Photos by Matt Cherubino
I’m in awe of kids with the audacity to tell their parents and educators to get stuffed and manage to invent themselves a career.
There’s a few common traits among them: brains, metaphorical balls and being good on the emails are a few. But mainly it’s drive and belief, things that Matt Cherubino has in abundance. The Melbourne local has successfully crafted himself as a travel photographer, one whose task it is to capture awe-inspiring images of seldom seen and remote parts of the world. It’s good work if you can get it.
Matt’s only 21 now, which makes the position he’s in all the more baffling. And if he’d stuck to the original plan of going to university in Melbourne he’d likely be graduating about now (provided he wasn’t conned into doing an honours year). Melbourne’s not a place bursting with the great outdoors, so it’s a little surprising that a lifelong Melbournite like Matt has chosen his particular career. When I put this question to Matt, he explains that it was the near(ish) coastline that kickstarted his transient love affair. “I’ve always lived about 25 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD so mountains, waves and all that sort of jazz aren’t really something that defines my day to day around here,” he says. “I’ve always gone down to the Great Ocean Road though, and that’s where I started picking up a board and a camera and that sort of thing. I wasn’t really into footy or cricket, so I ended up pursuing things that are really the polar opposite to the urban landscape. It was just about trying to get away from all that and try something new really.”
Although it was the rugged Victorian coastline that first awakened Matt’s passion, New Zealand’s the place that refined it and pushed Matt in the direction he’s taken. Fresh out of school, Matt took off around the South Island with a friend shooting photos, living on peanut butter sandwiches and revelling in his new found freedom. At this stage Matt was planning on attending uni, but found out that he’d cocked up his application. The last-minute opportunity to jump through the bureaucratic hoops required to enrol hit when Matt was about to go offline. In hindsight, a poignant cross-roads. “I wouldn’t have had wi-fi for three days, and it was my final decision,” Matt tells me. “I just emailed the lady back and said, ‘thanks for the opportunity, but I think I’m just going to have to pass,’ and drove on to Milford Sound.” So began Matt Cherubino’s photographic career.
“The next year was really about learning and throwing myself out there, practising skills, travelling overseas and seeing different things,” Matt says. “It was probably the best decision slash mistake that I could’ve made. It was a defining moment.” Instead of moving too quickly on the commercial front, Matt set about amassing a portfolio that he was proud of. In a matter that’s part fortunate timing and part expert utilising of a resource, Instagram was the tool that Matt used to share this work. “My mindset on the whole thing was that if it’s going to happen then it’s going to happen naturally, and I’m not going to try and force things and try too hard to make money out of it,” Matt says. “What came from that is that just by sharing these images with my audience, people started to see it. I wanted that really authentic approach and not to force stuff that I didn’t want to promote. And I turned down a lot.”
Matt’s under no false illusions as to the role that the world’s sixth most downloaded app has played in his career development, but plenty of aspiring photographers could learn from his approach. “I’m very selective in terms of the images that I share,” he says. “I could be posting a lot, but I don’t want to. I want to take a step back and look at the images that, to me, have purpose and meaning and those are the ones that I want to share. I don’t really want to get drawn into something that’s not me.” Matt has carried this mantra through to his commercial work, and it’s something that he enjoys the unique challenges of. “Where I really gain the most now is working for clients or doing work that not everyone sees,” Matt says. “The challenge of having someone’s vision and bringing it to life with my style, I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. It’s just a different challenge, but it’s shooting with a purpose and a meaning.”
It’s easy to be envious of someone in Matt’s position, but envy’s an ugly look. A clear vision, the courage to take risks and have a crack, and hard work are ultimately what’s worked for Matt Cherubino, and that’s a hard thing to fault. As for what’s next, Matt says that evolving his photography is always top of the list. “My initial images were just about showing people landscapes, but I want to extend and dive into that a bit deeper,” Matt says. “I want to do more action sports stuff, a bit of journalism; it’s just about having my own style and continuing to explore that. Wherever it takes me I’m pretty stoked to have that opportunity.”