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.
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.
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.