A Day in the Life of a Coffee Table Book Photographer

Jordan Matter’s love affair with photography began when he became captivated by the beauty of the view from a mountain peak. But he quickly realized that he didn’t have the photography skills or equipment to realize his vision for the shot. Soon afterward, he bought a DSLR and took a photography course.

“I saw my first print come up from the developer and I realized right then. It was like my halleluiah moment. I’ve been carrying a camera around ever sense.”

Now, Matter is a successful portrait, fashion, and wedding photographer based in New York whose Dancers Among Us and Athletes Among Us projects and respective coffee table books have thrust Matter and his work into the national spotlight. This video by filmmaker Martin Bentsen follows Matter through a normal shooting day filled with creative portraits, coffee, and serendipity:

Throughout the day, Matter encounters several situations that every photographer can relate to.

Situation #1

It’s those few terrible moments of indecision as you try to choose between arriving right on time to meet your client for a shoot or stopping to get a tasty cup of joe that will set you back a few minutes but likely boost your spidey senses and thus, the success of the shoot.

“If I have coffee, will the shoot be better?” Matter asks. In the end, it’s a no-brainer, and Matter meets his client buzzing.

Situation #2

You’re heading to a shoot and you have no preconceived ideas about how to photograph your client—or worse, you’re smack dab in the middle of a shoot and your creativity meter plummets to zero. Instead of opting for cliché poses that suck all of the energy right out of a shoot, heed Matter’s fantastic advice:

“Just allow the environment to inspire you to an idea,” he said. “You look around and see what’s available to you and what kind of story you want to tell and then you find a way to tell the story.”

jordan matter new york photographer portrait street coffee table dancers among us

Matter began his career shooting headshots for aspiring actors and actresses.

Situation #3

Like every good photographer, you’re resourceful—an expert in using your surroundings to inspire unique shots. But what happens when all of the little details don’t immediately fall into place after the first, second, or twenty-fifth take and your subjects are getting antsy? Matter doesn’t offer any wisdom here, except perhaps to enjoy the thrill of the chase:

“It’s just about finding the pose and getting the mood right and getting the money in the right place with the peace sign and everything and then she gets tired and you gotta keep going and you gotta hurry up because he wants to leave, but it was awesome!”

Situation #4

You’re doing your thing and then serendipity shows up and explodes your brain with epic. Someone stands up at just the right moment to balance your shot, a young couple gets engaged by the monument you’re photographing, or lightning flashes across the sky as Usain Bolt wins the 100m final in Moscow.

Or in Matter’s case, a random guy offers you his parrot for a photo prop, a rainbow the color of your model’s dress suddenly appears in the fountain spray above her, and a cop shuts down your crummy first-choice location and moves you to the perfect spot where your soccer player model can challenge four guys dressed up like superheroes to block his shots.

jordan matter athletes among us soccer times square new york

“Battle of the Superheroes” depicts pro soccer player Musa Shannon trying to score against four other supers.

“Serendipity is what this is all about, this project. It was all serendipity [today] and it was beautiful.”

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