“To be able to be amazed on a regular basis – it’s not easy, but you can work on this, you can work on that garden in your mind.”

Matthieu Paley is a National Geographic photographer living between the remote and a small village on the Aegean coast in Turkey.

For the past 16 years Matthieu has embarked on assignments for various magazines all over the world, from the base camp of the highest unclimbed mountain in the world in Bhutan to Nauru, the world’s smallest republic in the middle of the Pacific ocean. He has published numerous books including a book on Siberia, a monograph on Mongolia, a commissioned book about Nomadic America and a crowd-funded book on the Evolution of Diet which started as a National Geographic assignment: documenting the lifestyle of self sufficient communities all over the world. His longest book project, “Pamir, Forgotten on the roof of the World”, lasted 12 years and began unexpectedly in 1999, on a high mountain pass on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Matthieu’s images have been exhibited in private galleries all over the world. He is a member of The Photo Society, a group of contributing photographers for National Geographic magazine, and is represented by National Geographic Creative.

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On being mindful and present

“You have to be mindful of what makes you happy. I knew that, for example, with social media, there’s aspect to it that kind of make me feel that I’m not doing enough as a photographer. Of course, if you look at Facebook feed and you see all this poppy, beautiful news of everybody winning prizes, and you’re sitting there in your village in Turkey, you can feel depressed. You need confidence and strength to be able to just remind yourself that this is not the case. You need to just be mindful if it affects your mental state.”

“This whole thing with Social Media, people are spending more time promoting themselves than being themselves. It’s kind of ironic.”

“Living in the moment is very difficult and it seems everything has been worked out now with technology to make you live forward and backward but not in it. “

“To be able to be amazed on a regular basis – it’s not easy, but you can work on this, you can work on that garden in your mind.”

“I learned to, when I’m home, be really there.”

On the element of surprise and pushing the limits

“I don’t think it’s good to know your equipment too well because you can’t surprise yourself visually.”

“If I surprise myself with the image I know the viewer will be surprised too, and that’s a good thing. I like to shoot in this situation where the camera is at its limit, in terms of technology or aperture, where there is barely any depths of field and you have to work with that.”

On storytelling and feeling

“It’s never a one-sided story. There’s always the other side. And it’s too easy to comply with what people want to hear about violence.”

“This job I did in Pakistan that was published three weeks ago, I shot it with a camera that cost 500 euros. It’s a little point and shoot. The point is the story. The point is not the equipment.”

“Your images should be drenched in feeling, I think, really drenched in it. From all levels, from whatever you are photographing to the way you prepare it.”

“I tend to pre-visualize a lot, even if I don’t know the place. Usually in bed at night before I fall asleep I start to see things.”

On earning the right to be an eye witness

“You know, it’s not only about getting the beautiful picture. It’s also about feeling that you deserve to be here and a witness of what’s going on. And to be able to live with it and not feel you’re raping or stealing that image.”

“I managed to slowly make my way into people’s hearts and people’s homes by being myself really.”

On overcoming self-doubt

“That doubt that I had at the beginning, as to whether I could really make a living out of it … my passion was replacing the doubt, slowly.”

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