Collaborate, Community and Care with Matt Payne

©Matt Payne

Lately, there seems to be a backlash in the photography community against the shallow, narcissistic, insta-famous, celebrity culture that social media can breed. Many photographers are moving away from superficial likes of social media to producing work that has layers and meaning. Outlets for this work range from print exhibitions, self-published hand-made books, niche magazines, art products, and photo essays. There is a growing tide of photographers who want to raise the bar and move photography firmly into expressive art and away from the selfie culture that predominates now. In short, they feel it’s time to build community, collaborate instead of compete and do photography for meaning and care.

It’s for the reasons above that we started The League of Landscape Photographers, League magazine and the Best of the League Award. Fortunately we are not alone. Others in nature photography are also standing up to lend their voices to ‘photography for good’ and are trying to make a difference. One such photographer is Matt Payne, a landscape photographer based in Durango, Colorado who loves the wilderness and uses his photography to generate an emotional response and connection to the natural world. His goal is to plant a seed in the minds and souls of the viewer that can grow into a life-long relationship with the wilderness. Matt is also the host and creator of the popular landscape photography podcast, “F-Stop Collaborate and Listen.” where he talks candidly with other landscape photographers on all topics from technique to ethics. Matt is currently raising funds to seed a $1000 Conservation Award in Photography. We talked with Matt about his podcast, his photography and his conservation award.

Matt Payne – Landscape Photographer and podcaster.

oopoomoo – Why did you start a landscape photography podcast?

Matt – When I first got into landscape photography in 2010, I really wanted to learn as much as possible about the craft from as many artists as possible. I immediately looked to the podcast arena for some interesting podcasts on photography, but never found one that was specific to landscape photography. I felt like it was a niche that was missing a great deal of content and discussion. As the years went by, I really enjoyed the in-person conversations I’d had with other landscape photographers while we were out shooting together. The conversations were rich, vibrant, and touched on subjects I rarely found intelligent discussion about on the internet. Fast forward to 2017, I decided to finally launch my own podcast so that I could have similar conversations with the best landscape photographers across the world and share those conversations with the rest of my peers.

©Matt Payne

oopoomoo – You have only been doing your podcast since April 2017 but you already have 40 episodes! How much time and commitment does making a frequent podcast involve?

Matt – It has been quite the journey so far! Having never done a podcast before, it was quite a steep learning curve at first. I have been able to develop my workflow so that it takes about 5 hours per episode to produce and publish, not including the time it takes to recruit and actually record the podcast.

©Matt Payne

oopoomoo – What have been the most rewarding aspects of the podcast?

Matt – The most rewarding aspect of the podcast is having the opportunity to learn all kinds of different perspectives from a variety of people across the world. It has opened my eyes to various landscape photography practices and ethical issues that I had only before mulled about in my mind. The podcast format has allowed me to personally expand my belief systems around conservation issues relating to landscape photography as well as various topics that have made a real impact on the way that I think about the craft in general. I have literally changed my mind about some topics several times throughout the podcast’s lifespan, which has been really interesting to experience. Lastly, I feel like the podcast can and is making a positive impact on the landscape photography community. It is creating a space where real substantive conversations can be had in a non-threatening fashion by which others can begin to formulate their own educated opinions about a variety of topics that impact the craft and the ethics involved.

©Matt Payne

oopoomoo – What are the biggest challenges of making a podcast?

Matt – At first the biggest challenges were ensuring good sound quality as well as finding people to come onto the podcast as a guest. I think I have figured out the sound quality issues that plagued me early on and am now focusing more on refining the format and the content of the podcast itself. I think the other challenge is keeping the content fresh and trying to not re-hash the same topics over and over again. I am getting great feedback from the community on how to improve and rely on my listeners to provide me with valuable insight and critique to improve.

©Matt Payne

oopoomoo – Let’s face it there are a plethora of podcasts on photography out there some long established (10 + years) and with huge followings. What do you feel your podcast offers that isn’t already in the podcast market?

Matt – I think the vast majority of podcasts that already existed have more of an educational and promotional purpose. I wanted to create a forum by which photographers could get more personal about their approaches to and beliefs about landscape photography and to allow listeners to gain wisdom through the conversations that occur. The format of my podcast is much more relaxed and unscripted than other podcasts, similar to The Nerdist or WTF with Marc Maron, which allows for more candid conversation that has the potential to go quite deep, exploring a much wider variety of topics. Of course, this is all dependent upon my ability to pull that out of my guests and their willingness to go there. Lastly, my podcast touches on so much more than just landscape photography and photography tips. We delve into tertiary topics that are related and relevant. I like to think that it is an intellectually stimulating podcast and that my listeners appreciate the casual, yet in-depth format.

©Matt Payne

oopoomoo – Most podcasts are free, so is yours but you are asking people to make a subscription donation through Patreon. Why should people spend their money on your podcast?

Matt – I suppose I would pose a similar question to every photographer trying to sell prints or teach workshops. If you find value in something, then I think it is only makes sense to ask those consuming it to financially support it to keep it going, whether that be $1 / month or $50 / month. It depends on what someone feels like they are getting out of the creation and how much they think it is worth to them. A long time ago, my friend David Kingham shared a very insightful Ted Talk with me from musician Amanda Palmer where she explains that as artists, we should not force people to support us, we should ask them to. It creates a special relationship between the artist and the consumer. I personally love the idea that I can create something for the community and that people get enough out of it to feel like they can and should support it to keep it going.

©Matt Payne

oopoomoo -You are raising funds through your podcast to start an annual Landscape Photography Conservation Award. Why is the purpose of the award and why do you think it is needed?

Matt – I’m glad you brought this up because it is something I’m really excited about. Through the first year of the podcast I kept noticing a theme rise to the surface from landscape photographers – that there are a lot of us that feel alarmed about the current state of our landscapes and have a heightened awareness regarding the idea that there is a fundamental relationship between landscape photography and conservation. Time and time again I have heard from photographers that they are quite concerned with the rising popularity of many landscape photography locations and have seen the impacts on those locations. This theme got me to thinking about what we can do as landscape photographers to make an impact on this problem to make it less of a concern. I played around with the idea that we could come up with “rules” that photographers should follow, but I felt like it would be very difficult to get consensus about those rules, so I decided the best thing I could do is to reward someone else that has made a meaningful difference through their photography, practices, writings, or influence. My hope is that if this becomes a large enough financial award, it will further incentivize photographers to want to make a difference too.

©Matt Payne

oopoomoo – Anything more you wish to add about your podcast, your photography, or the state of photographic art?

Matt – I think this is an equally exciting and terrifying time to be a landscape photographer. The art form has exploded in recent years and with the advent of social media it has gone completely off the rails in so many ways, good and bad. We have people digitally manipulating photographs (myself included) and making locations look more incredible than they actually are. While this is incredible in terms of artistic expression, it leaves me worrying about the future of our craft. People not knowing any better will flock to these locations thinking the Milky Way is visible there, only to find that the Milky Way only appears in the opposite direction. People will go look at a mountain scene only to realize that someone has digitally made the mountain look bigger than it actually is. While I applaud the skill and artistic craft that many photographers employ today, I worry that we are collectively sacrificing the future to exploit our selfish gains of today. I am by no means suggesting that we all become purists and only shoot film. I think a middle ground can be reached that both celebrates the artistry of the many talented photographers that exist today, and fosters and perpetuates public trust in the authenticity of our craft and protection of our beloved locations. Before the podcast, I was a strong proponent that photographers should just do whatever they want and that people should only care about their own work and not what people think. While this “feels good,” it is a dangerous game to play by which we are actively auctioning future trust in the art form for more personal success today. I know that by hosting the podcast, I have become a more enlightened photographer, not only technically, but also ethically. I hope those that listen are getting the same benefit. Listeners can join the discussion on our Facebook Group or on our sub-reddit.

©Matt Payne

To learn more about Matt go to his website and he can be followed on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. As well, Matt will be hosting Samantha and me as guests on his Feb. 7 podcast where we will talk about ethics, art, publishing and building community in photography. We hope you can join us. Now until the end of February anyone who kicks in a $50 per month donation on Patreon to Matt’s podcast will receive a free subscription to League Issue 2.

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and a good guitar jam.

1 Comment

  1. Klaus Schäfer
    February 9, 2018

    Dear Mr. Wiggett
    I like this Ideas. Wow,great Pictures from you all.
    It is a problem,that i am not good in writing.I can t describe my feelings so good,
    but i am really impressed from your Work.
    Greetings from Germany
    Klaus Schäfer


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