My name is Matt Porwoll and I am a documentary cinematographer. I’m originally from Atlanta, GA and studied film at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Since high school, I have always wanted to be a cinematographer. As a child, I was fascinated by photography and its ability to transport the viewer to a different place and time. As a family, we would set up the slide projector, clicking through photos of my parents’ travels through Europe or us as children. The moment the light shined through the slide, I was hooked. There’s a magic seeing that tiny translucent image projected big onto a screen. The dark room punctured by a bright light, shimmering with the dust particles in the air.
The love of this experience and my love of movies – both the stories told on screen and the wonderment of how these stories came to life behind the scenes – merged to create my love of cinematography.
While at the University of Utah, I started practicing my craft. Basically, making horrible films, screwing up a ton, and then learning from my mistakes! Try, fail, and repeat. I always wanted to shoot Hollywood films. Documentaries never factored into the equation. It wasn’t until moving to New York that documentary film revealed itself to me.
My first job out of college was working as a rental tech at AbelCine in NY. Sending off camera packages to travel the world and tell incredible stories opened my eyes to the world of documentaries. I was able to not only learn the equipment, but also meet camera assistants, cinematographers, directors and producers. This led me down the path of where I am now.
I worked as a freelance camera assistant for 10 years with some of the best documentary cinematographers, sound recordists and directors, learning every step of the way from those far more adept and experienced than myself. I am now a cinematographer telling those same stories that got me excited from day one.
Matt Porwoll is an Emmy® award-winning cinematographer based in New York. His work has screened theatrically, appeared on TV networks such as Discovery, Showtime, HBO, CNN, A&E, and PBS, as well as online outlets including Vogue, Glamour, Wired, Teen Vogue and W Magazine. Most recently, Porwoll shot the film TIGERLAND, directed by Academy Award®-winner Ross Kauffman, that premiered in competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and garnered a 2020 Cinema Eye Honors nomination for Best Broadcast Cinematography. Porwoll also served as the series cinematographer on Showtime’s The Trade, a 5-part documentary series about the opioid epidemic. The feature documentary Cartel Land, which Matt shot and co-produced, won Best Cinematography Awards at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, 2016 Cinema Eye Honors and 2016 Primetime Emmys. The film was also nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature.
Porwoll has served as an additional cinematographer on numerous other films including City of Ghosts and Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, directed by Academy Award®-nominated director Matthew Heineman, HBO’s Emmy®-nominated By the People: The Election of Barack Obama, and HBO’s Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, which won the 2015 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short.
In addition to working as a cinematographer, Matt enjoys sharing the technical side of the craft as well. Whether its covering topics such as cameras, lenses and lighting on his blog or collaborating with manufacturers about working with their equipment, teaching and sharing his experiences has been a rewarding complement to his work.