Surf Shacks 066

Meg Haywood Sullivan
Venice, CA

Matt Titone

Meg Haywood Sullivan is a photographer and environmentalist who splits her time between shooting brand campaigns (for the likes of Prana, Keen, Patagonia and Clif Bar) and pushing for environmental stories through editorial features & social platforms. I was first introduced to her work a few years ago in the usual way of late: via Instagram and have crossed paths on many occasions in the LA surf lineups and around town ever since. A fellow east coaster recently turned Angeleno by way of Montana then the Bay area, she is constantly traveling or planning her next trip. This past summer I finally caught up with Meg at her quintessential Venice pad near the historic canals for some gluten-free cervezas and to see where she calls home while not on the road.

Matt Titone

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, I’m Meg. My day job? Photographer and environmentalist. Secret dream? To be a Bond girl and have my own nature show.

Where are you from?

A sleepy beach town in southern Massachusetts.

How long have you lived here in Venice and what drew you to the area in the first place?

I’ve been living in Venice for about two years now, but it was somewhat by mistake that I stumbled upon this funky community. I was in escrow on a houseboat, but abandoned ship once I discovered the 30 year waitlist for live aboard slips. So I called up my yacht broker, cancelled the deal, and literally stumbled upon a historic Venice bungalow ready to rent. As luck had it, I had a blank check in my wallet and signed the lease right there on the spot. Sometimes you gotta go with the flow, life always has a wonderful way of working out.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone

You went to school for environmental studies, right? How did you first get into photography as a career?

My professional career kickstarted into full gear during my senior year at Montana State University, where I majored in environmental studies, minored in photography, interned at the Trust for Public Land, and snowboarded 5 days a week. Busy times! It was in Montana that I started shooting full time as I cut my teeth in the snowboard industry and non-profit realm with Protect Our Winters.

What is your favorite subject matter to photograph?

I love shooting women working together to tell stories about the environment through adventure. There’s something so empowering about documenting a badass crew of ladies surfing, snowboarding, and exploring the globe in search of ways to give back while inspiring the next generation of girls.

You’ve also been on the other side of the lens as well. Do you still model from time to time?

Ohh the Abercrombie days… haha. On occasion I’ll moonlight in front of the lens, but for the most part my work’s biggest impact is telling stories about the environment through adventure. That being said, I have some fun projects in the works in the TV realm, so keep posted!

You seem to always be on the road. Have you always been such a frequent traveller your whole life?

My first flight was at 6 months old. Haven’t stopped since.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone

What are your top 3 favorite trip destinations and why?

Java: nasi goreng, bikini temp dream waves, ancient temples in the jungle

Japan: onsens, the lightest snow on the planet, deep sense of reverence & respect

British Columbia: limitless backcountry terrain, maple syrup (grade B, obviously), the friendliest & heartiest people

What items go with you on every trip — what can you not hit the road without?

I’m most inspired creatively when I’m on the road, and as a result you’ll never find me without my sketchbook and treasure trove of pencils, charcoal, and gauche. Sketching & journaling is such a zen outlet for processing new experiences and freezing them in time. It’s humbling to take a peek back over a decade’s worth of ideas and drawings to see how far my perspective has grown. Future personal heirlooms for sure.

Matt Titone

What have been some of the biggest challenges so far in pursuing a career as a freelance photographer?

I can count on my hands the number of female outdoor photographers out there — especially in the snow realm. As women in this industry, we’ve had to fight from the bottom to the top to get the respect and recognition that our male counterparts never had to experience. It’s this reason that I’m dedicated to being the best role model and mentor that I can possibly be to the next generation of young women out there wanting to combine their love of photography with their love for the planet.

What have been some of your favorite jobs / projects you’ve worked on?

My favorite shoot to date was a trip last summer with Prana and an all-female production crew. We surfed throughout Bali and Java, while partnering with local non-profits that are paving the way to reducing ocean waste in Indonesia. I’m proud to say that one of the non-profits we worked with — Bye Bye Plastic Bags — helped push forward legislation that as of 2019, Bali will be plastic bag, styrofoam, and plastic straw free.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone

These are troubling times we live in politically and sometimes it feels like there is no hope when it come to climate change. What do you think are some of the best things that we as individuals can do to have a lower impact on the environment in our day to day lives?

Yes, the news is gnarly and yes, things are pretty dire for our planet. But we must not lose hope. Individuals have plenty of power to help turn the tide.
#1. Vote and get politically active
#2. Get involved with your local community with protests, beach cleanups, etc.
#3. Join and follow organizations like Surfrider, Protect Our Winters, and Conservation International
#4. Change your consumption habits: eat more plants, avoid red meat, refuse single use plastic, don’t waste food, buy vintage + organic clothing, invest in solar, electric or hybrid vehicle
#5. Divest fossil fuel industries in your portfolio

What are your favorite parts about Los Angeles and the area in which you live?

It’s a pain in the butt to park your car in Venice, and as a result, everyone walks. We walk to surf, we walk to the grocery store, walk to coffee, and walk for the hell of it. You see your neighbors in the lineup, in the line at Belissimo for brekkie burritos, and at the post office… I adore it. It’s so rare to find such a tight-knit community within a major city, but Venice is a very special exception.

What is a typical day in the life when you are at home?

Wake up with the sun, cold brew, NYT podcast & mini beach cleanup while checking the surf.
Surf.
Office work/board meetings/photoshoots.
Beach run.
Dinner with friends.
A good book, early to bed.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

Surf or snow?

You’re tearing my heart in two right now…

Summer or winter?

Fall

East coast / west coast?

West

Favorite food?

Guac. Good guac.

Dawn patrol or sunset session?

Dawn

Matt Titone

What are your goals as a photographer and as an environmentalist?

Inspire a whole new generation to become better stewards of our planet, while shining light on all the incredible non-profits and community leaders working tirelessly to make this world a better place for us all.

Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, or sage advice?

Grit & graciousness. Put in the hard work, listen, and always say please + thank you.

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Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director. In 2006 he moved west to Venice, CA where he co-founded ITAL/C Studio, constantly seeks left hand point breaks, and tries very hard to avoid crowds & traffic.

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