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Inside Out Project

Hard Knock Highlights of 2015


Hard Knock Highlights of 2015

Between freelancing through my work as a creative & building community movements through Hard Knock Leadership it's been one hell of a rollercoaster ride in balancing the dream of being internationally based. 

After spending 6 months on the road overseas, a return to the 6ix felt more than right. I made it back to Toronto for a surprise visit this summer and decided to adapt the policy of working in silence behind the scenes to make more movements than announcements. I guess time passes by quickly when you're focused on the hustle because now I'm preparing to head back on the road again without a giving you an update on my current movements.

So in order to answer the question "What exactly are you doing?" which I often get, I'm sharing the Hard Knock Highlights of this year. 

Hard Knock Highlights: Year 2

Registration of Indian Private Limited Enterprise

Tamil Nadu, India (c) Sid Naidu Photography

My main reason for the return was to handle some paperwork that would allow me to travel back to India as an overseas citizen. I spent the first four months of travel overseas in my native lands of Southern India, trying to get an understanding for how I could play more of a long term role with my cultural heritage. 

This summer I stepped on board as a managing director and registered an Indian Private Limited Enterprise with the goal of creating solutions that supports sustainable development internationally. This has opened up a whole new world for me to explore and while at the moment I'm still developing what my exactly this role will look like for me over the next two years expect that you will hear about more potential projects from India.  

Local & Global creative collaborations:

Building the collective has become an important area of focus for me. Call it squad goals but I truly believe in the idea of going further together with other like minded individuals to build the empire. 

Year One India: While overseas in India, I took on the role of an international correspondent to support the Year One Publication. By exploring content for an Indian audience, for my boys who are behind the digital consulting firm Splash Effects, I contributed a piece to their publication with a Hard Knock angle that highlighted the strength of India's very own Queen of the Boxing Ring: Mary Kom 

Surface Collective: My one month stay in Bangkok fostered the building of another creative partnership with a fellow Canadian creative, Rod Tasaka, founder of The Surface Collective. I've been working with Rod behind the scenes to vision out a collective creative brand that supports local inspiration and collaborations while on the road, along with contributing as an artist to his creative design work with surface. 

Siamese Connection: On my return to Toronto, I've been mapping out some long term collaborations both local & global with one of my good friends Marwa Siam Abdou who wrote a piece on my personal story while I was overseas as her Tales of Toronto project. 

She has recently broken into the role of a film maker creating her very first short film that touches on the very personal and challenging topic of autism under the lens of migrant families. Take a look at the trailer below  

I've been supporting Marwa's production company Siamese connection through my role as a documentary photographer as we both share a common vision on wanting to tell the untold stories of underrepresented ethnicities.  Expect to see more creative work under this lens. 

I started the year reinventing my career from a higher education specialist to a full time artist & creative. While I'm still trying to navigate highs and lows of freelancer's life, I've dedicated part of my purpose and long term goals to fostering more creative collaborations with other creators.

I'm always looking to build & collaborate with creatives both locally & globally so give me a shout if you see potential in working together to create something great.

Inside Out Project Toronto 2015 


For anyone knows me as creator knows that my photography style has heavily been influenced by the work JR Artist & the Inside Out Project. 

I remember when I first saw JR's ted talk that challenged the world to stand up for what they cared about by participating in his global art project that would turn the world inside out. 

I had to opportunity to jump on board with JR's team to support with their installation at Nathan Phillips Square for Nuit Blanche. To be part of the Toronto team to support a project that has given me so much creative energy in the last couple of years was truly an honour. 

We Are Dixon Project

Over the summer I was approached by the City of Toronto & A community service group in the west end to support youth from Dixon community through Arts Education. 

The We Are Dixon project was created to connect with youth from the west end around the idea of photography as a tool for community building, which continued from a similar project in Scarborough last year. This project worked with somali youth to develop an knowledge around the power storytelling and camera fundamentals. 

My involvement in this project was an opportunity to build bridges between the east & west ends of the city as part of the long term goal of arts educational programming via HKL.

Here is more of an in depth overview of the content & curriculum provided in the program- 

Arts is Power: We Are Storytellers

Grolsch Global Creates 

This October I was selected as a finalist for Grolsch Global's #discoverinteresting campaign by acclaimed Toronto artist & curator Soteeoh. The campaign brought together 20 instagrammers to contribute their work to a live gallery event hosted at The Rivoli on Queen St. West. Canvas pieces from each artist was part of a silent auction that raised funds towards StreetArt Toronto. My journey as an artist began 13 years ago capturing the streets of Scarborough through black and white film and being able to put Scarborough back on the map in a positive highlighting it speaks to my purpose as an artist.  

Eye on Scarborough (c) Sid Naidu Photography

Eye on Scarborough (c) Sid Naidu Photography

If you would like to see my Toronto work hanging out somewhere in your space, high resolution digital prints like this can now be purchased through my online store.

The Journey Continues in Australia 

On a final note, I wanted to announce my upcoming international tour dates.

I will be continuing my journey with an overseas residency in Melbourne, Australia for 2016. On this tour I will once again be exploring the ability of creating various bodies of work as an international artist and community builder. Want to know about my stories of wonderlust? Then read my piece on the road less traveled

If you are interested in bringing the work I do to your community, shoot me an email at to build. 

Structural Building of Hard Knock Leadership 

This year Hard Knock Leadership has been testing various platforms to provide more of a foundational structure for its long term vision. Had the opportunity to be a part of Toronto local startup Sojo this summer for their ideas bootcamp in order to ideate a model the work of HKL through social entrepreneurship. The team at Sojo has been helpful in helping a number of change makers turn their ideas into actions.

Hard Knock Leadership is currently identified as social initiative that was created to serve and adapt to different aspects of youth based change in disadvantaged communities around the world. 

This Hard Knock Highlight post aims to provide updates on the movements HKL is currently involved with


Art Is Power: We Are Storytellers


Art Is Power: We Are Storytellers

Art can transform lives. It gives us the power to question, to confront, to explore and challenge how we think about the world.

Art can transform lives. It gives us the power to question, to confront, to explore and challenge how we think about the world.

Since I've returned to the 6ix aka Toronto this summer, I've been working behind the scenes to strengthen a number of principles that will define the long term goals of hard knock leadership.

At the moment youth based arts education has become a primary focus for me since I'm currently practicing as an international visual artist. So on this return I decided to invest more of my time in building bridges between my passion as an artist and my purpose as a community builder. 

Over the summer I was approached to support the building of the We Are Dixon project in the west end, around this idea of creating youth storytellers to capture underrepresented communities through photography. The vision of this project was to build on the momentum We Are Lawrence project that I stepped on board with as an apprentice and a co-curator last year.

Here short doc highlighting the work that was done. 

This is a documentary of We Are Lawrence Avenue (2014), a dynamic outdoor community driven photography exhibit on Lawrence Avenue East in Toronto, Canada. We Are Lawrence Avenue told the story of Lawrence Avenue in Scarborough's Wexford Heights neighbourhood, featuring portraits of people who live, work and play in the community.

Arts Education Curriculum & Content 

For me the value of arts education programming revolves around empowering others with the tools to become leaders for their community. 

Our specific focus through the We Are Dixon & We Are Lawrence projects in Toronto, was to help foster and create youth storytellers within the disadvantaged and under resourced margins of the city.

The direction for these projects is to use photography as the storytelling medium in places where mainstream media outlets control the view of community representation. These programs help showcase the stories not being covered. The work aims to speaks to the human side of these communities. 

I'm writing this article to share with you some of the video curriculum Hard Knock Leadership is using for arts education programming with the goal of creating tomorrow's artistic leaders.

The modules we've created for our programming pulls visual resources that showcase how storytelling is taken on through photography. A crucial part of the curriculum is the ability for youth to reflect on their own personal stories in connection to the visual resources provided. 

My hopes is that this article will provide you with some insights for how grassroots storytelling can possibly happen within your community.


The Power of storytelling

One of my strongest inspirations for visual arts in the recent years has been JR, a street artist and photographer who made me realize that the streets is the largest gallery in the world. As the winner of 2011 TED prize he was able to create the largest participatory art project in the world. 

Since my arts education programming has always aimed to highlight the the power of art as a tool for community building & storytelling, JR's TED talk video is an essential to how art has the ability to change the world. 

JR exhibits his photographs in the biggest art gallery on the planet. His work is presented freely in the streets of the world, catching the attention of people who are not museum visitors. His work mixes Art and Action; it talks about commitment, freedom, identity and limit.

The above video is a condensed video with english subtitles that I share during my workshops.  A link to the full length video on is provided below. The full length video also has the ability to provide subtitles in different languages, which became extremely helpful when working with international audiences. It helped me facilitate the pop up exhibit & workshop titled "Suenos de la Calle" for youth in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. 

JR Ted Talk: Use art to turn the world inside out (Full Length) 

JR's 28mm project highlighted in the video, captured portraits of the people from Montfermeil in Paris to share the story of a community that the media had continued to misrepresent. The 28mm style of portraiture is something that has heavily influenced the lens of my own photography and artistic process and I often use the project as an example to how marginalized communities around the world often face the same struggle of being misunderstood.

To see a short video & learn more about the 28mm project, click the link below.

JR's Portraits of a generation: The 28mm project

The inside out projects instigated by JR is a prime example I use on how storytelling and art can be a powerful tool to change the way people view the world.

Reflection Question: If you could use art to change the world through the inside out project, what story would you tell?


Telling the story of our communities

My purpose as storyteller is to focus on the stories that are not being told. Whenever I sit at a table to build dialogue aimed at finding solutions for various issues that arise with different communities, the question I'm always asking myself who needs to be here at this table that is not sitting here right now.

For many neighborhoods that have been labelled marginalized, low income or prioritized a big issue that arises is the perception of what outsiders believe exist in the communities. Very often the media has a strong hold on telling the story of our communities with their angle on the negative side versus the stories that empower these communities instead. 

Here of an example from Somali photographer Muhamed Mumin,  who took on the role of becoming a cultural storyteller for his community through photography because no one else was doing it 

Mohamud Mumin creates striking portraits of fellow Somali immigrants, hoping to spark dialogue about the immigrant experience in Minnesota. 

 It is important to understand our stories before we search for the stories that are not being told. One of the biggest lessons that I carry to this day as an artist is that it is about being human first and artist second. Framing photography from a human perspective gives life to work I take on because it gives the power back to the people whose portraits were taken. Especially when you're walking into communities that have been misunderstood building a connection with the people before capturing the stories is what creates real humanistic value in our conversations

I take this example of framing photography through a human perspective by photographer Wayne Lawrence who captured the streets of Detroit by once again focusing on the untold narratives in humanity 

Wayne Lawrence: It's all about the people - Framing the human story of Detroit

Similar to projects like Humans of New York, documentary photography has always aimed to share the real stories of people around the world. When creating our community stories, it's essential that we look at the human side to connect with one another. 

Reflection Question: Share a human story about your community that is not being told to others?


Finding our voice as storytellers 

When I first started doing photography, I struggled because I could not relate with the photographers doing fine art, I need to find the ones that were sharing the stories of the culture and people similar to the people that I was surrounded with.

Because we all look at the world from different lenses it becomes important to understand our voice as a storyteller & how it resonates with the work of others. 

Finding local artists who shared the untold stories is what kept me in the game and inspired me to continue exploring the hidden narratives of communities that are not being shared with the world.


Growing up in Guelph, Ontario, Che struggled to figure out his purpose. At the age of 15, a family vacation opened up his world. Surrounded by the rich roots of the Caribbean, with a camera in hand, Che eagerly documented everything he saw, determined to share what was happening in the world with everyone back home. That deep sense of urgency and community spirit drove Che into an accomplished career as a photographer and beloved cultural community instigator. Watch more at

My own journey as an artist would not be be this way if it was not for international artists like JR and Che Kothari who have helped shape my vision for creating with purpose. 

Being mentored by Che Kothari during the We Are Lawrence and supporting the Inside Out Project in Toronto that was curated by JR has helped me also strengthen my voice as a storyteller in both my life and the work I do.

One of the most valuable life learning tools that was passed onto me by Che Kothari was these reflective questions that was given to him by his mentor d'bi young pulling from her sorplusi methodology for artists. 

Reflection Questions: Who Am I? How Am I? What is My Purpose?

These questions is how I start all of my programming to build the idea of self knowledge. You can ask yourself these questions whenever you need to realign your voice as a storyteller, leader or creator. I use it often in my own life to find my voice and understand the voice of others. 


The Role of storytelling in Arts Education 

While the arts education programming HKL looks to build revolves around the need to provide more tools to communities that are under resourced and often misrepresented by mainstream media, our programming always changes according to the need of the community and more importantly the youth who take a lead in championing these ideas. 

For me without the voice of youth there is no actual programming, for they are the ones I hope would start playing a key role in creating change for their community through storytelling. 

When I walk into prioritized neighbourhoods in the west or the east and we are challenged by our geographical divisions between the hoods, I often share with the youth this idea. 

If you take the language and the people out of the different concrete jungles in the world, our struggles will still sound and feel the same. 

While storytelling becomes a strong pillar to engage communities in reflecting on the understandings of their own narratives, it is art that becomes our healing process for people to see the world in a more humanistic way.

This is why I say that art is power. 

This article breakdown some of the curriculum & content from Hard Knock Leadership's Arts Education Storytelling Programming. 
Interested in creating similar projects within your community 
Connect with Hard Knock Leadership on more ways to build through arts education 
contact for inquiries



Turning the world inside out through art

If you were given a wish to change the world, what would you do & what exactly would your changed world look like?

Photography was the first tool that allowed me to do something positive with my life & for this reason it will always be my first passion.

My first inspiration came from Jamal Shabazz , one of the first hip hop photographers capturing the New York 1980's urban scene. As I entered post secondary I met Che Kothari, a Ryerson photography alumnus and community leader who helped shape my love for the art. My work took off on campus as I became known for capturing and creating the cultural scenes as a student at Ryerson University in 2005. What I did not see was how my career would transition into taking on leadership roles in the community. 

While leadership had a stronger impact in my life, I would always be in love with a life revolving around culture & arts. My search to find a stronger meaning in photography ended after being introduced to a street photographer named JR, who created large street galleries around the world using portraiture. JR showed me that art could change the world and photography had the power to give people a voice. 

Seeing photography and leadership bridged, HKL launched in 2013 to support both culture and community. Inspired by the work of the Inside Out Project that was created to change the world through art, I informally took part in the project by shooting the some of the many faces of culture at Ryerson University to represent the diversity we have on campus.  JR's video is an example I often use in workshops on how we could use art as a tool for community building. 

Here is my work on Inside Out Culture dedicated to the many beautiful people of Toronto & Canada.  


How would you use art to change the world? #InsideOut

Share & comment on - Leadership for the everyday hustle 

Contact Sid Naidu to help create a pop up exhibit for your youth group around culture and community by emailng or tweeting @hardknockleader



Project Updates: HKL Launches Pop Up Exhibits

Special Announcement: Hard Knock Leadership will be launching pop up exhibits highlighting the work of Sid Naidu Photography. The exhibits will be featured as part of the programming for the Ryerson University Live2Lead student run summit this weekend.  

February 28th 2014 – March 2nd 2014 at Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada)

These exhibits have been created to provide a cultural exchange in a public space and engage audiences in work covered by the HKL initiative. Two curated collections will be featured during the student leadership summit and will pull from works both local and global.

Hard Knock World Exhibit - Sid Naidu Photography (c) 2014

Hard Knock World Exhibit - Sid Naidu Photography (c) 2014

Hard Knock World

It’s a hard knock world for us where the road less traveled will let you walk through shared realities that we face as humanity. Off the beaten path, our identity has become one with this land, where every culture can be embraced by sharing the similarities that make us different.

The “Hard Knock World” series is a compilation that pulls from my photography works across the world. It highlights a global village faced with hard realities that we share as humanity. This work is dedicated to the road less traveled and the beautiful people that I have met along the way

Inside Out: Culture Exhibit - Sid Naidu Photography (c)

Inside Out: Culture Exhibit - Sid Naidu Photography (c)

Inside Out: Culture

We are more than a lifestyle, we are a culture, we are people.  Toronto is home, home to me, home to many. A multicultural mosaic of where the world meets. A community where identities can sometimes clash but where we can collectively create change as humanity.

“Inside Out: Culture” was created in support of the Inside Out Project by JR, a 2011 TED prize winner who challenged the boundaries of our world through art. Through portraiture, he provided communities with a voice to share their messages. This work is dedicated to cultural diversity that connect us as a campus community.

Follow the Ryerson University live 2 Lead student run summit this weekend #evolve14

Share & comment on - Leadership for the everyday struggle 

Contact Sid Naidu to create a pop up exhibit for your youth group around culture and community by emailng or tweeting @hardknockleader