Against The Grain

Effective storytelling in the world of photography - or image making in general - requires one very well honed aspect of the craft: a unique perspective.

A victorious Adam Scott poses for photographers in his Green Jacket at the 2013 Masters (photo by Scott K. Brown/Augusta National)

A victorious Adam Scott poses for photographers in his Green Jacket at the 2013 Masters (photo by Scott K. Brown/Augusta National)

Kudos to Scott Brown understanding how powerful pointing your camera against the grain of all the other cameras can be. This image should remind us all to not get swept up in the tidal pool of trend or common wisdom. For your work to stand apart from the crowd, you must literally stand apart from the crowd.

Tap into and seek out your unique perspective. It's the only thing in the world you have that no one else can claim.

I must tip my hat to my friend Allan Thompson for sharing this image. His passion for story & golf are second to none.

The Art of Seeing

He saw something in my son nobody else saw. And he made a film about it.
— George Monroy, Caine's father

Do you remember that video about the young boy from LA who built a cardboard arcade and stole the internet's heart? If you're not familiar with Caine's story, you need to be. Don't worry, there's no expiration date on awesome story. This is the best 10 minutes you'll invest today:

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Well, my friend Heather at Shutterfly (she's the Chief Storytelling Officer, how cool is that?) sent it to me this week & I watched it a few times, including yesterday over a Valentine picnic with my wife & daughter. The story is one of those that's too incredibly heartwarming not to share. And it started me thinking about a few things.

Something Nobody Else Saw. It takes a storyteller to see the world as it's supposed to be (thanks for the phrase Cornelius Plantinga). Most people walk through life and see a hardware store full of boxes. It takes a storyteller to see, to really truly see, past the factual truth of life and redemptively view the details. This wonderful little kid gave the world a gift, but it took a storyteller's perspective to translate what he created into a language the rest of the world could understand. It took a storyteller to show the world an arcade.

Storytellers are First Customers. The Art of Seeing comes with great responsibility. It's a form of leadership. The way Nirvan Mullick (the storyteller behind Caine's Arcade) saw his neighborhood sparked a worldwide movement & literally changed Caine's life forever. Not to mention the change in perspective that occurs in anyone who's ever seen the film. They'll never see a cardboard box the same way again. The world is better because Nirvan needed a door handle and found an arcade.

A Small Gesture. Seeing Truth in the overwhelming presence of contrary facts, takes practice - but it's something you can do anywhere. And it starts with being curious and kind. Nirvan may have truly seen the arcade before anyone else, but it took kindness shown to a 9 year old boy and a willingness to ask, "how much for a fun pass?" to give birth to a story.

This weekend, as you do the things you do, practice the Art of Seeing. Engage someone you wouldn't normally notice, show them the kindness of being genuinely interested in the details of their life. You just might find a story that we all desperately need to hear.

You can learn more about Caine & his arcade here:

Kyle Steed

When I started this series on mobile photography, I knew I wanted to feature the work and thoughts of some of my favorite mobile photographers and I knew, without question, that one of those people would be my friend Kyle Steed. 

Tyler Sharp  Kung Fu's with Kyle

Tyler Sharp Kung Fu's with Kyle

We met a couple of years ago at the Echo Conference. I remember sitting next to him (and his trademark hat) during a Barton Damer breakout & thinking, "this guy's notes look so much better than mine."

I took this photo with my phone to commemorate that moment:


Kyle doesn't call himself a photographer, though he has a crazy following on Instagram that believes he and a camera do okay together. By trade, Kyle is an illustrator and has a distinct artistic voice.

I know Kyle's work anytime I see it, even when I'm not expecting it, like in a Walgreens spot (that's his hand-drawn typeface at the beginning). You might be familiar with some of Kyle's work, too. He's the creator of the super popular Instaxagram, the man behind, and Folly. Attempting to list all the wonderful projects he's had his hands in would be superfluous, at this point, so let me just attempt to wrap up by saying this: Kyle is one of those people whose talent and artistic vision is overshadowed only by the love he shows his fellow man.

"you find them when you're not looking." - Kyle Steed

"you find them when you're not looking." - Kyle Steed

I think that comes though in his work, his photography and I think you'll hear a bit of that in his answers to the three questions I asked him.

Trey: What is your guiding philosophy as an artist & how does IG fit into that?

Kyle:The world is a complex and often frustrating place to be, so I always seek a way to find and hold on to the simple things I find. Sometimes it requires a lot of searching and digging to get there, other times it’s just right in front of my face, but when I find it I hold on to it. There exist a certain peace in simplicity. But I also believe there is a way to have peace in the midst of the chaos of our life. I guess this is the fire my eye for photography has been forged in.

My hope is to always continue to refine and sharpen my eye. Nothing here on earth is ever finished.


Trey: How has mobile photography altered your way of moving through the world?

Kyle:If I’m being honest there have been times when I’ve been totally caught up in the whirlwind of social media (Instagram) and feeling like I have to share my entire life. But that kind of thinking really stresses me out. The stress of feeling like every shot has to be perfect, or worse... has to get thousands of likes, is just silly. I don’t regret that time of my life, just learn from it and move on. Now I feel like I exercise greater control over how and when I share my photos. I don’t spend all day trying to think up my next shot, instead I just let the shot come to me. Some days I don’t post anything, other days I may have a handful of photos to share. But that’s the beauty of it, having this mobile device in my pocket makes it so accessible. It comes along with me on my journey.


Trey:Who is your favorite follow on IG & why?

Kyle: There are so many great photographers on instagram. It’s still such a new medium for photography that I don’t think we’ve seen the best of the best. I can say that @colerise has to have one of the best consistent feeds that I follow. That man knows his way around an iPhone camera, that’s for sure. But I’m afraid to give this question a definitive answer, because it’s not about numbers but about the feeling and stories a person chooses to tell with their photos.

this is Cole, you can follow him on  Instagram .

this is Cole, you can follow him on Instagram.

Kyle has something pretty exciting coming up for anyone interested in mobile photography. He's teaming up with Austin Mann to teach a mobile photography workshop, part of the recently announced WELD creative labs. If you're interested in taking part, you can learn more here:

Part I: The Original Social Media

Part II: Mobile Photography Apps

Part III: #panogramtastic

Part IV: Kyle Steed