Purveyor of RAD | Matt Draper

Replace Fear With Fascination | An interview with fine art photographer, Matt Draper

We met Matt last year in Venice. His story is truly inspiring, from humbling beginnings, he uses his images as a way to spread awareness about environmental issues. With a smile and beer in hand, he hints to us the trickle of selfish motivation as he goes into the feelings he gets when free diving and interacting with the largest animals in the world. Dive into the interview with Matt below!


Where are you from?

Born in New Zealand

Tell us about your first memories with the ocean?

My earliest memories are on summer vacations with my family. Before I could even walk, my dad bringing me into the ocean, I remember holding on to him so tight, felt like the biggest waves in the world. As I got a bit older brother and I used to swim out to the rocks and we’d get yelled at by our parents to not swim out that far. I have so many good early memories, we grew up at the beach, playing all day in the water until the sun went down and hearing mom calling us in for supper. 

What was your first job?

After I graduated, I got right into construction working in the mines. It was hard work but I like it, I got paid well, and was able to travel a lot during this time.

What made you break from the mines and start your photography career?

A few definitive moments over the years inspired me to break away from that work. I went on a sailing trip around the word and remember one day, I saw this wave break from underwater, ‘holy shit’ I yelled to my mate, I’ve never seen this sort displacement of energy. I ditched my board and just watched these waves breaking, I remember my mates fins go over me as he was getting barreled. I knew this is what I wanted to do for a living.

What happened next?

It wasn’t until 2 year after that sailing trip (3 years ago from today) I quit the mines and moved to Byron Bay my intention to become a surf photographer. I made some bracelets with my website on them and I would shoot surfers all day from the lineup. I'd get some photos of a surfer, paddle right up to them in the lineup and give them a wristband, they would email me later and I'd sell them the print, I was selling a lot of prints. 

How did the largest animals in the world come into play?

I began free diving and finding myself with these animals. Interacting with the biggest wildlife in the world, portrayed in the most natural and beautiful sense, I was hooked! 

Tell us about about the show you did in LA recently?

What an amazing night! I was going to be in LA and I connected with 'The Lost Explorer' who i’d previously helped in regards to a charity event in Paris where I donated prints. He hosted the show at his studio in Venice. I remember I had so many images and was having a hard time deciding which photos to feature. I decided to show a black and white series of the humpback whale. I chose 6 powerful images that capture this amazing animal. That was such a good night, hoping to do more shows in LA soon!

What do you love about free diving and documenting the biggest wildlife in the world?

I’m constantly learning about these animals everyday and sharing that knowledge with the community is rewarding.  I love capturing these moments underwater and revealing the importance of these animals and how we can all help preserve them. Also, for me, The freedom I get when I’m underwater with these animals is absolutely surreal, nothing compares. I love it.

What are you looking forward to most this year? 

I’m looking forward to putting together another series and doing more shows, hopefully in LA! 

Where can we check out your work?

You can follow me on Instagram and also check out my website 








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