Matt, the music nerd - How to make environmental portraits

Matt Joyner, self-described music nerd, working at Crooked Beat Records in Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.You might say that Matt Joyner moved to DC on a whim. The conversation that brought him back went something like this. 

“Hey, what are you doing?” 


“Wanna move to DC?”

“Yeah, Man. Might as well.”

And with that invitation, Matt, the self proclaimed music nerd, moved from Oregon, across country, to work at Crooked Beat Records in Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C. 

“Hey, why not. It sounded fun,” he says. “Great people work here. Great people come in here, and it’s an excuse to hear good music all the time.”

In all fairness, he’d lived in DC and worked at Crooked Beat years before, but the call was just what he needed to instigate a homecoming. 

Crooked Beat Records, nestled on Adams Morgan’s eclectic 18th Street strip, is one of the last places you can go to hear music on vinyl. The cozy basement store is lined with stacks of original and new-release LPs, and for those who remember how to use one, a turntable to spin the classics.

I wanted to shoot Matt in an environmental portrait style -- meaning it’s a photo of your subject with enough of his surroundings to give you some context about him and his personality. 

When we talked, Matt was standing at the register, but the clutter of posters behind him was far too distracting.

A far better option was the rows of albums just off to his right. What better way to say music store. I posed him adjacent to the records. An extremely wide F-stop knocked everything out of focus just enough to give us an idea where he is standing, yet still allowing us to focus all our attention on him.  

The extremely tight crop allows him to dominate the frame and leaves no guess that he is the subject. Just a few snaps, and I felt I’d captured the essence of the guy who would travel across the country to follow a passion for music.

I don’t remember what was playing during our shoot, but Matt says his musical tastes run a wide range. “This morning, I was listening to nothing but Neil Young and the B-52s,” he says. “What’s the best music to wash dishes to? The talking heads.”

That sounds about right.