Matt Paul Catalano | Photographer & Filmmaker


We caught up with Matt Paul Catalan from New Jersey, USA

 He likes to spend his time trying to create a life in and around the ocean, thinking up crazy artistic and business ideas, and making plans to travel and document this amazing planet and its huge array of culture.

What are the fondest memories from childhood/ upbringing that you feel impacted your life choices and lifestyle?

My father's passion for travel and his collection of amateur photography really inspired me to keep following that path.  My Dad loved fishing and camping and he instilled a lot of curiosity in us about the world.  Also, growing up on the beach helped fuel my interest and skillset to continue being a part of and photographing the ocean not only in NJ but around the world.  In general, the values of my parents and family and education at an early age taught me that we need to respect the world we live in and work together to protect it.

Are there any people who were particularly influential on your life or who inspired you?

I had a few friends who we're into surfing at an early age because of their older siblings and I was inspired by them to teach myself how to surf, even here in the 37 degree waters of NJ in the winter. I don't necessarily have a single person I can thank for being influential.  It is more of a collective whole of waterman, artists, etc that I've borrowed a page from each one of their books to create my own springboard and journey.

What 'learning path' did you chose after school? What other career options did you take before you found what you wanted to do? 

I was raised by my father to become a businessman, to have a career, and to live domestically.  And I think that to some degree when our parents push us in one direction sometimes we will reject that path in favor of another.  I had a lot of respect for my father and his values so I went down that path, went to college and took the corporate job.  However, I had already gotten a taste of the alternative lifestyle, a life that revolved around the ocean, traveling, art, and something more. Within a year of the corporate life I forced myself to change directions, to go down that alternative path to see where it would lead.  I was very lucky that the Internet had matured and the corporation I was with allowed me to complete my work "from home".  As such, I had an amazing balance of being able to travel the world, document the ocean and network in the surf community, and have a way to fund all of it.

How settled are you on your present path?

I'm not settled at all and I always have ideas in the back of my mind of how I can optimize my path and give back to the world.  For years now I have chased surf photography, placing much of my time in Hawaii for months out of the year to centralize myself in that world.  I am feeling an urge to put that aside and to focus on areas of the ocean and our world that can have a greater impact on our future here.

What future plans do you have?

For now, I'm going to continue to work in photography and cinematography and and around the ocean. As a freelancer I am constantly seeking out projects and collaborations with companies and other artists that I cross paths with.  I'd say my future is volatile and is susceptible to the environment around me.  I have a background in technology and information and have a few plans to utilize that skillset in some way in the near future as well.  

What 'battle' have you fought that you consider to be the most important?  

My greatest battle has always been with myself, a battle to be different and to continue on a path that I have no idea where it will eventually lead.

What would you most like to change in the world/environment? 

There is a large portion of our global population that lives in fear and competition not only because of environmental factors such as food and shelter but also because of the human condition; our cultural differences and natural tendencies for greed & power, jealousy, etc.  Our world is connected like never before and I think it is our time and our responsibility to educate ourselves as a whole and to work together towards sustainability.  If we don't we're simply working towards our own tipping point and self destruction.  We can't necessarily prevent any of that from happening but we can do our parts to try and protect the most important pillars in our world; such as the Ocean.

What do you value most in your life? 

I value most the ideals that I've been brought up with, my childhood, my education, and the network of family and friend's that I have built around the world.  When you combine all of them together it provides confidence and ambition to to just about anything.

How do you assess the impact you have on the important aspects of your life? 

That's a good question and I think that assessment is all relative in a way.  It's relative to how we see ourselves and how we judge our own happiness.  It's also relative to how we affect those around us as our impact on ourselves can often be seen as a reflection in others; in the way they interact with us.

What are the most important lessons you have learned?  

The biggest lesson I've learned so far is the important of balance.  In all aspects of life and decision making it doesn't always have to be one way or another and often the best answer is a blend of ideas.  I've also learned that it's just as important to respect yourself as it is to respect another and that no matter how much you respect the Ocean it always wins.

Are there any books that have guided your thinking? 

I used to read more when I was younger and now go through about a book a year sadly.  Although I am working on a book now called Papillon which is a true story about a wrongly accused murderer from France back in the 1930s who was sent to prison in South America and his attempts to escape.  I can't put my finger on a specific book or books that have guided my thinking but I can say that I do like reading non-fictional stories about travelers, explorers, and books such as "The Old Man and the Sea".  I like the stories that capture "man vs nature" dramas of life and also the feeling and experience of two cultures coming together for the first time and how that interaction pans out.  Perhaps it is my personality that has shaped which books I've read and I have yet to reverse that role and allow a book to shape me.  And with that said, I'm currently accepting recommendations for books.

What brings you the most joy? 

Many things; going on adventures with friends, sharing my experiences with others through visual storytelling, and setting out to complete a task or a journey and following through.

What legacy do you hope to leave?

I hope to inspire people to continue to respect and admire the ocean through photography and cinema.  If I do my job right we'll have additional funding, education, and global respect for our ocean and the creatures that live within it.  I also hope to continue to create original artistic perspectives that let people think differently.  If I can change the way people think about something; anything, then I've succeeded.