My Cool Friends is a tribute to all the talented people I know doing rad things, just because they can. I want you to know about them. I want you to be inspired by them.
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Matt Girvan is the sort of human you can’t help but like. Polite. Consiensous. Caring. Highly intelligent but without a demeaning manner. He turned up at my door, at least three years since we had last crossed paths, and it was never easier to slide into engaging conversation with him.
Matt worked for four years as a consultant engineer for one of the biggest engineering companies in New Zealand. I have no doubt he was very, very good at his job. Just as he seemed destined for the white picket fence and quarter-acre dream, he quit.
He met up with his then girlfriend who had been studying in the US and travelled the US, Central America, and Europe. Ending up attending a Danish folk high school – a type of informal, fun boarding school for twenty-somethings to further their passions. It might sound like an “alternative”, ”hipster” or just straight-out weird place to end up. Initially, I was sceptical. But after talking to Matt I could see it had a profound effect on his outlook and had given him some very fond memories. Think of a Harry Potter-like school but at an age when you are past awkward teenage insecurities and know what you are really passionate about.
Matt has a range of talents from unicycling to filmmaking. But at the folk school he honed his photography and outdoor skills. I was blown away by some of the photos he started to post to his Instagram (@mattgirvanphoto). He admitted to me, in the most modest way possible, that his photography teacher had commented that Matt’s work was some of the best he had seen from a student.
Currently, Matt is on a four month hiking tour of Europe, armed with his camera, before settling down somewhere in the UK on his two year work visa. When I pressed Matt about if he really wanted to return to engineering, he replied that he thought he “missed being intellectually stimulated in that way” which I think is engineer speak for “I miss making money from being intellectually stimulated.”
In a different conversation he mentioned how part of him would like to take his photography “more seriously.” However, when he looked more deeply into how Instagram “works” or how people exploit its algorithms to gain popularity, he realised it might not be for him. The time and commitment involved in trying to get recognised was also daunting.
I think Matt’s work is excellent whether he keeps it as just a hobby or takes it to the next level. If you want to check it out go to @mattgirvanphoto and follow along with his adventures. I, personally, can’t wait to see where he ends up next.