Civil Engineering undergrad pursues photography passion, explores Toronto through the lens

Photo by: Matthew Tran.
Photo by: Matthew Tran.

Matthew Tran was born and raised in Toronto. He’s enrolled in Ryerson University’s undergrad Civil Engineering program and when he’s not busy studying, Matthew is out taking photos. He’s been published on various Instagram accounts, including @PeaceCollective, @TopTorontoPhoto and @ThankYouToronto. For Matthew, taking pictures is all about expression.

His photographs are mainly of various spaces and places in Toronto, but he works with friends across the country, like @JarekXenos of Vancouver, to share the beauty in other Canadian cities.

Here’s Matthew’s story:

1. What is your favourite place to shoot in Toronto?

My favourite locations to shoot in Toronto would be the Financial District and Centre Island. As a student, I don’t have much time to go explore the outskirts of the city so I like to contrast between the two. Centre Island gives off a nature feel without the need to commute six hours up north.

2. What about photography intrigues you?

Photography to me is a sense of freedom. Urban exploration was what fascinated me the most. Flipping through different photos on Instagram is sort of like a scavenger hunt, sometimes I go through looking for inspiration and I go out with the intention of finding the same spot and putting my own twist on the shot to make it my own, and then sometimes you never know what you’re going to find. That feeling of excitement is what inspires me to go out and shoot whenever I can!

3. What motivates you to keep taking photos, to this day?

Every photographer I have had the pleasure of shooting and working with really has inspired me greatly and has helped improve my work substantially. I don’t really have any inspirational stories to share, but I have inspirational people that surround me all the time and this build-up of positive energy and encouragement drives me and pushes me to keep taking photos. Just goes to show, surround yourself with the right people and only good things will happen.

4. I’ve seen your photographs on various Instagram accounts – congratulations! How do you connect with various companies and brands to share your art and photos? How does Instagram help you do this?

Other than Peace Collective, I pretty much tag different pages on each of my photos. That’s the method I use to connect with these large-scale companies. With Peace Collective, I reached out to them through Instagram expecting literally no response. It was a shot in the dark, but they really liked my content and accepted me as a brand ambassador for their company. Instagram has really helped me reach new heights that I would have never on my own. This platform really amazes me each and every day; the power it contains in terms of connecting people is astonishing.

5. When did you start taking photos?

I started taking photos the summer of 2015, so it’s been a few months.

6. What’s the best part about getting to take photos and share them with Canada?

I’m able to reach a much broader audience. Every time I get featured on pages such as @StreetsofToronto, @TopTorontoPhoto, etc., is really humbling. The comments that people from across Canada leave on my posts really push and drive me to continue doing this whole photography thing. Even being able to share my story on this website is something that I have never would have imagined myself doing.

7. What would you say is the hardest part of your role?

The hardest part of my role is staying fresh and original and learning to stay disciplined. You can go out and take 200 to 300 shots a day, but the key thing is to make sure that you only post photos that inspire you and that you 120 per cent like. Every new photo that I post is with the intent that it’s better than my last or that it’s different from my last. Always go out with the mindset, “I’m going to improve myself.”

8. What’s one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned so far?

One thing I’ve learned is to always scout locations prior to going out, otherwise you might end up wasting a whole day’s worth of shooting. Sometimes you may get awesome shots out of the blue (which are by far my favourite) but that’s not always the case. Trip planning is always important and the one thing you are able to control, any uncertainties are just things that follow along.

9. What would you tell to other up and coming Canadian photographers?

Just do it. Pick up your phones or whatever you have lying around the house that is capable of taking photos and go outside and explore your surroundings. Even if you’re not a photography major and you want to pick this up as a hobby, go and do it, I mean look at me, I study civil engineering and I take photos, that’s crazy talk. Each moment you spend contemplating could be a moment where you’re outside taking photos! So just go out, grab a friend or two and enjoy the moments you capture through the art of photography.

10. What would you like our readers to take away from this interview?

If you really want to pursue a goal in life it begins with a foundation. Great photographers were not built overnight. You really have to put some sort of dedication to this, but don’t let anything overwhelm you. At the time of this article being posted, I am nothing but a small photographer, but I have high hopes of somehow making it big one day. Just work on improving yourself, surrounding yourself with the right people and good things will come along!

Thank you, Matthew, for sharing your story with us! Congratulations on your success, so far. We can’t wait to see more of your photos!

Follow Matthew’s journey with photography on Instagram with us!

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