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Storytelling

Scarborough Made Photo Project

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Scarborough Made Photo Project

Documenting stories from Toronto’s arrival city, Scarborough.

Views from Toronto’s Arrival City #ScarboroughMade

Views from Toronto’s Arrival City #ScarboroughMade

When my family decided to leave the Arabian Gulf, it was because they wanted to see us have more opportunities than they had working as migrants in a foreign land. 

We made it to Toronto, Canada in the summer of 1999, with life feeling even more foreign. Just a month before the millennium, we moved into an apartment building in the east end of Scarborough. This apartment building and Scarborough has remained my family’s home since then. 

Like many other newcomers arriving from different parts of the world, I got my start to a new life in Scarborough. This is where I would have to learn to navigate the good, bad and ugly of growing up in an arrival city. 

Portrait of Creative Director & Producer Alex Narvaez #ScarboroughMade

Portrait of Creative Director & Producer Alex Narvaez #ScarboroughMade

Defining the arrival city.

The term arrival city has different aliases which are often used to describe neighbourhoods that exist on the outskirts of major cities like Mumbai, Panama, Bangkok, Sydney, Toronto, Paris or Los Angeles.

Most often these neighbourhoods are also followed with the labeled as at risk, marginalized, low income or under resourced. Some may see them depicted more as ghettos, favelas, slums, shanty towns or barrios of the developing countries and in the more developed countries others know them as the Hispanic quarters, the Chinatowns, Little India’s and other ethnic enclaves.

For me, arrival cities are a symbol of the layered cultural diversity painted by the many migratory movements of our world over time.

A breeding grounds for a raw potential of underdog survival lives in every arrival city. This potential is always marked by the dream of becoming successful which in most eyes is met by need to move out to someplace better than here.

Regardless of where these arrival cities are situated or what they are called or who represents them, one fact remains in common for its inhabitants. The fact that we all want a life for our families that is better than what we had before.

A double edged dream that seems to end in a demise of the arrival city. 

Portrait of Digital Media Storyteller Dominique Bennett Bouchard #ScarboroughMade

Portrait of Digital Media Storyteller Dominique Bennett Bouchard #ScarboroughMade

The tale of the 6ix

In the case of Toronto, its surrounding arrival cities became suburbs after the amalgamation of the 6 boroughs (which included Scarborough) into the city of Toronto in 1998. This is a move than many criticize today as what further marginalized some of these neighbourhoods that exist beyond the margins of the city centre.

Over the next decade as I transitioned from a disengaged kid on the block to an engaged civic leader working around the world. I would also witness the growth of Toronto but not see much change in Scarborough.

I wondered if success could be found in these come up cities for young people, when most of their energy was focused onto making it in the bright lights of the downtown hustle & bustle. 

Scarborough had a different kind of hustle. More often I would see it be the portrayed in the media, mostly for its negative challenges around crime or violence than for the untapped potential of human capital that contributes towards the vibrancy of Toronto. 

Which brings me to the Scarborough Made Photo Project. 

After having the opportunity to work and travel around a number of communities with a similar build to Scarborough, I’ve come to see arrival cities around the world as unique economies of their own, filled with beautiful life stories of hustle, struggle and hope. 

This year as I want to give back to the city that raised me by sharing my craft and documenting the stories which highlight the realities of coming up from Scarborough.

So join me in telling the story of Toronto’s East by contributing your voice as someone who is #ScarboroughMade


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Got a story to tell? We are on the look out for stories of the unconventional leadership journey from creatives, change makers & global citizens. Join the collective and contribute a story for the Hard Knock Leadership publication.

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Lessons of a Hard Knock Leader on the Road to 30

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Lessons of a Hard Knock Leader on the Road to 30

They say your 30’s will be the true coming of age. It’s a time where you learn to command your life much differently because your lived experiences has made you more in tune with who you are.

 In my 20’s I lived so recklessly that I accepted the idea of living fast & dying young. I was surrounded by a destructive world where I lost friends to the streets, substance abuse, mental illness & dangerous lifestyles. 

I started to silence my emotions and numb my feelings until I fell down the rabbit hole too. I couldn’t imagine making it to 30 with the way I was living so instead I just lived like today was my last. 

I remember reading a piece by Nic Haralambous called advice from 30 year old me to 20 year old me & it made me think about the conversation I would want to have with myself. When a my brother in hustle Hamza Khan wrote & quoted me in his coming of age piece 27 things I learned at 27, I was reminded how life lessons can transcend from one person to another. 

A year ago when I turned 29 & I wrote a post on my birthday to share the lessons that I’ve learned from my journey. Without a doubt it was only in my late 20’s after switching my game up, that my understanding of living life to its fullest had actually changed for the better. 

Today I turn 30 and I’ll be flying back overseas to continue chasing my vision of becoming an international visual artist & change maker. So it was only fitting that I share some hard knock reflections & lessons from my twenties.

 

Life is short, make every moment count!

I know it sounds cliché but I lived like life was short, so I told myself that I had to make every moment count while I was here. In my early 20’s this usually felt more like selfishly living for today instead of appreciating the beauty of having a tomorrow. 

It was only in my very late 20’s that I finally started making sense of the different circles of thinking I gained from my life experiences around the world. I learned to no longer carry the weight of my past as something that was negative. Instead I accepted it as something that revealed whom I was destined to be.  

I started appreciating how my struggle allowed me to live and think differently from others. Making it through hard times gave me more reason to celebrate & appreciate the life I was given. 

I aspired to live better by chasing experiences instead of money & the celebrations… well.. while it usually involved more drunken nights than I would like to count but it made me realize that I was still learning how to deal with the demons that I picked up along the way. 

As I end my 20’s I’m finding ways to retire from that rockstar life that I’ve know so well by seeking more mental clarity versus the drowning of past pains. 

Despite the care free attitude, what has made my life count the most was constantly re-defining what this life meant to me. I’ve learned to develop more healthier habits that have given me more peace over the years & I’ve accepted my past as reason for who I am today. 

Yes life does feel short when you have been living it a certain way and yes it can get hard & quite sad at times. However you start to learn how to appreciate the people around that have taught you lessons both good and bad. There is value in the struggle & I’ve learned to move away from being a victim in order to start being a game-changer. 

I’ll share this quote from someone I knew who was a recovered alcoholic. 

There are no such thing as bad days, there are only bad moments in a day. Don’t let the bad moments make your entire day go bad. 

What truly makes the our time count are the moments we strived to do better than before. 

 

I challenge you to define what life truly means to you & spend the next decade of my time here in this world, making that life happen. This is something I’ve committed to myself for my 30’s


 

Whatever you want to do, just start now! 

How many times have you told yourself, that you wish you could do something like travel? Or how many times have you waited for new year’s to make a resolution about something that affects your life now like quitting smoking or getting physically fit? 

Why do we wait for later if we can just start now?

I’ve taken a page from Robin Sharma piece on the 2 greatest words. This notion of chasing your dreams by acting on the idea of “just starting” really resonated with me. It’s a lesson I’ve been always believed in but only started practicing since leaving my full time career last year, in order to focus on the things I’ve always wanted to do.

Nothing happens unless you move

For me movement is life. In my 20’s I started fighting complacency by constantly challenging myself to do the things that added value to the world. Traveling the world at a young age and seeing the good, bad & ugly realities only pushed me in wanting to be part of the change that was needed. I dreamed about it for years. 

Realize that you can only spend so much time dreaming and wishing for before those thoughts gets lost in the noise and chaos of reality. The longer you wait to take something on, the longer it will take you to get there. 

In my 20’s I made a transition from a damaging life, living and breathing the streets to a professional career where I was helping others find their way. If I did not take this dive to make changes in my life at that point, then I never would have.

It was not an easy transition at all & I struggled with those two changing identities for years but as I continued to start working towards my future, I started to accomplish my life’s worth. 

Even during my current reinvention where I’m starting to work towards my dreams of doing international development & humanitarian work, I first had to fight complacency to not give up on that dream in exchange for settling with the stability & security that could have been offered at home. 

It’s not that I wasn’t content with what I had, It’s that I knew that after making it off the streets that I was destined for more.

Today I’m traveling the world as a change maker and visual artist because it’s what I’ve started dreaming about doing in life & it’s what I’ve decided to just start working towards. Remember I’m not saying it’s easy because if it was, then everyone would be doing it & hard knock leaders are not everybody.  

Our lives change forever when we aspire to live our dreams. When we change our lives, we change our world forever. When we change our world forever, we inevitably change the world of others too. 

 

I challenge you to start on the life goals you’ve been dreaming about right now. My 30’s will already be changed since committing myself to start living my dreams every single day. 


 

Don’t let the music die in you!

Without a doubt, my life has changed dramatically since deciding that I was destined to accomplish more. It would always mean living outside my comfort zone in some way, such as entering into neighbourhoods that I once saw as territorial divides to living on the road for the upcoming years instead of settling down with the norm of what everyone else was doing around me. 

It’s not that there is anything wrong in looking for a steady career & financial security. It’s when you choose to settle with something & let the music die in you, that’s when there is a problem. I’ve seen too many people who are willing to be unhappy with their jobs and do nothing about it by letting that work kill them softly.

Now if you have a job be thankful, because there is a million others who would be willing to take it. Just realize that the music dies in us when the job we do takes us away from our reasons to be great & do amazing things. 

When we are at the top of our game, we are like maestro’s commanding the symphony of our life. However when we choose to be average, we give away our talents. When we give up on the talents we’ve earned, the music starts to die in us. 

This may sound harsh but at the age of 30 I’m no longer okay with being average. If I wanted an average life, I would’ve settled as street dealer chasing paper till my death or as a cubicle monkey pushing paper for someone else’s resume.

No disrespect to anyone who is putting in work for survival but take a moment and ask yourself if you are you currently happy OR if are you currently being the best version of yourself? If the answer is NO to both of these questions then you’re probably fallen into the box of mediocrity where the world is constantly being programmed to deliver the message that average is acceptable.

You can spend your 20’s trying to learn from the great’s in order to master your craft. By your 30’s it’s time to focus on to being the greatest by becoming the the master. Not there yet? Well just start because all masters had to be beginners at some point. 

Whatever you decide to do & whenever you decide to do it, make sure it world class. The reality is that there are more sad stories in the world then there are happy ones. People will die at the age of 30 and only get buried 60, don’t let the graveyard be where your dreams finally go to rest. 

 

I challenge you to make your life a happy one regardless of the difficulties you’ve faced & the ones you will continue to face. In my 30’s the struggle will only fuel my growth as hard knock leader. 


 

This journey is the one you’re suppose to be on. 

Can there be a guarantee that work we commit to right now will lead us to where we want to be in the future? Are we ever sure the dream we are chasing is even right for us? 

If we had all the answers then there would be no journey. There is no guarantee for success, there is only the will to never give up on it. Those who do journey, know that if that if they don’t take this road, it would only lead to regrets. 

Most give it up on that journey because of uncertainty. Most give up from the fear of failure. 

On every journey someone will hit their lowest low. What reveals our strength is our ability to bounce back from that failure. To bounce back we must accept the journey we are suppose to be on & remove doubt & fear.

I’ll share the words of a brother & mentor who has guided me in the arts, when he was asked about his own journey in life

I’ve come to the realization that life is made up of a billion deep breaths & that’s why I always say to be happy, smile & breath deeply because this is the journey that you’re suppose to be on.

As you grow older you learn to trust yourself more to keep heading down on that journey because you know it was meant for you. You slowly start to learn how to be at peace with who you’ve become & leave behind the person that others expect you to be. You breathe more accepting that YES this is the journey that I’m suppose to be on. 

When we find peace with the journey that we are on, the road ahead becomes a beautiful part of growth in the life we have. We start to take control destiny and show up stronger for our final curtain call. 

At times our identity may feel conflicted from the environments we grew up around, to the different hardships & struggles we have endured. However life is dealt to us, it should never stop us from making the extraordinary happen. 

 

I challenge you to keep believing in yourself & the journey that you are on, no matter how hard it gets. I hope to look back in my 40’s someday & acknowledge that this is what set my life apart from everything else I was doing. 



Thank you for taking the time to read this personal reflection. Feel free to share your comments or recommend to others if you see value in these words.  
1love the kid  

Note from the author:

I’m going to be disconnecting by getting off the grid for the next bit of my journey as I make a move overseas to Australia & focus on creating new works. 

If you’re interested in having Hard Knock Leadership be a catalyst to your community building efforts then drop a line:

 hardknockleader@gmail.com

As I head back on the overseas for 2016 I want to thank everyone who has been following my journey and supporting me along the way. Stay Inspired Always.

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Art Is Power: We Are Storytellers

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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 ted.com 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 www.insightproject.tv

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 hardknockleader@gmail.com for inquiries



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Year One of Hard Knock Leadership & the 2015 Vision

No matter what the season, we grind daily - @hardknockleader

No matter what the season, we grind daily - @hardknockleader

This month marks one year since the soft launch of the Hard Knock Leadership initiative. What began as a platform for me to share the different types of community based work I have been taking on has shifted to creating a vision to support change makers around the world.

A Year In Review

In review, the past year has been an eventful one since the HKL kickoff in 2013. The brand has carried me through the different aspects of programming I've decided to take on and learn about. I ended last year with a visit to Panama to connect with Alley Cat Fitness Foundation, a non profit MMA camp & gym that has been engaging youth from the barrios and also helped produced one of the first Panamanian UFC fighters who has come from those humbled barrio beginnings. I started 2014 with my first international photography exhibit "Suenos de la Calle" in the Dominican Republic, where I facilitated a workshop with a local youth organization on how photography can be used as a tool to empower. 

This year as I ended my seven year campus community life term with post secondary education, I delivered a a full day community building workshop to close off the Live 2 Lead program which I activated to support racialized students. Amongst the many other talks & workshops I've facilitated this year; the opportunity to sit on Art Reach Toronto's jury as a guest artist for the 2014 youth pitch contest, I've seen myself make a transition into arts education by apprenticing in a photography program and and co-curating an outdoor exhibit of community portraits in my home of Scarborough, where I was raised.  

I look back at the year one of HKL and realize it has been some of the most moving and valuable experience that I have taken on to build dialogue on creating change in the places that need it the most.

The Reason 

We may all live through moments that will define us, make us or break us. They are the raw life experiences that make our story, one of hard knock leadership. 

I grew up in the east end of Scarborough not seeing the type of programming that kept me and the people I came up with off the streets. It's been fifteen years to when I first immigrated into Canada with my family, only to find the acceptance and assimilation of young people in under resourced neighborhoods is task still commonly taken on by gang culture. There was a lack of safe spaces where young people could express themselves without being targeted and my life purpose is driven go build those spaces.

Before I immigrated to the boroughs, I was raised living through the gulf war in the Arabian Gulf. My parents would take me to supermarkets where I remember the store shelves empty and almost cleared out from the tin cans of food that was being rationed. Boxes and bins that would contain reduced price items on sale over here, were filled with gas masks for purchase. I look back at those moments that my parents raised both me and my sister who was born during the war and I realize that I must be here for a reason.

Some times it will take you years before you reflect and actualize what you have lived through. Today Hard Knock Leadership stands as a reminder that the path we take is one that we are suppose to be on. It's a path that is not paved and one that only you will be able to map out for yourself, before being able to show others the way. 

2015 Vision. 

Looking back at the past year of HKL and my own path to community building, I've decided to dedicated my life's work towards creating the needed change in underserved communities and through Hard Knock Leadership I hope to engage the disengaged. 

The next five years will focus on the building of Hard Knock Leadership both as an agency and administrative platform for change makers to create and serve their visions to the world.  

HKL will be focusing on the following change maker platforms to build a stronger collective identity 

1) Storytelling

2) Community Organizing

3) Arts Education

4) Global Advocacy

The building of a collective around storytelling with be one of our major priorities for the upcoming year. While community organizing, arts education & global advocacy projects will continue to be taken on throughout the year; it's the storytellers platform that I will be focusing on creating, to invest in the growth of other hard knock leaders on their personal journey. 

hardknockleader.com is transitioning to a new template that will start to curate the work of the collective. As an artist my photography work will be moved to its own portal (www.sidnaidu.com) & HKL will serve more to highlight the collaborative projects that connect art to community building. I will still continue to be sharing my experiences and personal journeys on this blog but will also invite others from the collective to share their own thoughts & perspectives as change makers. 

For everyone that's supported me on this journey to more, I thank you as I look forward to building the next generation of leadership. 

Photographer, Community Organizer & Founder of HKL - Siddhartha (Sid) Naidu 

 

 

 

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The Rebirth of An Artist: Part 2

Shot on assignment with fellow creatives. (Hamza Khan co-founder of Splash Effects)

Shot on assignment with fellow creatives. (Hamza Khan co-founder of Splash Effects)

#truth I'm back to three cups of coffee a day & all I want to do is create stuff! To be honest, it didn't quite start off like this during my rebirth as an artist.

After I left my traditional career path for the one less traveled; I took my camera along for the journey one last time in hopes that I could rekindle my passion for the arts. After 10 plus years of photography being my side hustle I was struggling to find a deeper meaning in why I was striving to be a photographer. I knew I was going to start a new chapter in my life but questioned if art was something worth personally continuing when all I wanted to do was find a stronger long term focus. 

In my beginning stages as a photographer I've always enjoyed covering different subject matter as it allowed me to learn more about the craft. It was also the different opportunities I was given to shoot that encouraged me to have a positive outlook on life. Fact of the matter is that if it wasn't for photography I may have never fallen into my role of community organizing, allowing me to first document and then support the building of creative environments for young people. 

The difficulty was that as I became more and more preoccupied with my role as a civic leader, my photography work have to take a back burner. It naturally became less important when given opportunities to assist with the growth of a community. Eventually I no longer had the time to focus on creative shoots in Toronto & even the independent travel photography work while on the road would have to sit in my archives for a year or two before I was able to release any of it.

With the lack of committed time, I also started to feel that deep down inside the photography work I was doing wasn't speaking to me anymore. Something was missing from the way I was shooting that started to make it more of a robotic process than an art form. I would look at the shots I had take after an international trip and would struggle to find true purpose in why It was important to capture these images.  

Like the cave I was crawling into, my travel work started to move solely into lone landscapes; and while it spoke to so many people that have enjoy my work as photographer, I could not find the answers I was looking for to find stronger meaning in what I was shooting. 

Four months ago, in Montreal I gave it one last shot to figure it out. I started to look at the great bodies of work I had created from my travels around the world, to documenting some of the growth of the hip hop and cultural movements as a student. I knew all of these images were works that I had created, but what exactly was I trying to create and why did it matter so much? 

Today we live in a world that has been conditioned, overwhelmingly, to visualize.  Photography is a tool that has become more accessible for everyone to start taking pictures, yet not many of us may not be able to answer "what does it mean to take a picture?". In this image driven way of life, every second is a moment we feel pressured to capture; as if the moment un-captured is something that will be forgotten forever.  

In one way the democratization of photography is something I applaud. The accessibility has allowed for the untold stories to now be in the forefront of our world news. What I fell in love with was this reclamation of the art form. Historically used & commissioned only by the most elite, it was now a tool for the masses to empower and inspire the world through images. Today we are all story tellers, but of what nature?

The digitalization of the camera and our world has made it more affordable for anyone to shoot and share. The affordability in digitalization however would mean that the art of film photography would start to become a niche, warranted only for the camera purists or new age hipsters. This was a double edge sword, the possible forging of a new age camera elite & the disconnect to an important part of art history. Regardless the evolution of photography has attracted us all at some point. 

I became attached to photography as an art form because it allowed me to reclaim the art and change the lens to focus on what was not rightfully being shared with the world. I always took pride in being able to be a professional photographer to support other people who were passionate about something they were involved in and in some way, capturing their picture was a chance to share with the world my passion.

It was here that I started to realize what was missing from my work.

To be continued next week in: The Rebirth of an Artist - Part 3   


"Hard Knock Awakenings" was created as a form of reflective based storytelling, dedicated to realizations of purpose, struggle & passion in paths of life we have taken. 
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