We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Payne and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, what matters most to you?
The value that matters most to me can best be described as “pragmatic ethical consideration.” In our busy Western capitalistic society, we have all been trained from an early age to value results, performance, and money above all else. While this value system has resulted in great strides in technology, economic growth, and opportunity for many, it has also flipped the script on how we value individual humans, the natural world, and community. In my day-to-day life, I am constantly at odds with this tug-of-war, ranging from how I consume plastics, choosing what type of brands to purchase, how I consume fossil fuels to create new photographic artwork, what destinations I choose to travel to, or how I price my photographic artwork. It can be easy to simply ignore underlying economic disparities that exist in our world or to turn a blind eye to the devastation we cause to the planet in search of more fuel, more arable land vis-a-vis deforestation, or the scars inflicted upon the landscape through mining for the materials needed for batteries, metal, and cell phones. On the other hand, it would be almost impossible to decide to not participate in this by completely removing ourselves from modern society. As such, at my core I am always grappling with how to balance my personal needs with the amount of damage those decisions are causing, in a collective sense.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a nature and landscape photographer, I have chosen to specialize in capturing incredible moments here in our beautiful Colorado mountains. My parents took me on my first mountain climbing adventure at the age of 4, and I climbed my first 14,000 ft. peak at the age of 6. In my late 20’s, I made the conscious decision to pursue the goal of climbing the highest 100 mountains in Colorado while documenting my journey through photography. It was through this quest that my love for photography was kindled. In 2011, I purchased my first DSLR and the rest is history. I finished climbing all of the Colorado 14ers in 2012, and the highest 100 mountains in 2018. Through this pursuit, I had to learn basic mountaineering skills and put myself in many dangerous situations to capture my photographs from the summits of high jagged peaks at sunrise and sunset. I have a lot to owe other mountain climbers who helped me along the way, including Natalie Moran, Rick McBee, and others. Through this journey, I had quite a few brushes with near disaster and I have spent time dedicating myself to providing education to others on how to engage in Colorado mountaineering in a safe way. I also have learned that as humans we have a great amount of potential for achievement when we dedicate our energy to something in a passionate way. That is what I hope comes through in my photographs – my passion and excitement for the Colorado mountains and more broadly, nature and Mother Earth, which have given me so much to celebrate through my journey.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As someone who lives in Durango, Colorado, I would want to take my friend on a journey of backpacking into the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, starting with a trip to Steamworks Brewing for a burger (make mine a veggie burger since I am a vegetarian) and some beers. We would then take a trip on the Durango – Silverton Train and get off halfway to begin our backpacking journey into the Needle Mountains, where we would spend as much time as possible climbing mountains and frolicking with mountain goats, while capturing the immense beauty of the San Juan Mountains through photography.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
In my own journey, I have a lot to be thankful for. I was the first member of my extended family to attend college, which was made possible by my parents, who instilled in me the value of education and the pursuit of academic achievement. As such, I think the college professors at my undergraduate college, Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University), made a huge impact on my worldview and my ability to engage in critical thought. Specifically, one of my favorite professors was Dr. Christian Buys, who I was first introduced to in my Psychology 101 course, which solidified my desire to pursue a degree in Psychology.