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Expatriate Network: Matt Brandon

Matt Brandon tells us about his various roles as set photographer, NGO founder, father and international workshop instructor, and life in Penang

by / Published: 21 Jul 2014

Expatriate Network:  Matt Brandon

Interview Tan Dee May | Photo Jessie Brandon

With his latest gig as set photographer for an upcoming British drama series, Matt tells us about his various roles as an NGO founder, father and international workshop instructor, and life in Penang

 
WHO ARE YOU?
 
Name: Matt Brandon
Nationality: American
Occupation: Humanitarian and travel photographer
Time in Malaysia: Six years
 
 
MATT ON…
 
MAKING PENANG HOME
I was in India for 13 years. We went back to the US and decided we couldn’t do this, so we came back to Asia — my wife is from the Philippines. We made a shortlist of five different locations in Asia: Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur — and Penang was at the bottom of it, just because we didn’t know anything about it.
 
We ruled out Hong Kong and Singapore because of price. KL was a possibility because it had good connections flight wise. Penang had a good bunch of schools to choose from.
 
Now, we live just off the beach. We can’t see it from where we live but we can hear it when we open up our windows. You know it’s true what they say about island life — it’s a lot more laid back, I think, than in KL.
 
 
LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER
Jessie looks up to me and says she wants to be a photographer — we’ll see. I don’t know if she really does. But then again, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was her age.
 
You should see some of her still stuff. She’s really good. I did a whole blog post about her one time. I critique her stuff hard. I try to be encouraging but I figured she’s not going to learn if I say “That’s really nice, Jessie.”
 
The thing that bothers me is that photography comes easy for her. It never came easy for me. I had to work on my composition and getting to know the camera. She just has the eye for it and doesn’t even think about it.
 
 
THE RAJASTHAN PHOTOTREK 
I have a photo trek happening in Rajasthan from 14 – 28 February 2015 with pro Belgian photographer Piet Van den Eymde — a Photoshop/Lightroom guru dubbed by Adobe.
 
He handles off-camera flash and all the Lightroom stuff, and I handle all the cultural stuff and how to take the photos. My wife runs logistics. We have a good team.
 
We stay at really nice places; nice boutique hotels, havelis that are all old, Indian and beautiful. We want people to feel relaxed after a long, hard day of shooting. It’s gruelling. Most days we’re up before sunrise, if not, by sunrise when the light is great and people are just opening their shops.
 
 
GIVING BACK THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY
We started the On Field Media Project less than a year ago. Our role is to help non-profits tell their stories through appropriate technology.
 
We teach them what a story is, how to tell a story, how to take a photo with their mobile device, and how to process that photo on a free application, so it’s all there — stuff that they already own. And then we help them understand how to use social media.
 
That has become what I hope will continue to be the answer to how I give back through my photography in the NGO world.
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