Matthew Leavitt, brought up in New York City, has become one of Chatham County’s foremost nature photographers. “I love to be outside, enjoying nature and photographing its beauty. Birds – from the large – eagles – to the tiny – hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, dragonflies, otters, lizards, frogs, turtles and even the occasional landscape – I am a photographic opportunist,” Leavitt explains.
He has been taking pictures for over 50 years. “Someone gave me a Brownie camera when I was in high school,” he notes. He kept trading up to better cameras and continued his passion for photography in college. Matthew majored in Journalism at Boston University with a minor in Photojournalism. His education in the fundamentals is a signature of his work today. What makes his nature photographs stand out is the clarity of his images. “My subjects are precisely defined and the backgrounds are either sharp or undefined as I choose.” He accomplishes this by controlling the fundamentals of shutter speed, depth of field and aperture selection.
Leavitt pursued his craft as a hobby throughout his life. He owned four independent computer stores in Maine. As digital photography evolved, he began combining his computer knowledge and his interest in photography. Even so, Leavitt continues to concentrate on the purity of his subject matter. “I do very little post processing manipulation,” he explains. “I use Photoshop to crop the picture to focus on the bird or butterfly and sometimes to adjust the color balance to accurately reflect what I saw through the viewfinder.” “I photograph and display what I have seen – the natural world is too stunningly beautiful for me to modify it.”
Leavitt’s art does not intend a narrative or lesson. One exception came about during the Women’s Marches. He attended several and took pictures of the participants. The collection now resides as a Named Archive at the UNC North Carolina Archive.
Matthew says that his best quality as a nature photographer is patience. “I spend a lot of time just walking around places where I am pretty sure there is interesting nature,” he says. “It is everywhere.” Matthew’s haunts are centered near his home in Fearrington Village, Jordan Lake and the Haw River. “If you have seen an interesting subject once in a location, there is a high probability it will be there again.”
Leavitt’s work ranges in price from $5 for greeting cards to $250 for framed prints. He has shown his work in a number of area galleries and on his website www.matthewleavittphotography.com. He was the featured artist at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in summer 2018. He will make his debut in the Chatham Studio Tour the first two weekends of December.
People who want art that brings beauty and light into their lives will surely benefit from visiting his studio in the Historic District of Fearrington Village.
Interview by: Vidabeth Benson and Forrest Greenslade