Student Spotlight: Calvin Mattheis

Written by Elena Cruz, ViewFind

In 2015, Calvin Mattheis placed first in the Sports Portfolio category of the College Photographer of the Year 70 competition. In 2016, he did it again for CPOY 71. ViewFind spoke with Mattheis about his secret to success, as well as the journey he took to find it.

V.F.: Can you describe yourself as a photographer?

C.M.: I would say I’m always looking to make a lot out of nothing. Every day, especially in the photojournalism job, I’m sent out to the most mundane, boring, regular assignments. How do you find something interesting, something different, in a press conference or any regular assignment that we do?

I think you really have to just go and do what you believe and what you think is right. Don’t shoot and don’t submit what you think your editors and the judges would want. Shoot the way you see it. Shoot the way you like it.

V.F.: Would you consider yourself to be a sports photographer, or does this also apply to other realms of photography?

C.M.: When I picked up a camera for the first time in ninth grade in high school, I told myself, “I’m going to be a Getty Sports photographer.” Sports was something that I really thought I wanted to do for many years. I shot for Ohio Athletics, and when I shot for the school newspaper, I was always the first one to raise my hand to shoot sports. I think that helped propel me to begin working as a staff photographer at Ohio Athletics.

But as time went on and after these internships, I’ve come to realize variety is the spice of life. Right now, in this stage of my life, I don’t want to be shooting just sports; I want to be doing everything. Portraits, news assignments, breaking news, food photography and sports. I still love shooting sports; it’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy it, and if Getty Sports offered me a job I’d take it. But right now, I like the variety that a newspaper photojournalism job gets me.

V.F.: I’m going to narrow the topic down to the 2016 gold-winning sports portfolio that you submitted. Would you be able to describe how that looked for me?

C.M.: For most of those photos that I took for that portfolio, that sports portfolio that won last year, I think that’s when I truly found myself and found my style. Up until that point, I had been learning how to use light, learning how to use angles, recognizing moments and preparing for moments.

There’s a picture in there of some body builders backstage, and they have these big, rippling muscles and they’re in this dark, black background, and that was just another example of me anticipating the moment. … Now I recognize those moments, and that’s my style. I love dark, punchy images like that, so I pursue those things.

V.F.: How do you get access to these backstage locations, or to places photographers in the sports field don’t usually attend?

C.M.: People will work with you; you just have to ask. A lot of times people are just afraid to ask. What’s the worst that could happen? They could just say no.

V.F.: Did you have a team with you as you went along with these projects?

C.M.: For the most part, it’s always a one-man band. And I did pretty well with that, but I always work well with a team. As for mentors, increasingly now in the newspaper business especially with Gannett, there are no more real editors anymore, photo editors, so I kind of bounce off the other photographers.

V.F.: Would you recommend that other people submit to CPOY as well?

C.M.: I would definitely recommend it. I think it’s great to compete with your peers. It’s a really friendly competition. When I was at school and I won both times, it wasn’t like a rivalry or anything against me and my peers. It was like, “Calvin, that’s awesome, great job.” It gets your name out there, and I just think it’s a lot of fun; it’s friendly competition. You know, we’re all in this together. It’s a small photo community out there. And, yeah, I hope to win again this year. I’ll submit something.

V.F.: What are you planning on submitting?

C.M.: A lot of sports stuff, probably, because I shot a lot of sports. But, also, I’ve never won anything in the news categories or feature categories, so I’m going to try to do that. Who knows if I’ll win something in that because I haven’t before, but I’ll try.

V.F.: What are you doing now in between CPOY competitions?

C.M.: Well, this will be my last opportunity I have to enter CPOY because I graduated in December of 2016, but right now I’m interning in the Knoxville News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tennessee. But after that, we’ll see where the wind takes me.

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