We had the good fortune of connecting with Mathew McGraw and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mathew, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When I first thought about creating a business I remember it was the most terrifying thing to me and at the time the most impossible thing to do. I kept looking at all the obstacles that were going to be in my way. “I’m too young (I was 19 at the time),” “I don’t have the skills for this,” “Don’t I need a degree to start a business,” “I will not be a poor Starving Artist!” All these thoughts created doubt in my mind and kept telling me it was impossible, but one day I talked to a former teacher of mine, Lisa Baker, about all my fears and she asked me a simple question, “What is your dream?” It took me a minute to think about but it was only to find the right words, my dream had always been to be on Magazine covers (well photographing them, not modeling on them… I look good, but not that good!) Once I told her all that (In a very fast pace, no breath kind of excitement) she said, “focus on that dream and getting to it no matter what you have to do. It might be hard and scary but you can do it.” It sounds cliché I know, but this motivated me, after that talk I sat down, wrote out a list of all my fears and obstacles and started to work on my plan. How was I going to face the starving artist path? Don’t become an artist, become a service (there is a difference) How am I going to get the skills? Go to school, but pick a school that helps you in both business and in photography. Am I too young? Does it matter? ( Not really) Once those fears had solutions I knew what path would help me achieve my goal and with some much-needed guidance along the way I was able to create the business I have now. Business is scary and if you overthink it you will be frozen by fear, but if you underthink it you will fail and might never try again. It takes a person who is determined (or just stubborn) to reach the end goal no matter how long it takes. Sometimes it takes 5 days and bam you are a busy business mogul, but sometimes it takes 50 years, so you have to be ready for anything and you can never give up.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Photography is a debated topic in the world of Art some think it is a form of art, some think it’s not. I think of it as a way to tell stories, I view myself as more of a Storyteller not an artist. What I believe my gift is when it comes to photography is the ability to create an image that tells you something. Sometimes it’s telling you to buy this product, sometimes it’s telling you to imagine yourself as this beautiful model and embrace your inner beauty. Sometimes it is telling you to look out for biker on the side of the road, but whatever I’m telling you its something you can see and know right away. My entire goal with my craft is to create images that show beauty frozen in time. Right now I work a lot in the beauty industry creating beautiful images of models rocking the craziest trends in fashion, but it doesn’t stop there for me. I also love to create images that speak on issues or pull from my life. I created a series of images based on classic books that I read where I create images that make you think of this book without telling you too much about it. (because no one likes to have a book spoiled) Now I’ll be honest it wasn’t easy! I had to go from creating images of just my friends in my backyard to creating extremely detailed and thought out commercial shoots for national companies, and that’s a lot of extra paperwork (SO MUCH PAPERWORK). Plus I had to learn how to be a leader as I had to work and manage teams on all my shoots because photography is not a solo journey. I had to work hard and I did lots of online studying on how my industry works and what I need to look for and what to look out for. Mostly it was me going up to others in my field and asking them questions (repeatedly and annoyingly) They gave me the tips and tricks that help me thrive.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The greatest thing about Arizona is there is so much to do and it’s not super hard to get there. I love to show my friends the beauty of this state, so I would take them up to Sedona or the Grand Canyon so they can see the wonders of this gorgeous state, while also stopping on the side of the road to do some Instagram worthy photoshoots. Now that’s not all I will do, I am a big BIG fan of Disney and have mastered the art of a Disneyland budget trip, so once we have seen the wonders of AZ my friends are totally getting a 2:30 am wake up as we head out on the road for the 6 hours long ride to Disney. If you visit me, this is a non-negotiable thing… we are going, you are buying a set of ears, and we will be doing everything according to a very well structured Itinerary that does not have wiggle room, so run!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
This list is endless for me! SO MANY people have been apart of my journey, but a few do need to be thanked (for like the 1 billionth time). First is my Father Andrew. He was the one who spent hours with me into the middle of the night looking at Tax Forms, Articles of Incorporation, IRS Forms and all the other business mumbo jumbo that I had no idea I needed or what they meant. (Legal speak needs its own Google Translate button) Second is all the teachers I had during my time at The Art Insitute of Phoenix. These professors helped me work on my craft and create the photographer I am today. They shaped me into someone who could create art, but sell it as a service. They taught me how to be a Commerical Photographer. Finally is the Teacher that started it all for me Lisa Baker. She was the first one to see my talent for the creative space and allow me to explore it to my heart’s content. She has been one of my biggest fans, critics (which I need sometimes or my ego would be HUGE), and mentor. If she hadn’t opened her room to a boy who just moved to town and had no friends, who didn’t know what a camera was or how much he loved the feeling of it in his had. I would not be here today. The people she helped create in Room E-107 at Horizon High School in Scottsdale are some of the best in our fields and its because of her, and I can’t thank her enough!
All image shot by Mathew McGraw (Me)