December 15, 2015
Noma blue x Matt Draper photography
Almost a year ago, I picked up the phone and dialled Australia.
I shared my dream for Noma Blue with Matt, highlighting works and people of the sea who make a difference in a unique and inspiring way.
Besides his beautiful Photography, Matt’s humility, passion and kindness confirmed my instincts.
Behind the camera was someone truly engaged with the ocean, so I set about finding what makes him the man he is today and how this journey started.
Jessy x Matt
When Matt speaks of his childhood, the bond he shares with his mother, a nurse who took her Padi before he did, shines through.
‘As a child we would walk down to the beach with my family, I remember carrying our lunch with my brother, the weight of the cooler box containing enough homemade food and refreshments for the day.’
‘My father would always take me out into the open ocean with him and encourage me to swim a little further, pushing me to discover my boundaries and experience it fully’
Matt did not grow up at a beach house, riding waves and hanging out.
He was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, in a happy home with hard working parents at the helm, parents who believe in kindness and discipline.
The road travelled to where he is today was not always an easy one, he has and continues to work hard at realising the life he wants for himself.
After leaving school and until roughly three years ago matt worked in the mines.
Twenty-eight straight days at a time located in one of the harshest climates in the world, Pilbara desert of Western Australia.
It could not have been further from the Ocean.
This life, although financially rewarding was not the path for Matt.
Salt water calling, he packed his bags and headed to Byron Bay where he bought a camera, paddled out into the surf and started documenting.
‘With my fins, I would swim out through the waves and take pictures of the surfers, I had made up wristbands with a pirate skull and my email, they would get in touch and that’s how I started’
‘One day I ventured out a little further and found a fringing reef, turtles swimming all around me, I was just a kid from NZ, a carpenter who had never seen turtles before, it made an impact.’
So his journey began, free-diving whenever there was time, discovering turtles, rays, whales and sharks.
A self-taught explorer, Matt continues to adventure deeper and further in awe of these amazing creatures of the sea.
‘free-diving is like flying, the stillness and peace is incredible’
His most recent adventure was following the whale migration for the second time in two years, how he got there?
A whale was in trouble on the beach in Byron Bay.
Girls linked to a conservation group got in touch, having seen his images.
A couple of days and a few conservationists later, one of these asked if he would like to join the crew for the annual whale migration in the kingdom of Tonga.
Grateful for this opportunity and meeting Scott Portelli, a fellow Photographer he admires and respects, it seems Tonga came at just the right time for Matt both spiritually and professionally.
Life sometimes smiles with us.
The images Matt came home with amongst others have earned him the respect he deserves amongst his piers and across our oceans.
Clean and powerful, they inspire change in our fear of the unknown.
His hope - FEAR TO FASCINATION
What else can we do to engage and help our oceans? I ask
‘ single use plastic is so easy to avoid, a reusable water bottle is a good start, saying no to plastic bags, small gestures go a long way’
Creating awareness and insight, we are proud to welcome Matt as our first Noma blue tribe member.
True to our values and ethics, the oceans song resonates in the rhythm of his life and the purity of his images.
The sea is a part of who he is, what he believes in and what he strives for.
After 18 months of hard work, Matt has now travelled halfway around the world building his portfolio, from the Humpback’s migrating in Tonga to tiger sharks in Hawaii.
Matt’s photography is starting to speak for itself, we look forward to being a part of this journey and taking you along for the ride….. did someone say Tonga?
Interview you x blue
Every three months we ask a creative conservation artist their likes and idiosyncrasies. Read about what inspires them, and how they might inspire you...
What is your first memory of the ocean?
Being held in my Dads arms on a warm summers day in New Zealand. He would take me out in what I thought were the biggest waves on planet Earth then I would hold on to his shoulders and we would body surf in.
If you could take three things to a desert island, what would they be?
A lighter, a knife and Tom Hanks
What is your favourite film?
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas & Point Break are equal favourites.
What is your favourite tale/story/book?
What is your most treasured possession?
My Pounamu necklace made from New Zealand Greenstone from my mother, which protects me.
What is the place you dream of exploring?
Back to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India
Which person do you most admire?
What do you value most in your friends?
Treating me for who I am and always supporting what I do.
Which talent would you like most to have?
To be able to speak every language in the world.
What do you fear and how do you fight that fear?
Believe or not, flying. The best way to get over any fear is by doing what you fear most. I travel a lot.
What is your special ocean place or beach?
A secret spot on the South East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
Where is your favourite tree?
Margaret River, Western Australia.
What is your most treasured memory?
Every last moment I spend in the ocean.
Where is home?
Byron Bay, Australia.
First on your bucket list?
Swim with a Great White Shark.
A song that makes you smile?
Listen to the Music, The Doobie Brothers
A song that makes you dance?
Pharrell Williams – Happy
What is your animal?
An Eagle Ray
How does growth and economy hold hands with conservation and preservation?
To be honest I don’t think they go together at all. Too many people are willing to sacrifice our environment to profit off an ever-growing economy.
What can we do to make a difference?
Stop buying plastic bottled water and using plastic bags is a good start.
What is a good life?
For me, to be in the ocean as much as I can, to share my experiences with the people I love, to be willing to learn and grow as a person.
What do you hope for?
A healthy ocean.
What has been your favourite adventure?
Sailing around Asia for 3 months.
If you could be in any place in the world right now?
Where I am, Byron Bay, Australia. About to pack my diving gear for tomorrow.
What legacy would you like to leave behind?
If my images can in some way encourage people to love the ocean, not fear it. To try protect it and not destroy it.
Matt welcome to our tribe ...
Meet Matt Draper
My name is Matthew Draper; I am originally from New Zealand and now live in the small beach side community of Byron Bay, Australia.
With an interest in photojournalism and ocean imagery, photography has allowed me to travel to remote areas of the world-documenting subjects for the purpose of education and positive change for the environment. I started practising underwater photography early in 2014 and ever since have endeavoured to use my photographs as a way to spread awareness about environmental issues as well as foster love for the ocean by replacing fear with fascination. I am a proud ambassador for TAKE 3 – a clean beach initiative and a contributing photographer to Made of Ocean.
Self-taught, I really try to capture my subjects for what they are, allowing people to see the raw beauty behind my images. I pride myself in using only natural light when available added with my free-diving capabilities; this makes for minimal disturbance when photographing marine life.
For the second year in a row now, I have travelled to the Vava’u island group in the Kingdom of Tonga to photograph the annual Humpback whale migration.
Every year from the end of July to October, Humpback whales visit the tropical northern islands of Tonga. They migrate to these waters in large numbers to mate and give birth.