Matt Odom loves telling people’s stories through unique perspectives. The Macon photographer is thriving in a career that doesn’t feel like work to him, and he enjoys the challenges and the day-to-day variety that his assignments bring.
Here are five things to know about this 2011 Mercer University graduate.
1. He started out in event photography.
Odom started out as a commercial TV producer, where he learned basic photography skills and tricks of the trade. As he worked full-time gigs as a child support enforcement officer for the state and then a parent engagement officer for the Bibb County School District, he started doing club and late-night photography and then weddings.
He wasn’t sure if he could make it as a full-time photographer, but his push came when he was laid off from his other job. He started shooting for Macon Magazine, and his career took off from there.
“I just stuck with it. I’m blessed to be where I am now,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I enjoy what I do. It doesn’t feel like work. When it doesn’t feel like work, that’s what you want to do.”
2. His work varies from portraits to industrial.
Odom said he’s known for his portraits but is a jack of all trades. He does industrial photography — taking pictures of people working in industrial or business settings — as well as agriculture and architecture. His expertise in portraits carries over into all of his work, as he captures people in their element.
Odom just started a personal photography project on Black farmers in the South, and he will pursue a series on Black hunters in the fall. His past personal projects include “Daybreak: Profiles of Poverty,” “Overcoming Coronavirus,” “Que-Riosity: Georgia BBQ,” “The Playoff Push” and “Kings of the Ring.”
“I like photographing people who have really good stories to tell,” Odom said.
3. He loves a challenge.
Today, Odom travels across the country for his work. He feels fortunate to be at a point in his career where his reputation precedes him, clients reach out to him directly, and he can choose what projects he wants to pursue.
He has taken photos for high-profile clients such as Bloomberg, Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, NPR, Google, Comcast, Dell, Home and Garden TV and Food Network. Odom couldn’t reveal specific details but said he was involved in a “massive project” last fall that will be released in October.
“If I do something over and over, I get bored and I want to move on. When I do this, nothing is ever the same,” said Odom, who has also freelanced for Mercer in the past. “No person I photograph is ever the same. No shot that I photograph is ever the same. The shoots always present something different and challenging.”
Odom’s proudest accomplishment so far is working for National Geographic, a longtime dream of his. For this assignment, he took photos of Bryan Stevensen, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. That project led to Odom later photographing The Legacy Museum for Stevenson.
4. He enjoys mentoring others.
Odom is mentoring more people now and likes being able to offer advice from his career experiences. He encouraged anybody going into an artistic field to take business classes. The courses aren’t always glamorous or fun, but they provide a necessary foundation of financial knowledge that will help a person navigate his or her career, he said.
Odom is enjoying teaching his first photography class now through Georgia Piedmont Technical College. He said he always urges aspiring photographers to “hang in there.”
“When you start out, you’re going to go through lean years where you’re going to have to scrape by. But after a while, it’s going to fall into place,” he said.
5. Mercer taught him how to think critically.
Odom graduated from Mercer’s College of Professional Advancement in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in human services. He credits Dr. Margaret Eskew, English professor in the Department of Liberal Studies, in particular with helping him learn how to think in critical situations.
Already a “people person,” his degree showed him how to most effectively work with others, and he’s applied that knowledge to the real world as he communicates with his clients and assistants.