Matoli Keely

February 24, 2021

Matoli Keely is an incredibly talented & sweet photographer based in Southern California. Her work has been internationally features in top publications both online and in print all over the world.

I LOVE to moodyness and emotional depth to Matoli’s work & I know you are going to fall in love with it just as I have.

You can see more of Matoli’s work by visiting her website and following her on IG. And then you can get to know Lynn a little better by reading our little interview with her below & soaking up a few of her favorite images.

website | IG

1. Share with us a little bit about your journey with photography and how/why you started building your business?  

If you asked my family, being a photographer was the furthest thing they could have ever imagined for me. It took them a while to stop calling it my “little photography thing” and to acknowledging all the work I had put into it over the years and see the rewards from it. Don’t get me wrong, my family is very supportive, it’s  just that I was on the medical school track and having a creative in my very traditional African family was a surprise for everyone. 

I started my business while completing my Masters Degree in Biotechnology and since then it has been quite a wild ride with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. My interests, passions and inspirations have changed along the way, but my love for photography has been steadfast.

2. What niche do you specialize in and why did you choose that path?

One of the earliest photographs I remember seeing as a child happened to be my parents wedding photos. What I loved was that behind every photograph was a story that I would hear over and over. I remember as a child always fascinated by the fact that my parents could remember so much from just a single picture even though they were so old.

That is what the power of photography is, these moments captured, narratives created, emotions frozen in time for us to reminisce, laugh, cry and relive over and over again. It is easy to see why I was naturally drawn to wedding photography as a specialty, but also fashion and editorial portraiture which has been a long standing love of mind since I first saw Peter Lindbergh’s iconic Vogue cover in the 90’s  as a kid in Cameroon. I have found a healthy balance between nurturing my love for capturing wedding love stories and also my creative outlet in editorial portraiture.

3. What is the best piece of advice you can give someone in our industry, new or seasoned?

Never stop pushing yourself and experimenting with new techniques, styles and personal projects that help you continuously enhance your skills.  I love experimenting and having fun with photography and with every failure, I have learned something valuable in return.

4. Who are three photographers that inspire you & why?

Tyler Mitchel – for his documentary storytelling approach which strives to change perceptions of the black community

Deun Ivory – for her portraits of women which I find absolutely captivating

Nirav Patel – for his storytelling cinematic portraits that constantly leave me breathless

5. Will you share with us one fun or unique fact about yourself.

I’m a science nerd, my background is in drug development, working on everything from cancer, HIV and even vaccine development.

6. What would you say is the hardest obstacle you had to face as a black photographer?

There are constant obstacles to being a black photographer not just in the wedding industry but broadly in the artistic creative world. One of the hardest obstacles for me in the wedding industry is not being able to defend myself or correct others during weddings when I experience instances of racism and prejudice. I am forced to laugh off offensive and derogatory comments because any reaction I give would make the situation worse and risk my reputation and business. I have a little mental handbook of remarks for a quick but polite rebuttal and of course a pleasant smile on standby for these moments. Here are a handful of examples, but there are countless more:  

  • “You did not sound black on the phone”
  • Often having my white second shooters approached first as the lead photographer with the assumption that I am only the assistant.
  • Having my hair touched by strangers asking if it is real.
  • An elderly gentleman during the reception asked to take a photo with me because when he was younger, he was not allowed to talk to people like me.
  • Being called “the help” by a brides grandmother

I hope that you loved learning about another photographer in our industry & keep an eye out each week as we continue to highlight all the talent that fills it.

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