days as I was waking up at 5am, going to the office until 9am, then going to school, then back at office at lunch time, then going to school until 6pm, then going back to the office untill 10-11pm. I did that for 2,5 years and learnt so much from all the people around me about art, painting, sculpture, photography, art history, magazine making, graphic design, etc.

How do you work? Planned or un-planned shoots?
I usually travel 6 months a year all together and spend time in my office the rest of the time, as a regular job. I start my day at around 7.30am until 7pm, mixing different activities such as emails, scan, post-production, darkroom, paperwork, etc. It’s good when my TO DO LIST is over at the end of the day. All my travels are organized and I usually never extend them, even if fresh snow is coming. My winter is really packed and I try to organize my time between all the different clients, movie productions and crews. I don’t really edit my photos before the end of the winter but usually before going on a trip I try to think about a photo direction and look that I want to shoot the whole time. Then when I have the photo published as a full story for example there is a unit and guideline in colors, formats and processes. I like to forget what I shot and get back to it slowly, day after day, in my office with some good music. I feel more productive this way than working in a hotel room in the evening after being the whole day outside in the cold.

Best work happens when…

I have total freedom on the results, when I can shoot with the camera I want and when I’m not stressed with people on my back who wants to see the immediate result.

Proudest accomplishments in photography

I wouldn’t call this being proud but I’m just happy to have met so many nice people and see so many beautiful countries since I have started traveling as a photographer. It’s for sure a dream job, I didn’t study much and it was definitely not easy to be where I am today, but hopefully this is just the beginning and I’ll keep working hard to step up and take better photos.

What’s your take on post photo manipulation? Do you do much of it?
Well that’s a hard question! Back in the days, in the darkroom, we were always playing with different masks, chemical products, filters, film processes, etc. So at the end, this infinite debate about photo manipulation is a bit useless and too much sometimes. I feel like people can do whatever they want with their own photography. I would definitely not call photography «Art», just because we have used a filter. Photo manipulation is alright for me as long as you don’t lie on the content of the photo. If you delete or add objects or if you manipulate the performance, in case of an action shot for example, then I would just say it is total bullshit. It should be classified in the graphic design / photo collage box and should not be considered as pure photography. I’m stricly talking about photography and not advertising / design which are two different worlds.
Except that I’m definitely not against color corrections, contrast and levels moves, when needed, but I’m definitly not a fan of HDR and fake tilt-shift effect, just to name a few.
At the beginning of the digi era I have been manipulating a lot. I was new to this so that was really exciting to dig around and try different things. Nowadays I don’t do much except the basic things such as contrasts, levels and white balance.

Tools. What equipment do you use for shooting?

It really depends on what purpose I am shooting for and which result I want to get.
Depends on the job, on the images the client wants or the style I want if it’s a personal shoot.
It can be the lastest digital camera but also some old polaroids or plastic toy cameras. I always change set ups and own around 30 cameras and use around 15 on a regular basis.

Tips for people starting to shoot snowboarding

I think it has never been easy to live off photography, in any field, at any time. Back in the days it was not so easy to become a good photographer but there were way less people in the game and nowadays everyone can be a good photographer pretty quickly so it’s probably way harder to stand out from the masses. Lots of people think professional photographers are only taking photographs but that’s a wrong belief. We only shoot 20-30% of our time. The rest is spent working on our network (magazines, brands etc.), archiving our images, dealing with paperwork and taxes etc., organizing shoots and trips, doing emails, retouching photos, scanning, printing in the darkroom, learning new techniques and so on… A few keys to sucess might be to never give up, shoot, make mistakes, shoot, make mistakes, shoot, shoot, shoot, work hard, not count hours, show your work around, being organized, delivering the job on time, etc. It’s sad to say that except for a few people the snowboard world is a real mess. It’s always last minute for everything and most of the email I receive are for a deadline that was for the day before. So beside taking pictures you also need to be well organised in order to deliver your work really fast and not miss any tight deadline.
Also as a snowboard photographer, when you go to the backcountry it’s important to stay warm, check the weather forecast and avalanche conditions and stay focused of every mountain sign. If you can work in those hostile conditions, then you could probably work in almost every situation in your photographer life. What is a studio shoot with models, coffee and assistant compared to deep and cold snow, far away in the middle of nowhere up on a mountain?

Question you wish someone had answered you when you started

It’s not the camera making the good photo. It’s mostly your eye, your tastes and your knowledge, so work first on that before getting the latest trendy camera. It’s important to understand what is photography. It’s «writing with light», so the key is to understand how it reacts with textures, movement, shapes, objects and shadows. I wish someone told me to not care about using the same cameras as other people and just do it my own way.

Shooting snowboarding professionally is tough, specially getting into the industry. What do you think separates you from the rest and made you successful?

I have heard somewhere you need 10,000 hours of hard work before starting to have success. I have no idea if it’s true but I know it takes time. From my side it looks like I got lucky at some point because I met the right people at the right time. And thanks to them I had access to famous riders and could also improve my photography a lot. Having this Graphic Design and Art degree is probably a bonus too, but at the end I have no idea what separates me from the rest. I just know I have been working really hard, all year long, even harder sometimes when winter is over. I believe a bit of luck and lots of hard work will bring you wherever you want to go.

Do you shoot only snowboarding? If not, what else do you shoot and why?

I definitely shoot snowboarding a lot, but at the end I’m a photographer and I enjoy shooting lots of other things too such as lifestyle, adventures, food and portraits.
I have also lots of interest in everything related to images and like to inmerse myself in different projects. I usually work on 2 or 3 graphic design jobs a year, work on some books and exhibition projects too and I’m about to launch my «independent coffee table Snowboarding photography zine» anytime soon.

How do you level the work / life balance with all the traveling?

I really think it’s important to plan you trips well, being organized and not be away too much. If you are in a relationship with someone, try to think about the opposite and see if you would be happy being alone at home for weeks. Probably not. So I’m just trying to not travel too much too often and have a regular life at home. I love snowboarding, travelling, photography and all that, but family life is really important. It’s good to find the right balance but definitely not that easy.

How do you manage creative blocks?

I do have some creative blocks from time to time but mostly when I’m in front of a spot and I don’t find any good angle. It can be very frustrating because you want to show the trick, of course, but you also want to get a nice composition and photo at the end. Unfortunately it’s not always coming together and you have to make compromises. So when it happens I usually switch cameras, throw away the digi ones and walk around again.
Except that so far so good! I have so many Photo Series I’ve been wanting to do for years so I always find something to work on winter after winter. I have this little notebook with me all the time where I draw sketches and write up ideas when they come up. After a while I re-check everything and re-shape ideas when they are not good.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks a lot for making this project and for fighting to keep prints alive! Stoked to be part of it.
Also a big thanks to Onboard, Whitelines, all my faithful clients and every other magazine that runs my photos. And a special one to all the riders that hike up again and again to get the good shot!

Where can people follow what you are doing?
Instagram: @matt_georges