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The Rebirth of An Artist: Part 1

Sid Naidu Photography (c) 2014   Shot for the  Screw Face City  body of photography work.

Sid Naidu Photography (c) 2014  Shot for the Screw Face City body of photography work.

At the heart of every renaissance, it becomes the role of the artist to build a community with others. For the artist creates works of art not for personal gain, they create art in hopes that it will one day inspire the world.  

So who is this artist & how did he get to this state of mind?

This is the story of how my side hustle as an artist became my main game.  

My strongest recollection of becoming an artist was through the medium of photography in high school, where I learnt to use a film camera. I was blessed to meet a teacher who for first time had given me the encouragement I needed to develop a passion. By allowing me to express myself freely, I was able to mould the craft to share my own message. I became inspired by the work of street photographer Jamal Shabazz and completed my first photo story on Scarborough as my own body of work. It was added to a student exhibit in my final year of high school and I felt that perhaps the camera was a tool that was given to me so that I could document the world in front of me. 

Truth is, I never expected the camera to become an extension of my mind and body like it is today. In fact it was only in university, when I was hired on as a student to capture campus life events that I started to be driven to see the world through a different lens. The camera allowed me to create peace at a time of my life when I chose to live in chaos. It was a muse that allowed me to get away, which probably explained why it accompanied me when I escaped to different realities.  

As soon as I was granted my Canadian citizenship in my first year at university, I started traveling. Without hesitation the camera became my most trusted companion as I backpacked through seven countries of Europe in 2005; carrying my father's Nikon film camera shooting reels of black & white and colour. My first digital point & shoot was taken to Bahamas on my second international trip in 2007, where I really started to shoot everything in front of me. When I  had saved up enough money to buy my first entry level digital SLR, that accompanied me to India in 2009 and then Costa Rica and Panama in 2010 to capture the magical spirit in what I experienced.  I didn't stop here, my step up to a novice SLR documented my travels to East Coast Canada in 2011 & 2014, It captured my yearly return to Costa Rica & Panama between 2011-2014, my first visit to China in 2012, Hawaii 2013 & Dominican Republic in 2014.

By this rate of world experience, many of you may be considering me to be a travel photographer of some sort. I considered myself more of a wanderer with years worth of unreleased memories that I have put away to be released and published someday. My travel photography work that was commissioned by passion rather than paid gigs and would often get back logged in post process, which became more and more time consuming as I started to move towards the traditional career that payed for my lifestyle.   

Looking back over the last ten years, I've shot everything from concerts, dance performances, hip hop showcases, portfolio shoots for artists,  proposal & engagements shoots of close friends, fighters at mixed martial arts training camps and most importantly faces of the people in my life. In my own growth as a photographer I've seen my own transition from lifestyle and events to travel and landscapes to culture and portraiture.

Covering different subject matter has allowed me to learn more about the craft by capturing new content & each subject was important to me learning about the type of photographer I wanted to become.

But I also struggled during the late end of those ten years to find a deeper focus in the subject matter I wanted to dedicate my work to. I loved the art & was passionate when shooting but deep down inside I knew something was missing from the art that I was producing. I was searching with no clear sight of the greater meaning and purpose of an artist.

This feeling became something that made me question the importance of photography in my life at a time that I was growing professionally and needed to cut out the things that slowed me down in finding a stronger focus in a career.

And so this year I came to that hard knock awakening where I had to ask myself if being an artist was something that was worth continuing to do in my lifetime.  

To be continued next week in: The Rebirth of an Artist - Part 2  

"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. 
Do you have a Hard Knock Awakening to share? connect with @hardknockleader on twitter
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This is leadership for the everyday hustle





Project Update: We Are Lawrence Avenue

We Are Lawrence Avenue: an initiative by the City of Toronto x Che Kothari 

We Are Lawrence Avenue: an initiative by the City of Toronto x Che Kothari 

I'm excited to announce that I will be taking on an apprentice role to support the We Are Lawrence Avenue Project #WAL with Toronto's civic leaders & professional photographers Che Kothari and Jalani Morgan.

The #WAL Project will transform part of Lawrence Avenue East into a dynamic community driven photography exhibit. 

This iconic, east-west arterial route runs connects a number of Scarborough's  communities. This project humanizes the avenue; it will tell stories of shop owners, community elders and leaders as local youth work to document their community through photography.


The We Are Lawrence Avenue is part of the Cultural Hotspot initiatives 

The We Are Lawrence Avenue is part of the Cultural Hotspot initiatives 

This project is part of the City of Toronto's Cultural Hotspot Initiative which puts a spotlight on the hot beds of the city which are home to a diverse cultural scene and unique local history. As the city looks to provide opportunities for young people in inner suburban neighbourhoods around arts and culture; this program will bring cultural activities, art interventions, development opportunities and legacy projects to the different neighbourhoods. With an emphasis on youth mentorship and employment, business engagement, community building and artistic excellence, the Cultural Hotspot initiative seeks to draw new attention to Toronto's Hotspot area.



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

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



Sueños De La Calle: The making of an overseas exhibit

An international workshop for Hard Knock Leadership... Sure why not?

I have a condition of impulse travel that always leaves me with a small window for accomplishing the world of to do’s that need to be ticked off before I depart. For two years now this very impulse has had me overseas for the New Year in a new country. I consider myself someone who travels with a deeper purpose than a vacation. So what better way to start the New Year overseas than with a proposed exhibit building discussion among youth leaders within the Dominican Republic.

The question is how does one go from facilitating local initiatives to building discussion globally? Here is the making of my overseas exhibition and some steps to how I made it happen.

Sueños De la Calle photography work printed for the exhibit / workshop

Sueños De la Calle photography work printed for the exhibit / workshop

Creating material & content before you head abroad is key as this allows you to connect with others in two ways.

1) Showcase your work to contacts you meet along the way  

2) Be prepared with a theme and transferable idea of what you can accomplish.

Enter “Sueños De La Calle,” a compilation of my street photography work that I put together before heading to Latin America in December 2013. It curates my eight years of my photography work that I have captured and shares the narrative of storytelling that I have roughly titled street dreams. I printed a little black photo book that became the idea I would carry around with me in order to showcase my work and build dialogue around the message of my content.  

Don’t speak the language fluently to communicate... Hmmm that could be a challenge.

My brother, life mentor & truster translator Spin el Poeta who broke down the language barrier for me 

My brother, life mentor & truster translator Spin el Poeta who broke down the language barrier for me 

The language barrier is your biggest barrier. No matter how much street slang you think you know, “habla un poco” (Speak a little) doesn’t cut it. Your either fluent or your not and this particular exhibit for Hard Knock Leadership would not have been possible without a trusted translator that shared the same goals as me.

Shout outs to my brother Spin El Poeta for the taking the role as the official translator for Sueños De La Calle 

Even with a translator do make an effort to translate some of your own work. Web applications like google translate can also help you pick up the language that your decoding. It’s important to keep in mind that some words do not have a translation in another language. “Hard Knock is Hard Knock” it’s a North American term that does not convey the same message in Spanish, so be flexible with how you communicate to accommodate any lost translation.

Break down a written script of what you wish to communicate to ensure your translation is coherent and paced out for understanding. Be patient in communicating words with your translator and use the universal tone of body language to engage visually where you may lack verbally.  

Not knowing the group your going to facilitate until you land... Lets MIH: Make it happen.

Facilitating dialogue around photography as a tool for community building in Dominican Republic as a Hard Knock Leader 

Facilitating dialogue around photography as a tool for community building in Dominican Republic as a Hard Knock Leader 

Your work essentially carries you halfway there and the rest comes down to your determination and focus to dedicating some of your time overseas to executing your game plan. Work on the logistics of finding local print shops to having your work on display and have that work donated to the organization for future conversation & dialogue if the interest is there.  Your canvases become the tool for engagement and delivering a message becomes the purpose of your art.  

Having a good set of trusted contacts that make things happen becomes your driving force. Convey your intent to them before you travel so they can get the ball rolling or at least plant the seed to grow. They will not always have all the answers for you immediately so plan what you can and be prepared to do the majority of the groundwork and research when you land. Bringing youth leaders from Dominican Republic's Juventud Caribe & sister organizations took on a grass roots form of word of mouth.  

 Always remember what you hope to accomplish as someone who is visiting. My goal was focused on creating global dialogue and this could only start by learning about the current environment that people live in. No matter who your audience, there should be a two way exchange of learning, where you are asking  questions to learn about their reality as much as you speak to explain your own.

To book this Hard Knock Leader as a facilitator for dialogue around community building email or tweet @hardknockleader

Hard Knock Leadership supporting culture and community both local & global




Sueños De La Calle Exposición / Street Dreams Exhibit

Sueños De La Calle Exposición: Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana - Sid Naidu Fotografia 2014 (c)

Sueños De La Calle Exposición: Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana - Sid Naidu Fotografia 2014 (c)

This January I had the honour of hosting my first international photography exhibit in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The exhibit was translated into "Sueños De La Calle" (Street Dreams) and was a compilation that curated eight years of my photography work while living in Toronto, Canada. 

This exhibit was held as an event for a number of youth leaders in the Dominican Republic to build stronger global dialogue and a chance for me to learn about the realities they face. A translated workshop took place around my beginnings as a street photographer / hard knock leader and how art can be used as a tool for community building around the world.

Artist’s Statement

“Sueños de la calle” is a compilation of my photography work. The exhibit aims to interpret the dreams spoken on the streets through black & white images.

Artist Biography

Sid Naidu has been a street photographer since 2003. He uses the art of photography as a tool for storytelling. This year he has launched projects around “Hard Knock Leadership” to create dialogue and action in support of cultural engagement, community building & global citizenship



Tuve el honor de realizar mi primera exposición internacional de fotografía en Santo Domingo, República Dominicana. La exposición ha sido traducida a "Sueños De La Calle" (Street Dreams) y fue una recopilación que resume ocho años de mi trabajo de fotografía mientras vivía en Toronto, Canadá.

La exposición se llevó a cabo por un número de líderes de la juventud en la República Dominicana para construir un diálogo global más fuerte y para aprender acerca de las realidades que enfrentan. La discusión se centró en torno a mis inicios como fotógrafo de la calle / "hardknockleader" lider duro de golpear y cómo el arte puede ser utilizado como una herramienta para la construcción de la comunidad en todo el mundo.

Declaración del Artista 

 “Sueños de la calle” es una recopilación de mi tabajo de fotografía. La exposición tiene como objetivo interpretar los sueños que se hablan en las calles a través de imágenes en blanco y negro.

Biografía del Artista 

Sid Naidu ha sido un fotógrafo de la calle desde el año 2003. Él usa el arte de la fotografía como una herramienta para contar historias. Este año se ha puesto en marcha proyectos en todo "Hard Knock Liderazgo" para crear el diálogo y la acción en el compromiso cultural de apoyo, la construcción de comunidad y ciudadanía global