If you don’t know what The Arcanum is, then this is a good chance to check it out!
Well, it looks like Google+ is going the way of the dodo bird and will disappear from the face of this mortal coil. I’m not too surprised, as the trends were definitely pointing in that direction! I remember the days when, personally, I used to max out at 500 comments per photo I posted. Now I’m lucky to get THREE. Personally, I moved most of my action and interaction over to Facebook a while ago.
But what does this mean for The Arcanum, which depends HEAVILY on the interaction provided by the amazing Group infrastructure here on Google+? Well, immediately it means nothing. In short, between now and when G+ “sunsets” in the middle of 2019, we can continue to use it. In the meantime, we have a migration plan.
The migration plan is tied to possible futures for The Arcanum. In one instance, we are looking at some investment opportunities from outside parties that like the idea of taking it to the next level. I know we all love this idea of our Master & Apprentice matching system for creatives. I always think about it as “Uber for Creative Brains” – I think traditional education, particularly for creatives, is especially lousy and based on an outdated institutionalized education system better suited for training lawyers than open-ended creative pursuits.
Another plan is a possible merger with a larger platform that provides complimentary services. We’re not at liberty to talk about that now, but there are some interesting possibilities.
Either plan will have us create a proprietary group messaging system that is ideal for The Arcanum. It would also be more mobile friendly. Remember, we’re just using Google+ as a fancy “Group Chat” and this kind of functionality is pretty easy to replicate in technological terms.
Now, in the meantime, since The Arcanum is definitely not a dictatorship (quite the opposite from its bottom-up design), we encourage all Masters to take their Apprentices onto whatever platform they desire! Facebook Groups is a pretty good option, as I have a private group (that anyone can join) over at https://www.facebook.com/groups/BecomingAnArtist. They don’t quite have all the same features as Communities, but they are not terrible. Some G+ people HATE HATE HATE Facebook, though, so this will probably be more of an individual decision. These private groups can also work great for a group of Apprentices in a cohort to share their photos, get feedback, and do all the fun “Level-Up” quests in The Arcanum.
I’ll also give a little “biz-update” here. Things are clicking along. We are barely (BARELY) profitable, which is a good thing! It’s nowhere close to paying back the hundreds of thousands of $$ that Peter, Rene, and I personally invested in the platform. But staying a little bit profitable means that it’s not hemorrhaging cash, which is a death knell for any young business. I think, also, because of this, it will make it easier to raise money either from angel investors or startup funds. Also, I know the Masters really appreciate the extra income they get every month. If we get a chance to amp this up by many orders of magnitude, the profits for all parties should go up an order of magnitude as well. This is exciting for all of us on the financial side. But it’s also endearing on the personal side because we know how we’re spreading creativity around the world via the tried and true classical traditions of the Master & Apprentice relationship. All the Masters inside The Arcanum already know how many lives they have touched and changed.
I was recently reminded of how powerful The Arcanum is in people’s lives last week when I was in Porto, Portugal. I made a friend there named Jose Santos. He’s about 55 or so, and he’s been in The Arcanum for two years under his Master, Trace Aiken. We were having wine and watching the sunset across the river and taking photos. He was speaking so fondly of Trace. I totally agreed, mentioning that I could watch his critiques on video in The Arcanum video archives forever. Trace has definitely had a positive impact on Jose’s creative life, and that is a noble thing! And then, believe it or not, a few days later I was connecting in Tokyo on the way home to New Zealand. I had 10 hours, so I jumped on the subway to go to a remote part outside the city I had never visited. I wandered for an hour, found a cute little Japanese cafe, and went inside, setting down my camera on my table. The couple beside me saw the camera and could see I was a travel photographer. We talked, and after about 10 minutes they asked if I had ever heard of The Arcanum and a Master named Glenn Guy? I said, are you kidding me? Not only was I one of the founders of The Arcanum, but I met Glenn around the same time randomly while taking star photos in Milford Sound. A totally true story… I took a photo of them and sent it to good man Glenn!
Anyway, this little anecdote just reminds me that We Got Something Good A’Goin’ On Here, and it’s all the more reason to keep it alive. In short, don’t worry about G+ shutting down in the middle of next year, as we can continue to use it until then (9+ months left). In the meantime, we’re working on making an even better way for all of you communicate, share, and create.
Daily Photo – Pants in Porto
On my very first trip to Porto two years ago, I only got to spend one day here. It was great fun, though! This is one of the first things I saw… It’s not an amazing photo or anything, but it does show off the incredible color range and texture that the Hasselblad medium format brings out.
Hey everyone, I’m doing a free event in Glenorchy, New Zealand next week on Saturday the 20th at 7 PM. Come one, come all! Actually, don’t come all as there is only room for 120 people. I’ll be doing an Art Talk + Q&A. The event itself is free, but if you want to do a wine tasting beforehand, that is another option. Here is info and links below:
Trey’s Art Talk
Sat 20 Oct, 7:00pm–8:00pm
Where: Camp Glenorchy, 35 Oban Street Register Here
Free, but should register to ensure a seat. F&B available for purchase.
I’ll go ahead and assume you have a Netflix account. Anyway, go do a search for Hans Zimmer Live and get ready for an amazing show! Best watched Super Loud and with a beverage of your choice!
Daily Photo – Hans Zimmer in Concert!
I was lucky enough to see my friend Hans perform twice in Europe. Once was in Hungary and the other time was in Germany. Both concerts had a lot of similarities, but I was surprised how much Hans ad-libbed a lot of the stuff he was saying between each song. He was especially popular in his hometown of Germany where the fans went absolutely nuts.
I ended up with about 50 (or so) good photos of the two concerts and made a special book just for him and his crew.
There are a few factual errors in there, but that’s okay… I don’t think anyone there will mind too much, nor will they see this, since I am pretty sure my blog is still banned in China. That is too bad because I actually have lots of nice things to say about the place and lots of pretty photos of China! Oh well.
Daily Photo – Three Girls Sit in an Impossible Library
How amazing is this library? I made a special point to go here while in Tianjin, China. It’s almost an hour outside the city, but it’s totally worth it. There are some secrets about this library I won’t tell you, but you would thank me if you actually knew the secrets! Anyway, it was full of lots of young girls who were taking way more selfies than reading books.
Thanks again to Curtis and the rest of the team for getting the new site finished at www.TreyRatcliff.com! I think it’s looking pretty spiffy. The blog here is very casual… I talk in a very normal, laid back way… hey that’s how I really am! But for our Fine Art site, I wanted to make it a bit classier, you know. I mean, I’m a classy guy and all. Well, kinda.
Anyway, if you’re a Passport Member, you’ll see a video today where I talk all about how we price prints, how we sell to collectors and this sort of thing. Enjoy!
Here’s photos of a few of my prints hanging in homes around the world.
Behind the Fine Art
I’ve never really made a video like this. I’m a bit sheepish about this sort of thing, because I don’t like talking about money and this sort of thing. In a lot of ways, I think it can sully things. But, well, business is sort of a way of life. Anyway, in this video you get to hear a lot of details about how we price and sell fine art. Enjoy!
Here is the short story of my 150-kilometer trek from Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Over 200,000 people hike each year on this pilgrimage. In the olden days when people were still stoned, this used to be a Christian pilgrimage to visit the grisly bones of Saint James. Nowadays many people make the hike and it’s no longer purely religious, although many people are still stoned.
Either way, it’s certainly a spiritual journey.
In terms of religious hikes, it doesn’t really compare in numbers to that of Mecca, where 15 million people walk each year. That walk mostly originates from Jeddah and clocks in at around 70 km. Either way, this epic Santiago hike I did has multiple routes. The full route is over 1200 km from France or a lighter version from Portugal at around 200 km. Mine was just 150 because we started right at the border in Tui, Spain. It’s also shorter because we are all kinda lazy and get the point after 150km.
I’ve decided to tell a multi-part story via conversations I had with my nine other walkers. This event was put together by Kevin Kelly and Craig Mod who have completed a few of these sorts of walks around the world. The idea is a bit of a “Walk n’ Talk” where we mostly philosophize about the world, make jokes, and engage in a stimulating amount of mutual mental masturbation. Everyone on this adventure was from different walks of life. We had everything from tech magnates to authors to photographers to entrepreneurs to DNA researchers, and well, you name it.
It was great, for me personally, to establish deep connections with each and every member of our hiking tribe. At least, I think I did! 🙂
Below is one of many 360 videos (link to subscribe to my YouTube channel) I made while on this hike. I’ll post them a bit out of order. I talked to Kevin about several disparate topics in different videos including AI, an enormous underground clock he is working on that lasts 10,000 years, a series of bottom-up libraries that are being built in a Nevada desert, Burning Man, and last, something that sounds a bit macabre: Death.
You can click the gear to amp it up to 4K. In this 360 video, I am walking with both Kevin Kelly and Hugh Howey. We talk about rituals, in particular, a special ritual he invented for his kids when they turned 21. After that, we talk about death, and our nefarious plans to split up Kevin’s body as a new idea for a death ritual to honor him. It all sounds a bit dour, but it certainly isn’t. NOTE: If you have not seen a 360 video before, you can grab the screen and look in any direction you want!
The overall idea was that we spend most of the day discussing philosophy, science, and other erudite matters. Each night at dinner we had a different discussion. World governance, urbanization, religion, and relationships just to name a few. We would record about three hours of these blatherings and they’re putting together all the transcripts now.
Anyway, that was the texture of the seven-day hike. I’ll get started with an overall paintbrush stroke of the trip then get into Story #1 with Kevin Kelly. In the next one, I’ll talk about my discussions with Hugh Howey, whom you may recognize as the author of Wool and the Silo series of books. I’m starting with those two because I knew a lot about them either in person or via their work before the trip. After, that, I’ll share stories from some of the other ne’er-do-wells that joined us.
We started on the edge of Portugal, and you’ll see a bridge below that links northern Portugal and Spain.
This was a nice little surprise to find this bridge that connected the two countries. Strangely, even though we walked directly north after you touch the Spanish soil, you have to set your clocks back one hour.
This mini-bridge walk was technically before the whole hike even started after our motley crew assembled for an introductory dinner.
After dinner, I walked across this bridge around midnight with Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress and current CEO of Automattic. In a short time, we talked about a bit of everything from him changing my life by founding WordPress (my blog at www.StuckInCustoms.com) to doing recreational drugs at Burning Man. But I’ll save more of that for the Matt Mullenweg story day!
It was sort of unusual being thrown into a group of ten people who you don’t really know. I remember one of our fellow walkers, Chris Barclay said on the final night that he felt a bit intimidated in the beginning. You know, trying to figure out who the cool kids were and trying not to make a fool of one’s self. That’s a universal feeling everyone has when entering a new group. As we paired off in organic one-on-one situations, as I did on this first night with Matt, everyone could see there was nothing to worry about and this was a very cool, non-judgmental group. In a very short time, all that self-doubt disappeared like fog in the morning.
Many mornings laid a cool moist blanket of fog on us. Each day was usually 8-11 hours of hiking, and we wanted to get the bulk of it done before that brutal 2-4PM Spanish sun started to drill into us. Now I know why all Spaniards take a siesta between 2 and 4!
Above you see one of our typical mornings. We would often pair-up, but not always, and talk about a wide myriad of subjects. It made the countless hours of walking go by extremely quickly. I was so busy listening to other people that I barely even realized that 20km had already flown by.
And here was our final destination at the mighty cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Not to skip ahead to the END of the story, but the photo above is where the journey ended 150km later, in Santiago de Compostela. The town itself was beautiful and the energy was palpable. I think, because so many people reach here every year in such a euphoric state, that it suffuses the town with positivity.
And here’s our awesome hiking group!
I’ll talk more about little things along the adventure here and there as I talk about each individual person… but, first, let’s start with the guy that invited me, and one of my only intellectual heroes: Kevin Kelly!
Part One: Walking & Talking with Kevin Kelly
I was glad to see that Kevin didn’t have ALL the answers to the universe. But he seemed to have most of them.
I only have a handful of heroes, and not many are alive! You all may have already read my story about another living hero, Hans Zimmer, but now this is my story of Kevin Kelly.
Kevin is best described (if possible) as a philosopher that ties together technology, history, and futurism into a central theme of optimism.
When I saw his first TED talk (now he has about four), it had a tremendous impact on how I approached life, the blog, my work, photography, and more. Even though Kevin himself is an accomplished photographer with countless crazy stories about traveling all around the east, most of the information he synthesizes is from a plethora of other subjects.
All pilgrims on the trail wear one of these special scallop shells. It indicates to everyone in the region that you are on the Camino walk. People will go out of their way to help you when they see this special symbol.
What exactly did Kevin affect during my “formative blog years”? Even though he didn’t specifically speak to this, it confirmed my instincts to make almost everything free. I would upload full-rez photos every day to the blog. I would not use watermarks. I used Creative Commons Noncommercial as a means to drive traffic back to the site. I gave 110% to the very few early fans that seemed to enjoy the work. Kevin has a great essay called 1,000 true fans that really resonated with me very early in my arc.
While passing by some vineyards near Portugal, a very nice lady came out and gave us more of the sweetest grapes than we could ever eat.
I first met Kevin about seven years ago when Thomas Hawk and I did that mammoth ~500 person photo walk in San Francisco. Kevin came up to introduce himself to me. I was like, “WHHAAAAAT! Kevin you don’t need to introduce yourself! I’m a mega fan!” And I was. I was just about as close as one can get to being a stalker without crossing the creepy line.
Since that time, we’ve been together on many occasions. We met in San Francisco and he even invited me over to his home in Pacifica, a Valhalla of sorts for me. That is when I first met his wife Gia-Miin, who also joined us on this walk.
Hugh Howey and Kevin Kelly taking a break on the walk
Last year he invited me to go eagle hunting in Mongolia with Tim Ferriss. I wanted to go, but it was right after Burning Man, and my wife would have killed me for being gone so long. So this year, when he invited me on the Santiago hike, I agreed! I had no idea what I was getting into, but I generally say yes to adventures then figure everything out later.
On occasion, we would go on ancient stone pathways and you could still see where the wagon wheels had carved a rut.
The whole week was such a treat for me and I was honored to hang out with Kevin. I felt like a little kid around him, asking 1,000 questions. I was trying not to be annoying… well, at least that was my goal. By the way, I am not really an “interviewer” or anything. I’m just a curious guy.
I came up with this plan to ask Kevin a different question every day and record it. I wrote down six questions beforehand, but I changed most of them as the week went on. For example, I never thought about talking to him about death until I was having a one-on-one with Hugh Howey and we came up with an idea on how to divvy up Kelly upon his exit from the mortal coil. It was of course influenced by this stimulating walk he encouraged all of us to undertake. All that talk began as a side-conversation after Hugh told me he planned on killing himself at 40. That’s another video I’ll post. I mean, the video of the discussion, not the actual suicide.
After I got to know the other walkers, I decided to take this idea to many of them too. So now I have many of these 360 videos with most of the walkers. Time and data didn’t allow me to record all 100+ hours of our time together, so I kind of picked randomly. Once again, Kevin inspires me intentionally or unintentionally to try new things and just be authentic in your awkwardness. I mean that in the nicest way, of course. I can tell that Kevin is an introvert, like so many of us. This comes across in his speaking style, a style that is uniquely his own. He’s so authentic and real that he both believable and endearing. I am sure this comes with something else he encompasses, being comfortable in his own skin. So many people aren’t, and he also got me started on that path about ten years ago.
One thing we share in common is that we have spent a tremendous amount of time in the east (China, SE Asia, Japan etc) with local cultures and taking photos. It’s made us both very attentive and present, I believe. When you’re talking to him and vice-versa, it’s like you’re the only two people in the world. I’m lucky I didn’t fall into a river or fall off a cliff while we were talking because it was so engrossing. He’s adopted somewhat of an eastern philosophy that seems to inform all of his thoughts and actions.
It’s impossible to summarize our 20+ hours of one-on-one conversations. Impossible. But you’ll see a few highlights as we release videos.
After a while, Kevin and I finally found the Internet.
I think his books and TED talks have influenced me so much that sometimes I don’t know where he begins and my brain ends. We were making obscure references to books, authors, tech, etc… at some point, I mentioned one of my favorite quotes. I asked him if it was Feynman that said it, and Kevin said, “Wait a minute, I said that!” I was laughing so much and apologized… I’m getting old.
Along the way, after we stopped in a town for the afternoon, Kevin and I went off on our own little adventure to record an episode of his “Cool Tools” podcast. He interviewed me then we walked around the park a bit after the recording. He turned to me and said something nice. “Trey, you surprise me!” I didn’t know what to say.
Here is one of the beautiful places we stayed along the walk. It was a family’s old farmhouse and our group was pretty much the only people in there!
One thing that I’ve noticed about Kevin that is not initially expected is how silly he is. He laughs a lot and says funny things. He is also very quick to laugh at jokes the rest of us make. It’s a wonderful thing because so many intellectuals can be so boring and self-serious.
My degree was in Computer Science and Math, so I’ve always been interested in tech and the future. This is a very strange time with the acceleration of everything from AI to Robots. I try to figure out where it’s going, but I get a lot of guidance (and optimism) from Kevin’s bullish outlook on these matters. See more about what he thinks about the future of AI in his TED Talk on AI or his latest book The Inevitable.
Of course, another typical question that comes up among geeks is: “Are we living in a simulation?” This question has been officially banned from Elon Musk’s hot tub conversations (for real) because Musk sees it as a “circular argument”. Kevin is a bit more practical with it, indicating it doesn’t really matter. He says the important thing is that we have a tangible effect on everything and everyone around us. That’s a pretty cool stance and helps get the mind out of that circular argument.
Kevin holds an umbrella over Gia-Miin to protect her from the hot Spanish sun.
Kevin’s super-IQ wife joined us on the walk too, Gia-Miin. She was the only female on the walk, so she was able to keep things fairly classy. You don’t want 10 guys together for a long period of time or else it can spiral down to nonstop tales of ribaldry. Anyway, Gia-Miin works at 23 and Me as a genetics researcher in the cancer area. She told me all about it one afternoon. I could immediately tell I was out of my depth when we started comparing the progress of genetic therapy and whether that would outpace tech innovation when it actually comes to helping humans get better. But they’re doing all sorts of amazing things over there, and it looks like they are going to figure out a lot of the “bad code” that makes humans have bugs.
Kevin and Gia-Miin have a really interesting origin story to their relationship. I won’t tell the long version, but it really seems to work and they are best friends. How wonderful! I know their daughter Ting from a few times when we have been at the E.G. Conference together. I need to send her a note that says, “Hey, Ting, you know… your parents are kinda weird.” I can’t wait to see her response. But, of course, I mean weird in the best possible way.
I’ll end the story of Kevin on the final night’s dinner after we all finally arrived in Santiago de Compostela. We again had a round-table discussion. At the end of dinner, everyone was a little bit teary. Kevin turned his chair to me as we were all getting up to leave. He put his hand on my knee and said, again, smiling “Trey, you know, you really surprise me.” Even getting more teary-eyed, I playfully pushed at his shoulder. “Hey man, that’s what friends do. They surprise each other.”
Here’s a photo that was taken by Craig Mod on the final hiking day of around 30 kilometers as we approached our goal.
BULLETIN: I have a few Burning Man pieces going up at an auction soon to raise money for other artists. 100% of the money goes to Burning Man artists (not me, even though I am technically a Burning Man artist). You can attend the event in San Francisco via the Artumnal Gathering website. Remote bidding will be available too, and more info on that to come.
My 30 Top Photos from 2018’s Burning Man – I Robot
This was year number eight in a row for me, but every year feels like the first. This was a very cruizey year for me. No problems… smooth as silk all around, which is something I never really expect. Rene and Jonatas were two awesome roommates with great energy the whole time. I swear to god we have never laughed so much in our lives!
Also, I had many personal revelations and artistic breakthroughs. It sounds a bit too solipsistic to describe these in detail, but, they were amazing! I’m already a high-energy positive guy, but the event really takes me to the next level. And everything I see inspires me for the other 51 weeks a year. I’m so humbled by all the incredible art and all the awesome people out there.
I took over 8,000 photos this year and wanted to share my favorite 30! Feel free to share with friends and loved ones. We had another great photo walk and over 280 signed up for the Facebook event. But only half were able to stumble out there after doing god-knows-what. But it was still an amazing event that even included a proposal while thousands of photos were being taken!
Anyway, if you like what you see, you can see my Burning Man Album of favorites for the last 8 years.
If you or your art is in any of the photos, feel free to email [email protected] for the full-sized file. 🙂 I do not currently sell prints for Burning Man, but there are other options over at TreyRatcliff.com.
#30: “Embracing while we let go as the temple burns”
A crystalline hug at Burning Man , 2018.
#29: “Black Witch of the Desert”
Everyone at Burning Man is in costume all week long while the event is going on. I remember in his first year, my friend Rene was wearing just like regular clothes from The Gap when he went to Center Camp. Let’s just say that it didn’t go smoothly for him, but it rarely does anyway. This is my friend Linnea Berzen, she puts in a little more effort than Rene for sure.
#28: “Two Days before the Great Train Wreck”
This is called the “Great Train Wreck” and on Thursday night, the two trains smashed together in quite the spectacle.
#27: “Blind Yoga”
Here is Kate Swarm, one of the yoga teachers at the camp. This year she brought her 9 and 10-year-olds. That’s a great age to bring kids out here… I think in eight years of going, I never have seen a teenager (14-20 or so). I’ve always kind of wondered why that is… but I think that age is such a crazy time for the ego to develop that most are embarrassed and overly consumed with what everyone else is thinking about them (hey, it’s the same way with a lot of adults… see Instagram). Anyway, Kate here is wearing this awesome mask (like a one-way mirror where you can only see out) that was made by my friend at CrypticNine.
#26: “Ambulances arrive at the Thunderdome”
There are fights every night in the Thunderdome at Death Guild. My neighbor, Julie, is actually part of Death Guild and she would come back every night with the grisly injury reports. Ambulances are common. Cleanly broken wrists, eye gouges, man, you name it.
#25: “Watch Out!”
A lady puts on her makeup outside on a dusty mirror outside her tent before burn night.
#23: “Our camp’s art cars”
Here’s a collection of cars from our camp, Camp Walter. We’re in line here for the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles). My friend George says there are over 800 cars that go through the DMV every year to get clearance to drive around the playa. There’s a huge history behind each of the vehicles in this photo. Much of it centers around the big VW bus, Walter, as a material instantiation symbolizing the concept of second chances.
#22: “Carrots should be afraid”
At the Billion Bunny March, some of these carrots are smart to be afraid of some of these bunnies.
#21: “A Lonely Walk to the Airport”
One day I went out to the airport at Burning Man to try to register my drone. It was a really windy day and a lot of people were hunkered down. The airport is quite a long way away, so it’s always a bit of a fun mission. There’s sort of a desolate place in between Black Rock City and the airport where I saw this guy.
#20: “I Have Dust”
There were a lot of awesome windstorms at Burning Man this year that kicked up all sorts of interesting scenes. Some people chose to stay inside during the storms, but I almost always jumped on my bike to see what clever stuff I could find.
#19: “The Temple”
The beautiful temple from above. Every year it is a new design… this one was one of my favorites.
#18: “Trees grow out of air”
On Saturday night, the party and the fire keep going all night long. This was taken about 15 minutes after the man fell down and was being consumed. The burning reminds me of this wonderful little physics nugget from Richard Feynman. This might be from his book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. Anyway, he makes a nice description that trees don’t grow out of the ground, but they mostly grow out of the air. They get a few nutrients and some water and stuff from the ground, but 99% of the meat of the tree is made from carbon. The leaves grab the carbon dioxide and then use the sun to slice off the C from the O2. It hangs on to the carbon and it becomes the wood. The tree then gets rid of the O2 because it is waste. Later, we take that wood and make it super-hot with fire, which makes the carbon re-connect with the oxygen, creating carbon dioxide once again. And then the cycle starts all over as it floats over to a nearby tree to go through it all again. All that fire, then, can be seen as stored sunlight. Anyhoo… that’s the kind of stuff I read! Haha… you can probably search on YouTube for “Feynman Tree Growing out of Air” and see more. He has so many great little physics thoughts like that. Wow, I really end up boring whoever sits by me on burn night.
#17: “The Mirror Ball at Night”
The Orb at Night. Me, Rene, and Jô would end up here almost every night, just staring at the spherical reflection of the unreal world around us.
#16: “A Walk in the Park”
Out of the 8,000 photos I took, I’ll probably only publish 20-30 on social media. I end up adding the rest to my overall Burning Man portfolio. By the way, most of those 8,000 photos are complete garbage! I usually try a lot of different things until something works… so 98% of those are utter failures!
#15: “The Dissolution of the Ego”
On Day 6 of Burning Man (always a Saturday night), we burn down the man himself. Everyone kind of takes their own meaning into it, or perhaps no meaning at all. For me, it’s a reminder that the dissolution of the ego is the greatest creative gift one can give oneself.
#14: “Book Club”
Here’s Baba Yagas Book Club by Jessi Sprocket Janusee. You can’t have a book club in the desert without some robotic chicken legs holding it up!
#13: “She Flies”
Flying in the wind… One of the cool things about the flat, dried out lakebed at Burning Man is the sizeable mountains that surround it on all sides. They form a really nice background for certain kinds of shots like these.
#11: “Burning Man Hugs are the Best”
This is called, “In every lifetime, I will find you”.
#10: “Dinner Time”
This reminds me that some of the best ideas for art out there are the most simple: Giant Human Puppets, Enormous Mirror Ball, Green Tree, Dock… Moon.
#9: “Our Female Overlords”
I finally got these Japanese robots to stand still in formation.
#8: “Temple Sunrise”
Higher up this page I shared a photo of the beautiful temple from above. Here’s what it looks like from the ground during sunrise.
#7: “Henry Chang’s Supercar”
There are about one hundred different art cars rolling around at Burning Man after they are approved by the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles). This one is absolutely incredible, made by Henry Chang. I didn’t even need to ask if he’s a fan of H.R. Giger. Sometimes, you’ll go an entire week without seeing certain cars… they appear like unicorns… but I got lucky on night number eight at the propane burn off.
#6: “On 9 o’clock at noon”
Another random happening I found while pedaling on my own bike down 9 o’clock on the way to 3 o’clock.
#5: “Time to Get a Brazilian”
A Brazilian lady visits the statue called “In every lifetime I will find you”. Luckily, I had Jô Eridani (he does all the web development for us here), who is also from Brazil, to do all the translation. I first made Jônatas stand like that to show her… I didn’t take a photo of him because he looked absolutely ridiculous. But he quite likes that as you can see in his Barbie photo on his social media.
#4: “Good, Clean Family Fun”
After the photo walk ar Burning Man (thanks again everyone for coming!), I went out on a mission to rescue my broken bike that became a bit addled halfway through the walk. I had to abandon it to keep the Lawrence of Arabia mission moving forward! Anyway, it was pitch black when I went to go find it, but it was a good mission. It’s fun to have missions out there, even if they are silly ones. Anyway, I finally found it and was returning to camp when I saw this awesome family. I dug out my camera and took a quick one for them. Every year there are over 1,000 kids that come out with their parents… I did this about seven years ago when I brought out Ethan and Tina, but I don’t think we could have talked Ethan into wearing angel wings… but we probably could talk Isabella and Scarlett into it quite easily!
#3: “The Mayan Warrior Tractor Beam”
Here’s an alien tractor beam at the mighty Mayan Warrior melting down the mirror orb. I went up top and met the awesome Pablo Gonzalez Vargas who gave me a little tour and some wonderful, special gifts. We got to play with all the lasers and the flames and do all kinds of fun stuff. We’re all just big kids up there!
#2: “A White Witch in the Desert”
Randomly, by chance, I saw my friend Linnea Berzen twice out in the desert. It’s almost impossible to have a set meeting anywhere out there because mobile phones don’t really work. This year we were smart and left a little whiteboard outside the RV so people could leave messages. Some anonymous girl wrote how attractive Rene was, and he took about 100 mobile phone photos of that, having reached peak-Rene. I take a LOT of people photos there, and for this year, this one might be my favorite.
#1: “In every lifetime I will find you.”
Who will you find in every lifetime? This is the last photo I took at Burning Man this year. You probably won’t believe me, but I had a transcendent vision of this four nights prior, two days before I even discovered this place. If I were to try to describe either what I saw or how I was in a state to envision it, you would probably think I am crazy. But I told my roommates the next morning what I saw, and then I emailed them this photo a few days later and they were like HOLY CRAP. If I ever meet you in person, I can try to describe the whole experience. I’m not sure I can, but I know it was real.
Don’t miss our new Beginning Photography Videos, which are new in the store! There are all kinds of great lessons in there for every single type of photography except for hardcore Canadian porn.
Daily Photo – Overnight in the Hut
This is the place up near the Snow Farm in Cadrona where we filmed the star-photography lessons in the tutorial above. It was kind of a funny night because this was a very difficult place to find. The old dirt roads went all over the place and it was very easy to get lost. I was there with Curtis and Olya. Olya was feeling sick and could not spend the night, so after star shooting, Curtis had to drive her out. Then, when he came back, he got completely lost… I ended up sitting in that hut for several hours just editing photos and listening to music. I thought he might never get back… After he did, I took one last photo, and you can see his jeep there on the left.
This is simply a hypothetical thought-experiment, especially since it’s all too late now.
I am (soon to be was when G+ shuts down next year) the #1 most followed photographer on there with over 8.5 million followers (and 140+ billion photo views across the G+ ecosystem). I use these social networks a lot. ALL of them. Over on Pinterest, I have over 4.2 million and a decent number on the other platforms too. I’m not saying this to be showy, and I certainly don’t take myself seriously in the least. I’m simply indicating I have some authority in the matter.
All these social networks are kind of a fun game for me. Observing them from a distance, I see humans slowly forming a super-organism like bees and ants. I think it’s important to have a good infrastructure for humans to communicate, cooperate, and inspire one another. You need to be able to trust in that network. I’m starting to not trust places like Instagram, where you can buy hundreds of thousands of fake followers, fake likes, and fake custom comments for a very inexpensive price. Last year was the year of fake news. This year is the year of fake followers. And when you can’t trust the infrastructures in which you invest time, it causes our level of global anxiety to get even worse.
I’m not bitter about G+ shutting down. It doesn’t matter to me personally since I’m on all the other social networks, and, most importantly, none of those have a significant impact on my business or personal life. They are just sorta “fun” places to share your creations, help people, get inspiration, and inspire others. We could all use a little more of that.
If anything is upsetting, it is that all of the Google+ effort was largely a waste of valuable time, not just for the users that fed the machine, but for the team at Google that built it. Along the way, I did make some GREAT friends, was inspired, and it helped to fuel a lot of my creativity. This is one reason I hate to see the ride coming to an end for so many people.
The attached photo is from a really fun Photo Walk I did with Thomas Hawk in San Francisco with over 500 people. The idea that this entire community is now dispersed across the diaspora of the internet is kind of depressing.
Anyway, if I was in charge of Google+ now, I could do nothing! I’m talking about if I was in charge, say, a few years ago when they began to notice the trend lines to plateau rather than grow. THAT was the time I wish I was in charge of the design!
What would I have done?
I’d immediately make a fancy pivot-move to make it a photo-centric Instagram competitor rather than a Facebook competitor.
Of course, I often look at the world through the “lens” of a photographer, and I’ve always believed photography and imagery to be a much more interesting way to communicate, rather than words. I wrote an article for Facebook Stories several years ago that envisioned an alternate reality world where we learned to take and share photos BEFORE we developed a written alphabet. Link to article: Humans Evolve a New Form of Visual Literacy… Through Imagery. What if the principal way humans communicated was through a photo or a series of them? The article explores that idea. But the basic premise is that, presently, I do find photos to be an extremely stimulating way to communicate.
Instagram was just going up a big curve a few years ago. I loved it (here’s my Instagram @TreyRatcliff) and could see this was a very fun way to interact with photos and the people behind them.
Here is where Google had a huge advantage. Android is used by over 75% of humans on the planet that have a smartphone. The cameras were clearly only going to get better, especially as we add in x-factors like machine learning, AI, cloud processing, better mobile editing software, and more. At the time that G+ growth plateaued, Instagram “only” had about 500 million users, but Android had over 1.5 billion. The core idea is not to make the user download a separate app, but instead to have this Google photo sharing feed as part of the built-in camera/photo app itself.
Train the users the benefits of sharing after taking a photo
Rather than JUST taking a photo and doing some simple editing, Google could have “trained” its users to have one final step that is integrated into that process: to share it in your feed. New users automatically get a free private photo sharing account set up which is called Google Photofeed (or something – simply the best bits of G+ re-purposed). Existing users can use their existing G+ account along with all their followers and people they follow.
The way to beat Instagram would be the new user experience, however. To train hundreds of millions of people that a photo is not “done” after you take it and tweak it with software. It’s only “done” after you share it with others. I have many artist/author/creative friends who also believe in this. If you create something in solitude and never let the light of the rest of the world shine on it, it might as well not exist.
Of course, you don’t have to share all 100 photos you take every day. Just some. Just the best photo of your cat, your casserole, or your catamaran.
The new user’s “Sharing” account has been automatically set up like an online gallery with the initial setting to private. Users continue to get prompts after they add to their gallery that they might want to share it more widely in their “feed”. Maybe at first, just family. Then friends. It’s still private, and that is okay (many popular Instagram accounts are private too). But, over time, the OS (note that I say OS and not the app because this would be an OS-level priority) guides them into making a public profile, so that anyone can see whatever photos they wish.
The users also get regularly prompted to “follow” others that might be of interest, the same way the integrated OS-integrated Google News feed suggests new topics now. New users would come to see there is a big ecosystem of sharing, and they are encouraged to take their favorite creations more and more public.
It is quite exciting (and not necessarily an ego-feeding thing) to have strangers stop by and leave a comment on your photo. The idea that you had some kind of positive impact on someone else’s life is great. It’s a noble human goal. Also, under a larger goal of consciousness, I think that artists and creatives can help save the world. And the more we encourage creativity and sharing, the better it is for the entire world. That sounds a bit high-minded, but I really believe it. How great would it be if the OS had this as an underlying goal as well, rather than simply robot-like efficiency?
Make photo sharing part of the OS experience, not a different app
And this is where they could have steamrolled Instagram because your Android OS would not even need a separate “app” to download, install, set up a username/pw. All those are funnel hard stops for many users. The entire experience is simply built into the phone. By tying each phone to a user, it would also do quite a bit to diminish fraudulent behavior we see on Instagram with people buying followers/likes/comments to become slimy “influencers” that swindle big companies out of millions of dollars. $1.1 billion was spent last year on influencer marketing with hundreds of millions going to fraudulent accounts. I’m working on an article about that right now (maybe for Wired).
After we nail that experience and workflow, we can layer in the other great stuff Google+ was developing at the time, like Communities. The G+ Communities are an amazing feature and still beat out Facebook Groups in many ways. We’re doing the best we can with our Facebook Group for Creatives. There are many things in Communities that I hope Facebook steals, especially the “categories” feature.
We still use Google+ Communities for an online education platform we built called TheArcanum.com. Of course, this is causing us a few issues as we have to scramble to migrate to a new platform. I am sure many people are having similar problems as G+ Communities have become an extremely active part of many people’s lives. It’s kind of like if your local bingo hall for retirees suddenly disappeared.
Anyway, please note this is not anti- Vic Gundotra/Bradley Horowitz/Sergey/(or any of the other people I met there at Google). I love those guys and they are still good friends! But 12+ years ago when I used to work in corporations before I became a full-time artist, I understand how sometimes things go astray, and it’s never exactly one person’s fault. I think there was just simply some hesitation about whether or not Google wanted to play the “social” game or the “organizing information/building an AI” game. I wished they had stayed in both games because observing social behavior could have also fed some important cultural data into that Google AI that is a’rollin’ down the tracks towards us all.
Well, that little flight-of-fancy thought-experiment is complete. It’s too late now. I guess we’re stuck in a world of Instagram and its follow-bots, Facebook and its angry people in their blame-the-other-group echo chambers, and XXXXX with its YYYYY problems.
That sounds a bit dour. I’m actually pretty optimistic that either A) something new will come along or B) one of the existing infrastructures will make them an absolute DELIGHT to use all the time, like Google+ was in its first few years.
And if you followed me on Google+, since that is vaporizing, here are other places to find me 🙂
I recommend a show called Mr. Robot. It ranks up there in the Westworld category as being somewhat confusing, but I sort of like that, I think. You really have to pay attention… but it’s a cleverly written show.
Daily Photo – Alone in the Mosque
I visited the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur between services. I would not be allowed to take photos otherwise. But, mosques are almost always open to anyone that wants to come in to pray or relax, like this gentleman is doing. Sometimes, on very hot days in these Muslim countries, I will go into mosques to relax too. They are often air-conditioned and I just sit on the floor with all my equipment and relax/meditate. Running around all day long in the heat can really get to ya.