We had the good fortune of connecting with Mattson Culbert and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mattson, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Work life balance has changed over time for myself dramatically since becoming a stay at home parent five and half years ago. In some ways I have more free time to pursue my photography career taking my daughter along with me sometimes. Other times I have to make sure photo shoots or certain projects don’t interfere with her lifestyle and attention. Since lockdown in March 2020 we have been together every day so I haven’t had the ability to drop her off at school like before. I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve been pickier about who and what projects I want to work on. Especially if they interfere with time I need to spend with my daughter and making sure she is getting what she needs. I know any freelancer/parent struggles with this at times but my family is always my first priority. For anyone that takes care of young children it’s hard to make time for your career. But you have to remind yourself they won’t be kids forever. I’m trying to enjoy the special moments with her as much as I can now so I have no regrets there but still make time for my photography career when I can too. You never want to lose sight of your sense of self and purpose also even as a parent.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Mattson Culbert Photography or @iammattson on Instagram is my freelance photography business. I specialize in ocean, beach, surfing, travel, and lifestyle photography along with some video work. I think what has really set me apart especially in the last three years is trying to focus on a small area of the San Diego surf communities in Pacific Beach and La Jolla. I do head to some other beaches once in a while but with limited time I’ve focused on the individuals that primarily surf at Tourmaline Surf Park in PB, La Jolla Shores, and some other surrounding spots where I will always run into a familiar face or friend. My wife has an ongoing joke that we can’t go to a beach here without me running into someone I know. People will see me in the water shooting and ask if I am that @iammattson guy too once in a while Haha. It’s also lead to some interesting dinners where people that follow my work online have stopped to talk with me and I’ve had some pleasant chats with. Another thing people really know me for is having a really great knowledge of what beaches to shoot at when there is swell. I have studied swell charts, wind directions, swell angles, tides and times of day to maximize the best time to get good photographs meticulously. I tend to get the bulk of my best work in the months of October-January. Shooting surfing and the beach lifestyle hasn’t always been easy because it’s not a very lucrative sort of thing to do. I think maintaining passion for the ocean and the people that are as dedicated to it as myself has always been a driving force. The ocean is a scary place for a lot of people especially shooting photographs in it. I have dealt with rip currents, cut up feet from rocks, five sting ray Stings, surfboards flying at my head, surfers ear, freezing cold water, early mornings, busted equipment, rumored shark sightings, and numerous other risks. Shooting surfing and the ocean has given me so many great friends over the years and life lessons. It’s the one place I can clear my mind and focus on the current moment with no distractions. My work has evolved lately and I’ve been giving the spotlight to more of my female friends the last few years that has been very rewarding. I have felt proud to showcase so many diverse and strong female surfers with a voice my daughter can aspire to be like to one day. I just wanted to be remembered for being a good friend, nice positive person, respected by my peers for my work, a great husband, and father. Hopefully someone many people have fond memories of shooting with and sharing waves.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Luckily living in San Diego many friends want to visit you (before Covid-19). If a good friend that has never been to San Diego wanted to really see the area it has no shortage of great beaches, food, and things to see for all ages. One place I always take people that have never been is Cabrillo National Monument to see one the best overviews of downtown San Diego and the tidepools below especially on a low tide. If the friend wanted to go surfing I typically would take them to Tourmaline Surf Park in Pacific Beach because of the great tight knit surf community or La Jolla shores. There are so many great seafood and Mexican food spots in San Diego it’s hard to list them all but Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill in Misssion Hills is a place I take everyone that visits or the Farmers Market at Liberty Station in Point Loma. I am a huge fan of sunsets and Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach, the Gliderport in La Jolla, Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach, and Hospitals tidepools are some of my favorites to get photos of or take a friend. I do love North County San Diego also so a trip to the meditation gardens overlooking Swamis at the SRF center in Encinitas is a must see. Cardiff by the Sea and Encinitas has a lot of great beaches and family friendly spots also. I typically tend to stay close to the coast when friends and family visit and they seem to be happy with that. The negative low tides in winter afternoons are some of my favorite to explore for shells and sea glass with my daughter. Since I have a young family we tend to keep things on the mellow side so a trip to Balboa Park is also a hotspot for a lot of visitors. The area I live in Mission Hills has a lot of great old historical houses and the oldest nursery in San Diego that many enjoy also.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost I owe my creative spirit and outlook on the world to my mother Becky. She is a very talented artist, painter, seamstress, scrapbooker, and illustrator. She has always encouraged my sister and myself to find creative ways to express ourselves. I have been drawing and painting since I was a toddler and it lead to photography and filmmaking eventually. My father also who introduced me to the ocean and the surfing lifestyle I owe so much to because the bulk of my work and life are because of him. Moving to San Diego six and half years ago helped my craft grow in leaps and bounds. It helped me meet so many other talented photographers in this community especially in surfing and film photographers groups. There are too many to name but it’s lead to some great friendships, collaborations, and new challenges. My wife has also always pushed me to get the best out of my ability and work. It’s lead to being more successful each year with print sales and connections. As far as fellow photographers I’ve gained so much knowledge online from recently Chase Jarvis the founder of Creative Live has had a bigger impact on me than anyone. He made me really look at my work and career in a whole new way the last 5 years since learning about him. Gary Vee’s marketing advice and podcast has also been extremely helpful for me. There are so many other influential fellow photographers I’ve made friendships with on Instagram locally and worldwide that have also helped me grow. Most of all my daughter is my muse and the person that makes me want to do better each year. I want to leave a legacy of my work she can look at one day and be proud of me for.
All photos by Mattson Culbert