Idaho is best known for producing potatoes, gemstones, and the lovely Christina Hendricks. Surf imagery, on the other hand, not so much. And yet, somehow, one of the best up-and-coming surf photographers in the world hails from the landlocked state.
“I was into landscape photography when I lived there,” explains 18-year-old Quinn Matthews. “But to be honest, every photo I took was average at best. The subjects just weren’t there.”
It wasn’t until 2010, when Matthews’ family packed up and relocated to Laguna Beach, Calif., that he found something that truly caught his eye and held his focus.
“Surf photography was a completely different world for me,” says Matthews. “There’s so much more force and action in the ocean and I was instantly drawn to it. I started planning photos out on paper, writing down exactly what I wanted in a composition, how I’d need to shoot it with apertures and shutter speeds, what swell it would take. I had folders and folders of recipes for surf photos, and I was just waiting for the chances to take them.”
Now four years removed from the potato patch, the transplant has been quick to seize those chances and make a mark in surf photography. At a time when the work of many trending surf photographers is nearly indistinguishable, Matthews is developing a style that is very much his own.
“I try to incorporate layers—the subject, the foreground, and background—to convey a feeling,” says Matthews. “I want someone to see my photos and be able to put themselves there.”
His technique, along with his portfolio, caught the attention of many brands and magazines over the last year, which allowed Matthews to explore the globe, living out of a suitcase and shooting perfect waves. The photos from his travels earned Matthews a semifinal finish in the 2013 Follow the Light competition, which speaks to the raw talent and lofty potential of the young photographer.
“I’ve just been fortunate to develop good friendships with a lot of amazing surfers,” says Matthews. “I spent a month in Europe last fall with Yadin Nicol, and he’d go out of his way to introduce me to everyone we came across. Having talented people to shoot with has been huge for me.”
Matthews is looking forward to chasing the world’s best waves with the world’s best surfers, but he won’t be satisfied until he wins Follow the Light, which he says would put him in the company of surf photographers like Morgan Maassen, Todd Glaser, and Chris Burkard. If everything goes according to plan, we’ll be seeing a lot of Matthews’ photos in the coming years. Who knows? Some might even make it back to Idaho.
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