The allure of the rockstar lifestyle is easily explained: fame, travel, appreciation, adoration, influence, and experiences that are easily reserved for the very, very few. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to be a rockstar. Despite our curiosity about the ins and outs of what that lifestyle is like, very few of us will ever be able live it. So what’s the next best thing? We want to read everything we can about celebrities. We want to hear from their friends about what it’s “actually like.” We watch every video and dissect every photograph just for a glimpse into this lifestyle as we imagine ourselves in their shoes. If you can’t be a rockstar, why not travel with one, photographing their exploits and making videos?
That’s what photographer and videographer Matt Robertson has done with his company Lakewood Creative. He’s living the dream by documenting it, most notably shooting Kid Cudi’s tour and Kanye West in Paris.
Matt may be following around the world’s biggest celebrities today, but he wasn’t always. Matt is from Oregon. In his own words, “Oregon wasn’t the best place for music.” To kickstart his love of photography, he started shooting his friends snowboarding up on Mount Hood when he was just 15. “They were all and to this day very talented skiers and snowboarders,” he says. “It was fun, very relaxed and natural way to begin my passion.”
Leaning how to capture their movements as well as the scenes behind them, Matt was fostering his talents and his eye. The similarities between actions sports photography and music may not have been immediately clear, but Matt knew that his passions would be most satiated by seeking out the music scene – and that would mean leaving Oregon. “I had heard bits and pieces of the life in Los Angeles,” he says, “but was so wrapped up focusing on chasing the perfect snow storm I didn’t even bother.”
After that, things fell into place.
“It wasn’t until in 2011 I decided to road trip down the coast touring with some good buddies of mine. They’re now called Flor, check them out. They introduced me to some big managers and next thing you know I’m on the road touring with Selena Gomez & Allstar Weekend.” Sounds pretty simple, no? Matt’s story may sound like one born out of luck or happenstance, but, more truthfully, it’s a story born out radical self-reliance. Matt knew what he wanted and he jumped for it without knowing exactly where he’d land.
Working together with some friends, Matt created Lakewood Creative – the agency responsible for the shots that make us all envy the rockstar lifestyle. “Lakewood Creative is my creative push to establish myself along with some of my good friends creatively. I’m a firm believer in the “do it yourself” mindset and for me I want to be my own boss.” He’s even got a bit of that rockstar lifestyle himself: “It’s a collective, a group of friends under one roof.”
One thing led to another. Each shoot brought Matt and Lakewood Creative one step closer to establishing their legitimacy in the music scene. Knowing that “music photography is building its own social power, Matt and crew were eventually touring with Kid Cudi. Kid Cudi, in case you’ve missed the past decade in hiphop, is responsible for hits like the college banger ‘Day ‘N’ Nite’, chart topper ‘Pursuit of Happiness’, and mood booster ‘Up Up and Away’ – to name a few. If all of this sounds pretty cool, don’t worry. Matt knows it.
“Working with Kid Cudi has been a wild dream of mine,” he says. “For one I am a huge fan of GOOD music, Kanye, all those cats. Creatively they are on another level. Day ‘N’ Night was also a huge song in high school days that really got me hyped up. Add a very visually interesting stage, and an all time great performer – it’s the perfect storm.”
But make no mistake; all the glamor and excess of touring can be taxing.
“Touring can be great. When there’s a good budget and a fun crew, there’s really not much to complain about. Nice hotels, new buses, car services everywhere. But early morning flights and back to back can be straining on sleep.” But it’s probably not so bad. “It’s always great collaborating with artists. It’s the like minded connection that really makes every project unique and creative. The challenge of aligning my vision with the artists… It can be very touching.”
Throughout personal projects, touring, and the occasional show, Matt et all make sure that they balance the needs of great gear with the speed and versatility they need. For anyone aspiring to be like Matt, an understanding of this balance is vital. It’s not all about quality. When Matt is looking for quality, the Sony a7 line is his first pick. “If it’s not Sony, then I bounce back to the Canon 5D with some nice Zeiss or L series glass on it. Always pulls through when I need the top quality.”
So, what’s been the main key to all of Matt’s success? He’s not shy to share: it’s about shooting, shooting, shooting. “I’ve found (and seen for myself) that social media heavy photographers can’t adapt, shoot, or frame up shots outside of their safety zone. I’m not focused on gaining followers and instead focus more on shooting everyday. That’s the best way to push your skill level.”
That’s how Matt got to be a rockstar in his own right: practice, dedication, and an innate understanding of his interests and passions. When you think about it, successful rockstars, photographers, and creatives all have those traits in common. As Matt captures these theatrical moments on stage, he hopes that they tell a story that expresses who each artist is and his/her brand. His skill is capturing glimpses of a lifestyle he’s tasted and one the rest of us are thirsty for.
You can learn more about Matt Robertson and Lakewood Creative here.