One photographer's musings on the human experience

Friend Tribute: Matthew

Fuji X-T1, XF 35mm, ISO 200, 1/80th, F1.4

In 2016, I had the opportunity to meet up with an old friend of mine for dinner in Seattle who was in town for business from San Francisco.  I love Seattle for several reasons - I have dear friends there whom I visit from time to time, the city embodies everything great about the Pacific Northwest, it’s a rendezvous point for pals from Northern California, and it’s a fantastic backdrop for photography! 

My buddy Matthew was gracious enough to put up with my shutter button addiction as we had dinner, strolled through the streets and got caught up on life. It had been at least three years since we saw each other.  I love some of the images I got on this trip, particularly some of the portraits I shot of Matthew. I’ve decided to share shots from times like this through a series on the blog I’m calling ‘Friend Tributes.’ 

I met Matthew sometime around 2004 while I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I seem to recall we were both at a social event in the Sony Metreon south of Market in the bar upstairs.  I remember being struck by Matthew’s happy-go-lucky, down-to-earth attitude toward life and thinking, “man, this guy doesn’t worry about anything! How does he do that??” I can actually count the number of times I’ve seen Matthew stressed out on one hand. Well, maybe two, but it hasn’t been that often. He should probably be a poker rock star, but he’s not. The man holds down a steady gig in financial services and has a beautiful family. Matthew's brilliant wife, Milana, has also become a dear and supportive friend over the years.

Matthew epitomizes just about everything I appreciate about the Americans I am proud to call close friends. He is gregarious, welcoming, and unassuming (to this day, he does not have a Facebook account). But if I had to pick one thing in Matthew that I admire most, it is the balance he manages to strike between responsibility and irreverence. 

I tend to think there are two types of irreverence in this world: 1) the kind of irreverence that is disengaged and cynical, and 2) the kind that is well-adjusted - showing little concern for the drama that drives our news cycles, social media and other fleeting things to which many ascribe so much significance. Needless to say, Matthew’s brand of irreverence is the latter. As he would put it, "I just sweat the big stuff."

On a more recent visit to my home town, I had the privilege of seeing Matthew and Milana over dinner at Whistler Mountain. We caught up about everything, including where I’ve been at in life. The subject of my single relationship status came up, and as I started to present a well-crafted rationale for potentially holding off just a little longer to get a few more ducks in a row, Matthew called me on my B.S. “Brent, if you were still 34, I might buy it, but not now. Don’t even try to get away with that. You just gotta get out there man.” 

And so it is with long-time friends. Matthew can make me laugh at myself on a dime. It’s the reason I’m glad I have him, and people like him in my life for as long as I have. Time and familiarity in friendship have a way of becoming a mirror that offers perspective on the other and ourselves. There is no substitute for it, and it’s one of the things I’m most grateful for in life above all else. 

Matthew, you rock dude. Thanks for being in my life.

Brent Ross