In our modern world, money has become the corner stone of too many lives. We build careers not based on the callings of our hearts, but on the size of paychecks. We chase paper, so to speak, but not our passions.
But what happens when you challenge the status quo? When you challenge yourself to follow your dreams?
Ask photographer Matt Dayka, who is doing just that.
A self described “simple guy with complex thoughts”, Matt grew up in the coastal California town of Atascadero, with oak covered hills dotting the skyline and the beach a mere twenty minutes away. Atascadero looked and moved differently. Its small populous and sprawling nature provided the backdrop for Matt to grow a love for the natural world and creative thinking. An introvert at heart, Matt spent the majority of his childhood quietly observing his surroundings, painting in his mind warm toned, romantic scenes of life.
“I painted some beautiful images, saturated with a sense of freedom, expansiveness, longing and love,” he says. Eventually, those “saccharine feelings” created within Matt a longing to both share and physically express his personal visions.
A basic photography class in high school brought the outlet Matt sought. Through the lens, Matt shared his view of the world. However, he dismissed his new passion as just a hobby. To him, and his socially influenced ideas about success, photography as a career didn't seem promising enough.
The idea that what he loved to do was not feasible for a life-long job stayed with him until his twenty-first birthday. Just before he turned twenty-one, Matt asked himself a simple question: “What would I do with all the imaginary money I'd make in my unknown and dreaded nine-to-fiver?” He found the answer easily. He would retire early in order to travel with world with his camera, helping people in whatever way possible and recording the journey photographically.
That question, so simple at the time, showed Matt that money did not need to drive his life -- his passion did. With a dream recognized, Matt took the initial steps toward a photographer's life. He enrolled himself in the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. A few months later he took his first class. In 2005, he graduated with a bachelors degree in commercial photography.
But life as a photographer isn't always an easy one. Although he describes his career as always having been on an “upward arc”, Matt has also faced setbacks and challenges. The photography world has no real blueprints to follow. Matt was taught entirely on film so entering the digital world post-graduation was a road block. New business models were called for, with different pricing structures and constantly developing technologies to keep up with.
Resilience pays off, however. Five and half years ago Matt landed a job with Vitamin Angles, a company that brings much needed vitamins and minerals to people around the world who do not have access to proper nutrition. He traveled and continues to travel the world, documenting their projects and meeting people who continually reconstruct his entire understanding of life. Working with Vitamin Angels let Matt fulfill his dreams of helping and doing good, of reaching out and seeing life through the lens.
Matt feels lucky. He is surrounded by inspiration daily, from family, from friends, and from each individual he gets to meet through his camera. He gets to live out his passions, his needs for adventure, self expansion, and physical movement. But most of all, he gets to photograph, to do what it is that lies in his heart, and with a good conscience.
And all because he had guts enough to follow his dreams.