2014 without a doubt was one of the most amazing years. It’s hard for me to look back at January first to today and remember it all, each day seemed filled with new places, new faces, and stories to share. It was a year that challenged me in almost every way, it showed me who I am, what I really want in life and that life needs both the good and bad to teach you the lessons you need to learn. I started this year in Vietnam and throughout the year visited 30 more countries. I never thought I would have an experience like the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour and it has changed my life in every way, as I write this blog post recapping this amazing year I’m sitting in a town I never imagined I’d live in, tucked next to the River Wey in England. Life is certainly good. Here’s my attempt at summarizing 2014 in 10 of my favourite memories!
1. My Flickr Moment Video produced by Yahoo
In January, Yahoo released a video about my job with Coca-Cola and it was without a doubt one of the biggest things to happen to my photography. The video quickly made it to Yahoo.com’s front page, I was getting millions of views on each of my photos on Flickr and my colleagues at Coke were sharing my story with others around the world. It was humbling to see my story being told, to show that hard work and belief pays off.
2. Taking the FIFA World Cup Trophy to Canada
Out of all 90 stops on the Trophy Tour, there were of course many foreign countries that I loved seeing and sharing the trophy with, but standing in the snow at Toronto’s airport welcoming my new friends and this gleaming golden trophy to my country was a huge highlight. Not only that but the days that followed were humbling as well. Upon introducing myself to the President of Coca-Cola Canada, he quickly interjected to tell me he had seen my Flickr video and was so proud of having me represent the company, over the next few days he became my spokesperson of sorts and I blushed as he told my story to the hosts of Canada AM. On the second day of the tour after meeting one of my favourite Canadians, George Strombolopolous I was nervous at the chance to photograph the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, the head of state for Canada. Not only did I end up taking his photograph but again the head of Coke Canada introduced my story to him and we ended up having a conversation and photo together. Truly an incredible memory to hold on to.
3. Visiting Japan
Our trip to Japan was a bit bittersweet as it was our last international destination before heading to the USA for the last stop of the trophy tour. I enjoyed a day off alone in Tokyo, wandering through Shibuya Crossing and visiting nearby Meiji Shrine. Though it was our visit to Tsunami ravaged Rikuzentakata, a town where almost 2000 people died after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. When we arrived the atmosphere in the schoolyard was somber but as the day went on, spirits lifted and after a rousing football match and concert the town was laughing ,smiling, leaping and celebrating. It felt like we were really helping bring happiness back to a community that had suffered so much and I’ll always hold the memory of those smiles in my heart.
4. Having my own exhibit at the World Of Coca-Cola
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been of fan of Coke. Both the beverage and the marketing and advertising, there was something about the underlying message of happiness and sharing that struck me and held on. I never dreamed that I would work with them let alone that one day I would stand in their museum and see an entire wall of my photographs and my own face and name. It was overwhelming to see my year splayed out on a bright red wall but it was humbling and an honor and I’ll never forget the chills I felt turning the corner and seeing this exhibit for the first time.
5. Attending the 2014 FIFA World Cup
After spending 9 months literally in the shadow of the world’s most prized trophy, it was the perfect end to the story to be able to actually attend the FIFA World Cup. I spent a week at a football skills camp with young players from around the world, treated to a once in a lifetime trip to Brazil and it was an amazing bookend to my FIFA story. Walking up to the stadium in Sao Paolo, seeing the giant happiness flag being unveiled and watching the opening ceremonies was something I never thought I would do but I’m lucky to have been there and celebrated the game with so many!
6. Teaching in Cranbrook
When I first started taking photos, I kept it a ‘secret’. I was embarrassed I think, to be taking conceptual photos so I didn’t share with people I knew. I spent countless hours and days and years wandering through a field near my house, teaching myself how to create stories through my camera and gradually I released the fear of sharing my work with people I knew. Fast foward to this summer when I stood in the same field that was my solitary classroom and taught a class of 30+ friends, family, and photographers a workshop in the shadows of the trees that I had sat next to for years. It was a strange but exciting moment to see everything come full circle, to see my small town fully embracing what I love.
7. Flickr Island – August
Over the course of the last few years, photography meetups have popped up into the scrapbook of life and they’re always a highlight. There’s nothing quite like arriving to a new destination and finding all of your best friends waiting with arms wide open. This summer, Gurbir Grewal and Lizzy Gadd organized an amazing week spent on our own island off the coast of Vancouver Island. Being able to wake up and have coffee with some of my favourite people in my own province, seeing how much they loved and appreciated each other and the space we were in was inspiring. Getting to meet so many new faces and people I’ve admired for a long time is the reason I love meetups so much, they give you a chance to build a community and I’m blessed to have met people that quickly became good friends. I think without a doubt my highlight was taking a late afternoon canoe ride out to a tiny island at sunset with Cameron Bushong, Katie Lingan and Matt Lineker, scrambling through the rocks and fields and shooting photos like crazy, it made me feel free and I’ll always remember that beautiful moment.
When one closes their eyes and thinks of Hawaii maybe hula dancers and lounging at the beach is what comes to mind, but our trip to Hawaii was anything but. After an invite by Kindra Timmerwilke, a small group of photographers took over a beautiful house on the big island. We toured coffee plantations, snorkeled next to wild bottle-nose dolphins and manta rays in the dark. We ventured to the top of Volcanoes and watched the sun trickle across the black sand beach. We got caught in rainstorms, explored lava caves and created photographs that embraced the landscape while sharing our own stories. It was the perfect chance at getting to know each other better, getting to see each other work and exploring this amazing place.
9. New York
I wrote a blog post a couple months back about how much I really loved visiting New York so I won’t write too much about it here but truly, it was a highlight. From the small gathering we had in Silver Lake, to the great final workshop we taught in Central Park to getting to visit Central Perk’s coffee shop, taking photos with new friends and exploring new parts of the city it was a fantastic way to transition into the next chapter of 2014
In a year that saw me criss-crossing the globe a few times, resting my head in more places than my actual home, I was certainly a bit excited to actually get a chance to settle down and stay in one place for more than a couple days. I’ve always lived in the same small town in Canada and while Cranbrook will always be home to me, I was ready to relocate and try living in a new place. Back in March, I had made the quick decision that the UK was to be my next home and after a few months of working, saving, planning and organizing I found myself nestled in a quiet town, enjoying the laughter and love of amazing new people in my life and wrapping up this incredible new year filled with a lot of excitement for what the new year will bring!
I hope that 2014 was filled with just as many incredible moments for you, please share them with me in the comments below! Here’s to an amazing 2015 for you!