Walking away from his corporate job to make a living off his hobby was a risk Matthew Khoury willingly took.
“It is probably one of the best things I did for myself,” says the self-made professional photographer. When he’s not taking spectacular shots of weddings for I-Do Jamaica magazine, he captures the beauty of Jamaica from unexpected angles that takes the breath away. He’s also done work in Trinidad, the United States, Barbados, and Canada.
“I always wanted to be able to stop time in a way that told a story at any point in time looking back. What I tell people is that moments don’t really become memories unless we create and capture them,” he says.
Khoury has been capturing moments for years, but it was about seven years ago that, acting on the advice of his father Edward, he purchased a camera and dived headlong into photography.
It was a bumpy start, he recalls.
“I didn’t find that there was as much support from the people I thought would support me,” Khoury explains. “Initially, a lot of my business came from networking and growing, and doing things almost in a charitable way for a little while, so to speak, and just being persistent at it.”
The feedback from clients has been a great booster, according to Khoury, who, over the years, took time to perfect his craft. The son of educator Odette Khoury, his goal is to be remembered for the impact he has been making on people’s lives.
“I was working a corporate nine-to-five job [at GraceKennedy] for a long time, and right through it I was taking pictures with my phone and getting a lot of good feedback,” he explains. “I didn’t actually go to any school for photography or for my craft as a creator. I picked this up as a hobby [I could do] with a phone and I eventually got my camera. I spent a lot of time learning online and learning from meeting different photography groups and sharing information.”
His goal is to have at least half of his clientele located outside Jamaica.
“I want to continue growing my business to an international level,” he tells LetsTravelCaribbean.com.
For him, photography is not all about the dollars and cents. It’s also about living his passion.
“Being happy is really important,” he says. “I have the freedom to enjoy what I do, being compensated for it, and also have the flexibility to meet new people and go different places instead of being confined by the walls of an office or a scheduled nine-to-five [job]. Sometimes it really means working 12 to 12, but sometimes it means not working for a day.”
Khoury is not oblivious to the changing nature of the industry in which he operates and that he competes with anyone who owns a smartphone.
“It is a much harder space to be in when you have social media applications, phones that are getting real good and giving people that ability to do it and not necessary respect the craft,” the photographer reasons. “You really have to prove yourself and know your worth is not just what somebody could take with an iPhone.”
But, then again, he’s never shied away from a challenge… or hard work.
Born and raised in a Christian family in Kingston, he has memories of an adventurous childhood, a blend of water surfing and work.
“My parents always sort of ensured that I worked whenever I was not in school. I had to work hard. Nobody had a family business, and so there was nothing for me to kind of work into,” Khoury says. “I had a good childhood, good friends; I remember good things; school days were good. Jamaica was great. Growing up in a country that offers so much to see and do was really a blessing.”
Studies at Hillel Academy and Campion College were followed by a degree in business and real estate management from the University of Guelph in Canada.
Before becoming immersed in photography, he had a string of odd jobs — the first of which was as an intern at Appliance Traders Limited. At one point, Khoury even made and sold beaded bracelets.
With photography now his forte, he encourages aspiring shutterbugs to chase their dreams, but to do it wisely.
“I would encourage people who really are committed to the craft and are willing to work hard for a long time to go after it; but maybe not to start out without another job,” Khoury says with a wry chuckle.
Text: Horace Mills