If you want to use your camera to change the world, you don’t need to be a photojournalist stationed in some far-flung war zone. You probably don’t even need to do a labour intensive course (these days everything you need to learn is probably online in a YouTube tutorial). Basically, you can pick up a camera and start using it in your everyday life. Sometimes the best and most effective art has come to life because it’s grounded in reality, or because it’s true to who you are and what you stand for. It’s about embracing your unique perspective and the voice you want to project to the world.
Not convinced that’s all it takes? Here are three young people who are using their cameras to find their voices and inspire others in interesting, unusual and sometimes viral ways.
Casey Neistat’s YouTube channel is mostly just videos of him living his extremely cool life, riding through the city on his electric skateboard or flying drones around. His most popular video Snowboarding with the NYPD is him and some friends snowboarding behind a Jeep through New York during the blizzard earlier this year. It’s set to New York, New York by Frank Sinatra and ends with a police officer pulling them over but then letting them off with a warning. It has more than 15 million views on YouTube, and more than 33 million views on Facebook.
Casey’s videos are also a great resource if you’re starting out because he goes into detail about cameras he uses, what each one is good for and how to make them perfect for vlogging. Casey says in one video that he thinks he’s used five or six of the EOS 70D, that “They’re actually really great cameras, I just go through them like Tic Tacs because I really beat the hell out of these things.” He also demonstrates his favourite sticky tape hack so you can pull the video screen out with your teeth if you have the camera in one hand and controls for an electric skateboard in the other hand.
In his final daily vlog Casey credits vlogging with giving him “a tidal wave of opportunity.” He’s now using his 5 million subscriber platform to pursue meaningful and challenging projects. It’s fun to make fun things, but it’s also good sense. Make entertainment and build your audience so that when you have something important to say, there will be people who actually hear.
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Connie Cao is only 24 years old, but her blog has already made huge waves in the fashion industry. As well as being on the cover of Peppermint, she has featured in dozens of magazines including in Frankie, Yen, RUSSH, Vogue Australia, and Teen Vogue.
She’s the youngest blogger to ever be featured on the cover of an Australian print magazine and has more than 58 000 followers on Instagram. Pro tip for serious ‘Grammers: you can upload photos from a DSLR instead of a smartphone for higher picture quality and control – Connie mostly uses a Canon EOS 7D Mark II.
All of her photography is incredibly beautiful and strangely calming, and if there is a Heaven it probably looks like the K is for Kani flower crown-making studio. In between studying for two degrees and being a member of the Monash Photography Club and the Monash Chinese Culture Club and running a successful blog, (!) Connie took up making flower crowns as a hobby. She wore some of them in the photos for her blog posts and was inundated with so many requests that she set up an Etsy shop to sell them.
Photographing your creative projects can help you share what you love with the world. It can also bring people together – join a photography club at your uni, or on Meetup, or a group dedicated to the brand of camera you have like the Canon Collective where you can meet other people who’ll inspire you.
Brandon Stanton decided to follow his dreams of becoming a photographer when he lost his job in finance. A classic trope. He travelled America and themed his photos of each city around what he noticed first: Yellow Steel Bridges of Pittsburg, Bricks and Flags of Philadelphia, Humans of New York. He noticed that his street portraits with captions were getting more attention on social media than any other photos, so he concentrated on those.
Humans of New York now has 18 million fans on Facebook. There are two books, and both have made it to the number one spot on the Amazon bestseller list. You’ve probably seen one of his posts shared in your timelines. So many people have been touched or inspired by these stories of everyday people, and more importantly, so many people have been inspired to start their own spin-off of the “Humans of” project. There’s a Humans of Paris, Amsterdam, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, even a Humans of Highgate which is just a suburb of Perth. There’s one for refugees. They’ve even spawned some parodies like Millennials of New York, because people mocking you is the surest sign you’ve made it.
“Do you remember the happiest moment of your life?”
“This one time I was in Hawaii with my family, and we were walking…
But seriously, why not start your own “Humans of” or some variation of it in your community? Grab a camera (Brandon uses a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon 50mm f1.2 lens, if you’re curious). Be brave, be polite, and engage with your local humans.
Casey, Connie and Brandon have very different projects, and use their cameras in very different ways. One thing they have in common is they all just went for it – all three just picked up a camera and started sharing their own unique perspectives. They’re great examples of how combining social media with your camera skills can be a great platform for getting your images seen and your voice heard. It can help you do what you love, share what you love, show what you love about the world. Sometimes making the world a better place is about making it a nicer place by creating things people enjoy, and building an audience for when you have something powerful to say.
Take some action
No need to go through cameras like Tic Tacs (the Casey Neistat way). Simply get started on a good camera or two (tell your mates) with this limited offerKeen as