It’s A Big But Small World

For the last 7 months I’ve been travelling, never spending more than a few days in one place. Last July I started in Oregon and drove with my two best friends across the United States  teaching workshops before beginning my job as the main photographer for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, visiting more than 80 countries before the FIFA World Cup. As of today it’s been 195 days travelling and 68 countries.

Going to all these places!

 

It’s been a humbling experience, visiting all corners of the earth in just a few months. I’ve found myself walking through the poorest neighborhoods in the world, seeing the poverty that so often only gets seen through a computer or television screen. Often in the same day I’m taking photos of presidents, sports figures and important people from the country we are in. It’s a strange line to walk along, seeing and being a part of two very different worlds that not many people experience. For the first time I was left being the only English-speaking person in a room, the only Caucasian, the only person wearing shoes or with access to clean drinking water.  And it was powerful and life changing. These times of being a minority have humbled me, changed the way that I feel about myself and about the world around me. It’s inspired me to keep giving back and to keep making sure that I feel these places, not just see them. I feel that the short conversations, the high fives, the hugs and the smiles that I’ve shared with people from countries I never thought I would set foot in have built me up like a puzzle. Each of those faces and voices, matching together to put build who I am now.  I didn’t know when I started this trip, that I was missing all these little pieces in my heart, in my mind but now after reflecting on all of these moments, I see that they’ve helped me feel more complete.

 

 

Some of my favourite memories of the last few months have been those quick moments, kneeling in the dirt to show some kids how my camera works, watching a couple share a kiss in the setting sun, seeing families spending time together and watching people share their love of football through dance, laughter and tears. From living in a small town tucked away to being in the biggest cities on earth, life has changed. Every day while travelling I try to find a quiet place to give thanks that I’m breathing the air that I am. That my feet are touching the ground that I’m on. I’ve done this ritual as we flew next to Mt.Everest, I gave thanks as I gripped the railing of a stadium that fits more people than my town, while I walked barefoot through a Grand Mosque and ran my hands along one of the Great Pyramids.  I had tears while I prayed next to the tomb of Mother Teresa and silently smiled as I watched Buddhist monks meditate in Myanmar. I like to think that if I take a deep enough breath of the air in these places that it will stay inside me, that it will help me feel connected to these places for the rest of my life, maybe it will lead me back to them.

 

One of the elements of this trip and of my life in the last few years that I never expected was to be able to meet so many fellow artists and photographers. Throughout the last year especially, being able to spend a day or a few hours with another photographer has shown me how small the world can be. It’s incredible to me to see how art and photography can truly connect people from all corners of the earth.

In Egypt, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Ecuador I found people who recognized me from my work. I say this not to sound high on myself but because it was the first time in my own life that I realized that the work I’m creating actually does exist outside of my own head. That people see my photos, they like them and they remember them. Never in my life would I ever have thought that someone would like my art enough to remember me and want to actually travel to say hello.

In the last few weeks I was lucky enough to be able to meet with some long time photographer friends who I have admired for quite a while. The thing that I love about meeting other photographers, especially ones who a part of the small but growing ‘conceptual’ community, is that it never feels strange. Meeting Adam Hauge, Anh Minh, Diego Chavarro, Tasha Faye, Alyssa Amaro, Mikael Aldo, Daniel Adams, Reem Eissa, Sammy Tagir and more never felt weird even though we’d never met before. To me it’s like seeing a friend again after a few months apart. There’s a common thread that runs inside artists and I think that the thread keeps us connected to the same feelings. Being able to look out over Bogotá, wander through Kuala Lumpur or buzz around the streets of Hanoi showed me how big the world is, but how small it can be at the same time. That those moments were created because of how connected people have become through the internet, through photography and through these wires both physical and invisible.

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It’s amazing to me to think that my life has changed entirely because of the internet, because of how small the world can be. This job, travelling the world came from me sharing photos online and having the right person see it. We live in an age where there is SO much content and so much happening all the time online but we can use this opportunity to help create new paths for ourselves.  When I first picked up a camera 5 years ago I never imagined I would be doing any of the things that I’m doing now and I recognize that it’s this “big – small world” idea that has helped me get there.

My friends and closest people in my life have come from the same thing, sharing myself and becoming connected through the small world that we share. Coming from a place a few years ago where I felt isolated, friendless and without a direction, I can say that I’m blessed to be able to be a puzzle piece in this big, small world. The community that exists within the photography community is shifting from one of competition and criticism to one of support, friendship and admiration. I think that one of the most powerful and selfless things that a person can do is support someone else who is reaching for the same goals they are and that’s what I see amongst the photographers that I follow and admire. I read a quote once that said “Someone else’s success is not your failure” and I believe that. In this big small world, there are opportunities for us all. We all have a vision, something that makes us unique and that will lead us all down different paths that are just that, different and not better or worse.

So with that, I’d like to thank YOU for being a part of this big and small world. For looking at,  enjoying , commenting and appreciating my work and what I do and for helping me find the path that I’ve found.

Worldly Balance

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Tales from the Trophy Tour – Part 1!

I’ve finally found a few hours to sit down and write about the first few weeks of my amazing new job. And by finding a few hours, I really mean that the jetlag that I’ve been avoiding has finally hit me after travelling from one side of the world to the other and back in about 9 days! So far as of Sept 27th, I’ve travelled over 44,700km in just over 2 weeks!!

As a bit of a recap to what this exciting job is, back in April of this year I received a phone called from an organization that works with Coca-Cola’s big campaigns and they had an amazing job opportunity that they had in mind for me. The group organizes (among other campaigns) the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by  Coca-Cola and they were offering me the role on tour as the photographer and blogger. The tour, which is a joint effort by Coca-Cola and FIFA, is centered around bringing the physical World Cup Trophy around the world to 89 countries to unite the entire world around the sport of football. Needless to say the opportunity to travel the world with a company that I’ve long respected and been a fan of was an offer that I couldn’t refuse and as of Sept 10th, I’ve been on the road with the tour.

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Our first stop was Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where the launch of the tour occurred. The first day in Brazil was incredible, my hotel window looked over Copacabana beach and I spent a few hours enjoying the sand and sun trying to wrap my mind around how lucky I am to have such an amazing opportunity in my life. Rio was an interesting and beautiful city to visit and I was fortunate enough to see a few different views of it. The second day of my stop there I followed our video crew to visit a young football fan and player who was being surprised with a ticket to the launch, where he would get to see the trophy at the Cristo statue and also meet 5 Brazil champion players. Getting a chance to go to his neighborhood was eye opening and powerful, his community was so happy and supportive of him and even though it was in a poor area of town, the feeling of pride and excitement made everything feel so upbeat and happy.

 

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The video was just posted this week and you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXSern9Zqp4&feature=share&list=PLCGIzmTE4d0gBDk0w2z_JoqcSGb1Sr6n2

The launch day was one of the most surreal days of my life. I remember not too long ago reading an article about statues around the world and thinking to myself that I would probably never see the Christ The Redeemer statue in real life. And suddenly there I was early in the morning with an opportunity to see the statue and the view it has with almost nobody else around. The launch was full of awesome moments; seeing the Trophy for the first time in real life, getting to meet the 5 world champions, watching David Correy, Gaby and Monobloco perform the new anthem as it echoed it’s way down to the streets of Rio. It was a day I’ll never forget.davidgabymonoblocotwo

The rest of our stay in Rio was filled with more great moments, some of which are a bit of a secret for now. On the last full night of our stay there I found myself along with 3 of my colleagues going to Rock in Rio to see David Guetta and Beyoncé perform! In a matter of hours I went from sitting in the Coca-Cola Brazil office to a private Coke booth at the concert, rocking out to Beyoncé and pinching myself because it all felt like it was too surreal to be actual life. After a fairly relaxed final day in Rio we set off for literally the other side of the world, Tahiti.

In a matter of a few stops and a nice layover in Los Angeles that gave me a chance to see Carolyn Hampton and her daughter, we were on our way to the beautiful Pacific Islands. The first stop, Tahiti, was beautiful.  Our hotel looked out over an incredible lagoon and the sunset over and island every night. Our stay in Tahiti was short, only a couple days but it was filled with amazing moments. We had our first big event, an football experience at a local stadium with World Cup winner Christian Kerembeu as well as the captain of the Tahiti National Team. It was really neat to see so many people engaged and excited about the trophy and the whole experience.  After our short stay in Tahiti it was off to Fiji!

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Fiji was incredible. We were met off the plane by warriors and then ushered into a huge ceremony where the President arrived to welcome us and hold the trophy. The whole ceremony was moving and it was fascinating to be a part of such a rich cultural experience that doesn’t happen very often. Our stay in Fiji was filled with so much activity, we had a huge event at a football stadium, bringing the trophy and Christian Kerembeu to welcome the citizens of lautoka.  We had another event at night with fire breathers, dacncers and great music. Fiji was one of my favourite stops so far and I’m already hoping that I can go back one day soon for a longer visit.

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After Fiji we hopped over to another island, Vanuatu. We met the President here as well and he was very excited to be able to see and touch the trophy. The Vanuatu trip was short and punctuated with rain showers that made exploring the local beaches and village a little more difficult. We managed to visit the market and explored a short section of beatufiul blue water and soft white beach sand.

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This trip so far has been life changing, I’ve learned a lot about myself even in the few weeks that I’ve been on the road and it has opened my eyes to a lot of things. We’ve been fortunate to stay at some of the best hotels there are and at the same time experience the poorest neighborhoods and people I’ve personally ever seen. It’s an opportunity though to appreciate what we have and remind ourselves to give back and share as much as possible.

This is just the first of many posts to come, the next write up will include our first trip on our private jet, our trips to Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama! Stay tuned!

 

Make sure you’re following @trophytour on twitter to get all the updates!