Are you doing what you always wanted to do? Baby boomer Matt Wronski, a longtime resident of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, wasn’t. But he didn’t know how to change his life, until a friend gave him a simple piece of advice. Now he lives a whole new life, in a whole new place.
I am an architectural photographer, born and raised in the U.S., now living and working in Dubai. Nothing would be interesting or noteworthy in that statement, other than the fact that up until the beginning of this year, I was not an architectural photographer living in Dubai. Until a year ago, I was a restaurant owner living, raising kids, and just trying to get through my day which was spent pretty much in the confines of East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
Thirty seven years of my life were spent supporting myself in one way or another through the business of food and beverage. From washing dishes and waiting tables in Michigan, tending bar in New York City, running restaurants, installing computer ordering systems and selling equipment in San Francisco, I pretty much did it all.
What started as a way to make money to support myself while I figured out how to pursue my real dream of taking pictures for a living, I became a “restaurant guy.” The only problem was, I didn’t want to be that guy. The longer I was involved in restaurants, the more it became clear I was never going to get out. I was never going to go back to what I studied to become, a photographer.
As the great recession of 2007 played out, as the burdens of owning businesses with the increasing labor and food costs took their toll, I realized I needed to make a change into a different type of business. I realized, in my circumstances, I needed to become a one-man band. After looking into other businesses, none of which was the least bit fulfilling, I had a very long conversation with a dear friend, who happened to own a very successful real estate brokerage. Knowing me as well as he does, seeing my unhappiness at the prospect of owning my restaurants for those final years, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Matt, you were put on this earth to be a photographer. How much more time will you let pass before you go back to what you were meant to do?”
He asked if I’d ever considered photographing houses for real estate agents. I hadn’t. He was familiar with pictures I had taken which hung in my restaurants, and he felt I might be good at it. I figured I’d give it a shot.
I began shooting for my friend Len, the one who had encouraged me to shoot houses. I soon realized my skills were not where I wanted them to be and set out to learn as much as I could. YouTube, Adobe Photoshop Tutorials, and Facebook pages propelled me along my path. I came across a tutorial series by a professional architectural photographer based in Los Angeles. After some back and forth emails, he told me about a workshop he was hosting in March last year and invited me to attend.
It wasn’t until a couple more emails that I realized it was taking place in Dubai. I made arrangements to travel there and after the event, discovered I had absolutely fallen in love with the place. It is an electrifying city and is building things like I had never imagined. I decided, as crazy it sounded, I would return to live and work. After setting up my company while still in The States, I moved here New Years Day and am loving every minute of it.
By being given a chance to chase a dream I’d all but given up on, I discovered I could indeed do something other than ask people what kind of salsa they’d like on their tacos. I took all the things I learned through those years of making people happy with my food and figured out how to make them happy with my photos. And instead of looking at my old career with regret, I cherrypicked the best parts of it and apply them to what I was meant to do.
Check out Matt’s work online.