CHEYENNE, Wyo. — What started as a high school class has become a lifelong passion project for Matthew Idler.
Growing up in Pine Bluffs, the local photographer took a class in the subject during his sophomore year at the high school in town. Idler quickly fell in love, working on the school’s yearbook and newspaper the rest of his time there, but he also had a love for the rodeo scene.
Having made some money from outside freelance projects by that time, he figured his side hustle at first would be a good way to keep his young rodeo career going.
“I was high school rodeoing and wanted to go to rodeos and take pictures — and I wanted to compete, too,” Idler said. “So I thought, ‘Well, hey, I could make some money and pay for my entry fees.’ Of course, I was 17 and thought that’d be a great idea.”
Those professional rodeo aspirations didn’t come to fruition, but they did help lead to Idler’s current job — professional photographer. And after over two decades of work behind the camera across the worlds of photojournalism, commercial photography and, yes, even the occasional rodeo assignment, he’s taken a large leap toward bringing his business to the next level.
Earlier this year, Idler nailed down Suite 200 in the Asher Building on 500 W. 15th St. in downtown Cheyenne as the spot for his own private studio, a move he said he’d been thinking about doing for over 20 years. It’s a small space with not much room beyond Idler’s gear and a desk, but it’s a dedicated one for the work he does, which includes corporate headshots, portraits, business marketing and more.
Of course, Idler’s vast clientele means he won’t be cooped up in his new spot constantly, particularly if he’s doing freelance event coverage or some other endeavor elsewhere. He just now has a home base to return to when he needs it.
“I take my studio anywhere, but I’ve rented this place just because time to time I need to use the studio for one or two headshots,” Idler said. “And it was always a last-minute situation [before] and I had to rent something really quick. So I decided to just get a little studio and office and then always have a location for portraits or product photography.”
After he got a taste of the photography world in his upbringing, Idler left home to get his associate’s degree in photographic communications at Northwest College in Powell. He officially started his business in 1999 after graduating, mulling whether or not to pursue another degree, this time in marketing, at the University of Wyoming.
But before that happened, Idler said he met a fellow commercial photographer in Fort Collins, Colorado that he said requested his help “off and on” for 15 years, helping show Idler the ropes of commercial photography and how to make it a career. Idler said he enjoys the uniqueness each day that his position brings, allowing him to be creative with what he wants to do and be his own boss about it in the meantime.
“Having a different type of job every day makes me think differently on how to create an interesting picture,” Idler said. “And I really enjoy that. … I’m very lucky that I can be creative, and I really enjoy trying to figure out how to create a nice image, no matter what it is.”
Idler said that he does some personal photography in his free time — his favorites include Western and cowboy subjects, going back to his roots — but much of his work is focused on a client’s needs, whether it be something as basic as product photography or as fast-paced as Cheyenne Frontier Days and Wyoming football games.
His array of press passes that hang proudly in his office, ranging from the state legislature to concerts and even the NBA All-Star Game, make for physical mementos of the places Idler’s been and the sights he’s seen — a clear indication of reputation and prominence from those humble beginnings in Pine Bluffs.
The rodeo cowboy dreams may have had to eventually step aside, but Idler’s managed to make it to the big time in an entirely different way.
“I enjoy all photography,” Idler said. “The commercial advertising part allows me to be creative. Every day is different; I have to promote food and restaurant one day and then another day it could be gas or industrial photography or oil, and then the next day it’ll be something different. … As long as I’m creative in making pictures, I’m happy.”