Meet Matt Clark

The first time I saw Matt Clark was on a video I stumbled upon on Facebook. He was on the side of the road in South America, giving himself a shot to fight an illness he caught on the trip. I thought that was so hardcore. I wanted to be like that. So I looked into his work, and ended up even more blown away by his surf shots. He became one of my biggest influences in NY surf photography, and paved the way for me in many ways—I’m happy to be able to call him a friend.

Your age, how long you’ve been shooting, and first camera?

I’m now 32 years old and I’ve been shooting with the intention of having images published and being a professional for 12 years now. My first camera was technically a Minolta Maxxum 5 in 2002 or so, when I took my first college class in photography and had my first go on the North Shore. But I really count my first camera as a Nikon D70 because I got that in 2004 aspiring to shoot surf photos for publications.

Dreams of the North Shore – 2007

A photo posted by Matt Clark (@mattclarkphotography) on

What type of photography do you shoot?

My favorite is that in the ocean, mostly, of abstract waves for fine art. Anything surfing related, whether it be lifestyle, action, fine art or commercial, I am happy to shoot, and it’s been a natural evolution for me as I’ve been so involved in surfing since I first put my toes in the water. Ask me to shoot anything else and I tense up and it turns into “work” for me.

What’s in the bag now?

Currently I shoot with a 5DS and a 7d Mark II, though 99 out of 100 times it’s the 5DS in my water housing. Lens-wise, I am using a 15mm Sigma fisheye, 28mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, 70-200 f/2.8 (non-IS).

Who was the photographer, for you, that really put the fire under your ass? Who inspired you the most?

Without question, it was Brian Nevins. I went to a Red Bull photography class in 2006 that took place in Long Beach, NY and was free of charge. The class was put on by Mike Nelson and Brian Nevins. The first day of the class we went over the images we had shot that day, and while the photos were on the screen in front of the class of about 10, Brian Nevins said, “Matty, I think you found your calling.” That was all I needed. I’ve always felt like I needed to prove to Brian that, “Yes, you were right, I’ve found my calling.”

What was the first photo you had published? What was that feeling like?

My first big magazine publishing was in SURFING Magazine in 2006. I got a double-page spread of a lineup of New York in black and white, and legendary photographer and, at the time, photo editor Steve Sherman said it was an “iconic shot,” which was a huge accomplishment for me.

Best flogging you’ve ever taken while swimming with your camera?

Pretty much any time I do anything with Will Skudin, I am scared—whether it be exploring unridden reefs in the Northeast and running out of gas in hurricane surf, or falling off a jet-ski when we saw a shark in Oregon at that wave the Yeti. I think I’ve been much more scared than I have gotten my butt kicked. I’m man enough to say I’ve been really scared of some of those situations, but I miss them more than anything. You really feel alive.

Blizzards and barrels or boardshorts and longboards?

Give me two feet of snow and double overhead surf, please. I love the silence that the snowfall creates and those perfect 10-foot A-frames. Yes.

Any up-and-comers that caught your eye?

I don’t really have my finger on the pulse of surf photography as much anymore. Julien Roubinet has been shooting for a book he’s working on called Ice Cream Headaches here in New York and I really enjoy his photos. I also think Matt Catalano from New Jersey is excellent at what he does and he’s about to sort of break through in the next year or two and start doing big shoots with the magazines, if he’s not already. I’m also way more interested in people doing work outside of surfing. I almost dislike looking at wave photos and surfing photos. I’m rarely ever inspired by photos of waves or surfing. Is that strange?

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be doing?

I can’t imagine if I never found my interest in photography. I’d like to imagine I’d be a writer or an illustrator.

Favorite Instagrammer to follow?

Can I name a lot?

Keep up with Matt (as we enter his favorite time of the year to shoot) on his Instagram. Thanks Matt.