Matt Lara

Personal
  • Marching

    My marigold bud waiting to open after a rainstorm, Matt Lara, 2019

    I know I’m not the only freelance artist who experiences the slump at the start of a new year. The end of the previous year is like a mad dash to the finish line—deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Then it’s just about nothing for January and February. I could crawl out of my skin during this time, not that I don’t have plenty to do. Here in LA the rain has been coming down and the weather not so great. The days are short and I feel like I can’t get anything done. Then March comes in I start counting down the days until we get those extra hours of daylight back. (Why do we ever give them up to begin with?) The rain still pours, but I find I have that extra bit of stamina to get through the end of each week. And with the extra daylight, I find myself pulling out these cameras I’m lucky to shoot with.

  • the changing seasonal light

    I'm not at all a fan of Standard Time, but I love the way the light shifts this time of year. I just wish the days would last a bit longer so that we could enjoy them more.

    I took my camera out for a walk this afternoon into the waning golden time hours. The light was warm, and made even more amber by the SoCal skies choked with smoke. (For many people, life is a literal hell right now.) The light was so beautiful, except all of a sudden it was evening, then immediately nighttime. Little light to be had.

    It's a good time of year for me to curl up with a book and disappear, but in fact I'm out there working more than I have been so far this fall. Many shoots and events for different clients. I mostly make images now, and I have to fight my own urges to just nest and not worry about it unless it's for a client.

    The shifting light keeps me going back out for more each day.

  • Notes on a year of grief and change

    This going to be a personal post. As my family and I head into November there are so many things to reflect on. Up until now I haven't used this blog an outlet for personal feelings. I've kept much of it to my own family circle, and have found an odd comfort in grieving publicly on social media. That is not normally my speed. I am usually a rather private person, but as some of you know, my stepdad Bruce was a larger-than-life person with a large circle of work colleagues whom he withdrew from as he got sick from cancer. My family and I felt it was appropriate to draw many of them into our circle as we dealt with his loss.

    As I write this, I think of how spending so much time online reading about other people and their lives makes me want to sum things up in some pretty lesson. The Insta-lesson with a pretty sunset pic to wrap it all up. The truth is, there aren't that many neat, tidy lessons here. Loss is just as messy as life, and trying to tie up a million loose threads of a complex person is a job in and of itself.

    So I don't have any "top 10 tips" or "3 things learned", from a year and a half of disease, loss, and all with political turmoil as the backdrop. It all seemed to constantly pile on. I've been spending some time trying to clear the pile and carry on. Bruce would never want me to just sit at home weeping. He'd want me up and out of the house with the cameras on. He'd want me creating as much photography as I can, and to keep doing all the creative things I always do. He'd want me to continue the work I do with Camp Bravo, which he was a big part of as well.

    There's a keep-it-going rule I'm implimenting here. I can get stuck in the grief, and the enormity of trying to manage an entire photo studio's worth of stuff left behind. But I have to keep going. Even as I type this last sentence, I feel Bruce poking my shoulder and urging me to get up and go about the day.

    I came across a letter via Austin Kleon's blog that resonated with my feelings today as I wrote this post. From the blog The Red Hand Files by Nick Cave, his thoughts on grief:

    "I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed."

  • Retreat

    "You have to go to Burning Man.”
    Words I’m a little too familiar with. I remember about 10 years ago I was working as a dancer in a corporate entertainment company. We were in a limo en route to a gig on Long Island (or lord knows where) and one of my castmates kept going on and on about her week at Burning Man. I was intrigued. It sounded really cool to go out to the desert in the middle of nowhere and do nothing but make art and be creative all day. I never made it there, though. Time passed and along came social media which pretty much ruins anything trendy. Nowadays I might roll an eye or two if anyone even mentions their "Burn.”
    To be clear, I actually don’t have any hate for Burning Man. Perhaps a little FOMO about it, but that’s really it.
    I get that us creative folks need a retreat of some sort. A space to disappear for awhile. Some people really do need that week in the desert. People save up for the entire year to go pretend they don’t live their mundane, day-to-day lives. Me, I need a week in the mountains every year teaching at Camp Bravo. I’m lucky to have been able to go there since I was 14.
    Then there's this thing with social media that makes us to want to go to these places and post about how authentic we are. How we’re having such a great time while we take selfies.
    Again, I don’t hate that. But it’s not what I’m necessarily for. Make that escape whenever you can. Take the week off. Go to the desert, the mountains. A tiny hotel room to go finish the novel. The point should be to come back home to the life you have now having felt enriched by the escape. Maybe you come to some realizations or decide to make a few changes. Maybe you just made some memories. The point is to eventually come home, not constantly escape.
    So really, I don’t have to go to Burning Man. Stop telling me I do.
  • My afternoon coffee.

    I paused for a moment to capture my afternoon coffee. Seems to be a basic Instagram subject. People seem to love pictures of coffee. It’s a lovely, temperate Spring here in Southern California and the warm coffee on a slow afternoon was a comfort to me. Nothing profound, just comforting. The afternoon light made it better.

    As I navigate out of the plights of my last few years—my family loss, and figuring out what steps to take next—these moments are worth taking the time for. Thankfully, I am armed with a few good cameras to see me through.

    Matt

  • A Verdant Spring to Lift My Spirits

    As much as I want to be the go-getter type, I realize that this moment in my life is not about achievements or getting things done. Coming out of a big family tragedy like I have means my day consists of getting up, doing the work I need to get done for the day, and making sure I'm keeping a slower pace. I'm lucky to have the space to do so.

    The green all around me has inspired me. A few weeks of steady rain in Southern California (a brief, but necessary winter around these parts) have transformed a normally dry landscape into a verdant one. I'm old enough to remember when Spring actually felt like Spring around here. So to see it brings me such joy.

    A few images...

    A walk with Wally.

    The lovely California Poppy. These flowers actually close up in the evening time.

    A quick Sunday trip to the local farmer's market.

    Friends in the city ask me "where have you been?" and my answer is that I've been here. As much as I want to run from all that has been going on in my life, I actually run to these images. This much green has given me so much renewal.

    -Matt

  • Uplifting Spring Colors

    I've been going through a major shift after dealing a with a big family loss after the start of the new year. My family and I have been dealing with it fairly well, though we were in a battle with cancer for a good year and a half. We were rather worn out. Much of our community has come out to lift us up, even bringing flowers. I never was a big flower person. Sure, they are pretty and I like photographing them up close for a Georgia O'keefe moment, but I was never sure why people brought flowers when someone passes away.

    Now I do. Their bright, wonderful colors are so incredibly uplifting and inspiring to a visual person like myself. I have been spending time picking up the pieces after this family tragedy, and these blooms have been a big help in that process. Coming out of a fairly dark winter for Southern California, noticing more color in the Spring is also giving me new life from within.

    My longtime friend, full time mom, and fellow photographer, Punam Bean, invited me to my first ever Holi celebration at her home in Atwater Village. Part of the Holi festivities is throwing colored powder all over the place as a celebration of Spring beginning. Holidays like this are all over social media these days, but like I've mentioned before I tend to get a little uncomfortable appropriating a tradition that I never grew up with. The beauty of this day was that Punam made it a cultural education experience for the children and guests as part of her homeschooling program. It was an invitation to participate and not just snap photos.

    Winter light in California can be intriquing in it's own way, but once the days got a little longer and more light lingered in the evenings, I found myself enjoying smaller moments around the house.

    Feeling such inspiration from Spring colors was a bit unexpected for me, but I'll take it as a sign of brighter days to come.

    Matt

    Insta: @mattlara

    Twitter: @mattlara_

    My photography: www.MattLaraPhotography.com