Celebrated Photographer Badboi’s Big Picture: Philanthropy

September 11, 2018

Read the full interview on LA Weekly.com!

What do Travis Scott, Post Malone, Lil Yachty, Migos, J. Balvin, Karrueche and soccer player Leo Messi all have in common? They’ve all been shot by Badboi. One look at his Instagram and you’ll quickly recognize the respect in his name, the precision in his shot … and the humility in his heart.

Real name Mattheau Abad was born and raised in the Philippines but came to the States as a teenager. For those who wonder how he got his trademark name, it was the combination of three things: 1) His last name is Abad. 2) During his four years in the military, his officers and chiefs would call him a “bad motherfucker.” 3) The IG name wasn’t taken.

From freelancing for sites like Highsnobiety and Hypebeast to shooting some of today’s biggest stars, Badboi’s name quickly began spreading through word-of-mouth. Now, he plans to flip his success into success for the less fortunate, creating Karmagawa, a new and innovative charity community, alongside successful stock trader Timothy Sykes.

Unlike most charities, Karmagawadoes not accept donations. Instead, they are here to lead by example, backed by two successful, passionate, driven, extremely selfless individuals. L.A. Weekly caught up with Badboi before he jetted off to Barcelona for another gig.

L.A. WEEKLY: How did you get into photography?

BADBOI: I got inspired from looking at photos and billboards and thinking, “I want to do those someday.” That’s when I was getting started, but I never saw myself doing photography at all. I was one of those typical Filipinos, like, “Oh, I just got out of the Navy. I’m going to use my GI Bill money to go to school.” And the next thing you know, boom. I was doing this.”

Badboi in Guatemala with Pencils of PromiseEXPAND

Badboi in Guatemala with Pencils of Promise
Courtesy Karmagawa

Can you talk about your journey from photography to charity?

It’s crazy, Tim and I met last year. It’s funny because his favorite place is Positano in Italy, and he saw the shot that I took there. Fast forward, we met on Instagram. Tim has been doing a lot and donating to charities all over the world, and it’s been something that I wanted to be involved with. Because I grew up in the slums in the Philippines and I made it out of that place. One of my goals was obviously to be really successful at what I’m doing as a career — even though at that time, I didn’t know what that would be — but also I wanted to someday give back to people.

As a partner in Karmagawa, what do you see as its goal?

We want to make charity appeal to people. When people think about charity, it turns them off. Right now, people like to talk about cool shit. They don’t want to hear about just donating or financially giving. But with our end, we don’t ask people for money. We want to build a charitable community for cool people to be a part of, and inspire their followers.

In Guatemala with Pencils of PromiseEXPAND

In Guatemala with Pencils of Promise

How did you come up with the concept?

“Gawa” means “to do” in Tagalog, so it basically means “to do good karma.” We built Karmagawa because we wanted to start this community. That’s why we want to bring out really good influencers, and we want to encourage their followers. Instead of going out to these beautiful places and taking photos of their food, they’re actually putting substance on their travel. Like helping out on local charities and helping build schools.

You mentioned this jersey Tim’s wearing that had the 41 on it earlier. What’s the significance?

The number 41 represents that Karmagawa has built 41 schools around the world. We were just in Guatemala. We donated $2 million at Pencils of Promise and have built over 24 schools. Being there when we stepped into Guatemala and seeing these villages, they have no — pardon my language — fucking money to even start. They have no access to this, and it hits us so hard!

We’re making a difference in giving education to these people. Fifty thousand dollars goes a long way. It builds a fucking school. It trains the teachers to teach these kids. These kids learn how to speak English, and read and write. The same goes in Bali. It doesn’t limit them to just growing up and being a farmer. It gives them a chance to go somewhere else and get educated. Go work abroad or in the U.S., or wherever they please to be.

Badboi in Guatemala with Pencils of Promise

Badboi in Guatemala with Pencils of Promise
Courtesy Karmagawa

In terms of the actual proceeds, how does that works?

Right now, everything is from the company. We don’t take money from anybody. We haven’t started selling anything. We use our own income to build on this. In the future, we’re going to start selling stuff and 20 percent of all revenue will go to the charity that we’re working with. We want to change this whole thing up. Let’s just be the next platform to unite everybody and make charity cool! That’s the whole goal.

Why don’t you guys accept money?

Because we’re the bridge. Nobody knows about most of these charities. We don’t want to just be one of those. If we do promote other charities, we link the people to donate straight to them. We don’t want to take other people’s money.

What has been the most difficult part in all of this?

I wouldn’t say it’s difficult but it’s emotionally draining. Once you get there and you’re feeling the pain of what people go through, it really gets you. There are some difficulties, but me and Tim are just ready to face them. It’s hard to change it, the mentality of people. Like the elephant crisis. People are actually killing elephants for the sake of fucking ivory. It’s a tough thing to move the world away from that.

What has been the best part?

The best part is putting smiles on all these kids. It’s the people that live in the places that we have helped. It makes them really happy. That’s been the best reward ever.

There’s a video of you in Guatemala leading Drake’s #InMyFeelings challenge with the kids. You actually grew up loving hip-hop and breakdancing. Are you looking to combine music with charity and photography as well?

I would love to. I want to do a charity project where I come into the Philippines, Bali, and I’ll bring my homies and just do a full-on free workshop, have people attend and learn dancing, videography, photography — all of that.

You are really setting the bar for anyone with a platform. How do you feel young people can follow in your footsteps?

By staying inspired. The rest will follow.

Follow @Badboi and @Karmagawa for projects and updates.

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