Going to the OC Fair? Check out my time-lapse video in the California Farming/Agraian exhibition there! 🙌🏽🚲🌱
The rest of the wedding and trip around Sikkim and Kolkata were incredible.
I’m in Vietnam now.
Earlier today we visited and did an interview with Mr. Loi, a local organic farmer in Da Nang who my friend Kristine has had the opportunity to work closely with these last few months. We asked him to do a small interview to get his answers and viewpoints on his farming background, why organic is important, and what his greatest motivations are. Although we switched the Google Translate live feature off while recording the interview, we both could feel the depth and emotions that poured out of Mr. Loi. With and without Google Translate, it is clear this is someone who talks and acts with heart for humanity and the earth. Mr. Loi was deeply thankful to have had the chance to speak and be heard, and both Kristine and I are eager to find out what he shared with us in detail.
Next step - Vietnamese translations of the interview, and cutting together a video with the b-roll and a few actions shots that were captured today. This will be a sweet side project and one of the first collaborations with a patron/friend/supporter! If you know somebody who is fluent in Vietnamese and English and would be able to contribute time and effort, I'd love to get connected with that person! 🙌🏽
What an incredible start. Here are several absolute favorites from our time together so far.
Ready for this Himalayan wedding in the monsoon! What a memorable journey it has been already with all the pre-wedding ceremonies and happenings these last few days. I can't wait to write and share more after the wedding.✌🏽✨
Back in the Himalayas after over a year. Chai in hand, lush hills, fresh air, prayer flags, monasteries, cloud forest, friendly people. Definitely one of my happy places. The first series of events for the multi-day wedding begin tomorrow! 📷 by Liz
I'm humbled and invigorated by everyone's comments, reshares, and support coming out of the launch of this page. A diversity of friends from a plethora of locations and time periods/life chapters have come forth with suggestions, the sweetest and kindest of words, and further ideas to evolve and expand the vision. Love it. I can't wait to keep journeying to see where this takes me (us).
… more on my very first Patreon post! What an incredible start.
Friends, sisters, brothers, family,
As an artist and fellow human who has chosen to walk an unconventional path of life, I've infused creativity into balancing the bills (responsibilities) and the hills (challenges, adventure). Yeah, that's about all the rhythm you'll get out of me. 😉
As a number of you know, I have traveled and taken work and play with me beyond the geopolitical boundaries that separate us. Some of you have also followed the journey via social media and/or kept a line of contact, both of which I appreciate and cherish immensely. If I could attempt to condense these years of travel, learning, and photography, it's this: We humans absolutely have the capacity, and much more in common than we currently believe to co-create a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible. That food and stories bring people together. And everyone is a student, and everyone is a teacher.
We live in a bizarrely inspirational yet despairing time in human and earth history. It's perhaps easier than ever to spiral downwards with the myriad of attention-grabbing and tragic headlines in the mainstream channels, and forget the prevailing forces of good, resilience, and beauty that surround us even more often. In recent years, photography to me has evolved to not simply be about immortalizing moments in time, but a medium and channel through which beauty and humanizing, vital stories can be told and reshared.
In 2013, my organic farm and bicycle journey brought me into a mind-expanding, hands-on look at our local and global food systems, and also into the presence of the Shishalh First Nations in coastal British Columbia, where I witnessed reconciliation and healing through confessions and drumming. The words and songs shared forever echo in my mind and heart.
2014 took me across the Pacific to SE Asia, where I crossed paths while hitchhiking in Northern Thailand with several indigenous hill tribe young women who quickly became friends and later revealed the traumatizing history of physical and/or sexual abuse in their lives as well as many they know. This led to my first video piece telling the story of my friend Faa and the children she has helped nurture through the organization co-founded with her sister.
Through the Beacon Food Forest in Seattle from 2015-2016, I took part in and documented this urban regeneration community project that has propagated seeds in the earth as well as in the minds of people of all backgrounds and ages. Many of you also know that from mid-2015, Conscious Impact, Nepal, and the Himalayas entered into my life, and haven't exactly left.
An invitation from my friend Peter Wells to New Zealand brought me for the past 8 months to live and work down under to further develop my craft as a photo/videographer while further tap into the global mycelial network of earth stewards and do-gooders who don't see economics, business, communities, and nature to be mutually exclusive, but intrinsically interwoven and co-dependent. Shoutouts to the Otakaro Orchard/Food Resilience Network, Ministry of Awesome, Erica Austin, the XCHC team, the Enspiral network, and so many more to have added such deep, invaluable knowledge and connections to my world.
Travel, service, and photography have helped me discover my purpose, and that purpose at this moment is to not only engage and take active part in seed-planting, light-reflecting, earth and mind-healing projects and initiatives, but also fill the role of storytelling alongside countless others who have been upholding this craft for generations upon generations. I will continue to capture, write up, and create content on stories passed onto me or of personal experiences gathered from wherever life brings me (back) to next.
Here's my dilemma: all the content I've posted and published have been free, but the creation process of this content isn't free. The gear, the travel, planning, accommodation, food, phone plans, work spaces/internet, writing, editing, hiring talents and services cost money, time, and more. I have countless individuals to thank for their shared resources to have accomplished what I have, especially in recent years. I am wealthy in connections, friendships, have an abundance in joy, quality food, and opportunities. The only major bottleneck is in the finances. I want to remove this bottleneck because that will allow me to make less compromises, and focus more on content creation and collaborations with those who share this vision.
I value my time and contributions to others and to the world in a monetized society that marginalizes independent artists like myself, and I am determined to be innovative in creating a residual income. I also wish to revisit projects such as Conscious Impact in Nepal, rebuilding, sharing, and documenting our progress and the stories of the incredible people who take part. Along the same note, I want to continue to offer discounted or pro-bono work for individuals and organizations that may not have a budget, yet their stories are equally important, if not more so.
That's where Patreon comes in. Instead of a one-time contribution on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Patreon is set up for reoccurring contributions to sustain my livelihood and creations - and a small trickle from you, and dozens, or even hundreds of supporters to keep the stream flowing and allowing me to keep doing what I am good at and love. In order for me to continue to be of service for others, I need to take care of myself first.
If my work and time has added value to your life, past, recent, present, whether through photos that you've enjoyed, through resonating words, camera and shooting advice, please consider pitching in and ride this train of life with me and many people I'll be sharing this journey with. There are also various rewards that may captivate your interest, so be sure to check out what you'd get in exchange for your monthly contributions.
Yes, even $1/month. Seriously. Because $1 is able to feed this belly in several parts of the world that I tend to spend time in. And many of you know I like to eat. 😉
I've made a special video for this.
Watch and read more of my vision + what you would get in return at: www.patreon.com/subtledream
With love and gratitude,
PS: I shared bits of my journey in a PechaKucha talk in New Zealand (thanks again, Erica!), and inspirations from my earlier years and more of my perspectives in this podcast called Seeds: Talking Purpose with Steven Moe (cheers to you Steven!).
PPS: The idea of an online "tip-jar" has been on my mind for about a year now, but it wasn't until my friend Steve Tracy informed me about Patreon last year that all of this clicked - big thanks, Steve!
This Enspiral thing, through the vision of the magical Digital Storytellers team, in this case the venerable Mikey Leung + Peter Dowson, and also through the words by those who have taken part in this network of folks living with purpose and doing good.
The retreat they hosted was the reason I went up to Wellington to finally check out the capital city, (re)meet some radical peoples, and to join in on this community. What a week!
Back in the groove of things now with new energy and motivation, and without a doubt some great new connections to keep cultivating.
What an awesome time in that gorgeous late afternoon sun light last week with the Moe family. I gotta tell ya, being a solo shooter-facilitator for a 8-person family photoshoot ain't easy, but challenge accepted and completed! It was a blast getting to know the kids a bit while playing with them at the playground to start things off. I always enjoy that process leading up to capturing the genuine smiles and expressions while being in an outdoor environment where the kids (and adults!) can roam, run around, and interact with the natural surroundings. I think it makes for a very organic feel to the images. Big thanks to Steven Moe for the idea and the whole family in going with the flow while giving me their best genuine smiles possible! Here are some of the favorites from our photoshoot. 😎
9 Feb 2018 edit: Ellie just wrote and posted this review on my photography page, and it absolutely just made my heart melt.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with Steven Moe, a corporate and commercial lawyer based in Christchurch, New Zealand, and had a solid, fun, recorded conversation on purpose and life. Steven recently published a legal handbook on social enterprises in the country and has been doing interviews with entrepreneurs and social enterprises about their journeys on his podcast named 'Seeds: Talking Purpose'. I feel honored to have been invited to be on the podcast. The growing list of humans and their truly impressive set of accomplishments and contributions to earth and society are humbling.
Steven masterfully guided the conversation from my childhood to teenager years as an immigrant, as he waives into it his own story and aspirations, and we move into my university days and during that the exposure to the greater world, its beauty, its problems, my craft, and my finding of sometimes-often bumpy pathways that have taken me where I am currently. As Steven articulates it even better than I can, "...In this interview we talk about his early life in Hong Kong, immigrating to the United States as a child, what formed him and gave him a sense of direction, his involvement in the Beacon Food Forest, a community-driven food-producing garden and forest in the city, work in Nepal after the earthquakes and his views about photography as a form of art and what makes capturing moments in time through photos so special."
Big thanks, Steven! The podcast can be listened to directly below or through the Seeds: Talking Purpose website.
Link to the site/podcast: http://seeds.libsyn.com/jonathan-lee-on-photography-as-art
Here's a little treat I have compiled together of time-lapse highlights from 2017. They represent 4 of the countries I've had the lovely opportunity to spend time in and photograph. Everything is going to fly by quickly and there is no fancy editing except for sequence change to a few beats. Don't blink because in this short video your eyes will see tens of thousands of images representing tens of hours compressed into 85 seconds. Happy new year everyone!
Music by the incredible The Polish Ambassador - 'Dark Between Stars'
How the heck does one choose 12 photos out of more than 10,000 stills taken this year alone?
In these last hours of 2017 (lost 7 hours 15 minutes, thanks to starting the year in Nepal and ending it in New Zealand), waves of memories and emotions (re)form and crash in the ocean of my mind. Last evening the idea of creating a 12-month collage of the "highlights" of the year came up. I used to do this, but it has been a couple years since. 10,000+ stills is the number my photo catalog tells me after all the organizing, deleting, merging, blending, etc. That number does not include stills taken for time-lapses (add tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands (one of my cameras is taking a time-lapse RIGHT now, of caterpillars morphing into chrysalis(!))) and videos (add several thousand there). It would seem as though I am addicted to capturing everything in life, though no amount of data can truly, fully encapsulate the entirety of human experiences I have had the opportunities and privileges to enjoy and go through, both the highs and lows.
The themes this year looking back are (re)growth, connections, and purpose. I am gonna (kinda) quickly run through the year with what happened. Ready set go.
January 1st kicked off in my tent in the village of Takure in Nepal, where Conscious Impact has been living and operating since August 2015 to rebuild earthquake-destroyed homes and other buildings alongside local community members and global volunteers (Image 1). I suppose that was my 4th time back with the crew, working tirelessly nearly everyday to make and transport compressed earth bricks (Image 2), utilizing other earth-based building techniques such as rammed earth and earthbags to build structures, co-living and co-creating with dozens of other selfless volunteers from around the globe, as well as documenting in stills and videos the progress, the beauty, and the smiles of the humans involved with this magical journey. We live humbly as the locals do, exposed to the elements and embracing whatever Pachamama gifts us everyday. There is often music, tea, art, dance, songs, (Nepali & Tibetan) festivals, yoga, meditation, quality conversations, relaxation, and a fair bit of sweat too. I absolutely loved it.
My trips to Nepal have been made possible thanks to family and friends who had donated to my crowdfunding campaigns back in 2015 and 2016, so I'll always have them to thank!
Between March and April, I had the chance to embark on a long trek in the Khumbu/Everest region, and walked-explored-marveled along this world-famous walk over the course of 27 days (Image 3). The elevation varied from a hair under 1500 to over 5550 meters. I remember hearing a friend say that the amount of elevation change throughout the trek would be like ascending and descending Everest nearly twice over. Bonkers. This was both a big challenge and a joy - physically as well as mentally.
Later in April and the first half of May was spent back with the Conscious Impact crew. Together we were able to wrap up our very first earthbag house (Image 4) for a widowed mother and her children before the very, very wet monsoon season sets in. We saw the completion and painting of the rammed earth building that we had started in January, and the construction of an orphanage housing kids whose parents were killed in the 2015 earthquakes was underway. The team and I filmed and launched a fundraiser to expand our sustainable agriculture program, and we had an extraordinarily diverse set of volunteers come through in the last couple months of "camp" (what we generally refer to as the Conscious Impact volunteer camp) (Image 5).
And thanks to a number of these global connections, I decided to take on some of these invitations I've received to visit friends in new places. In mid-May I left Nepal as the monsoon rains were really setting in (an early year), and went through Dubai, followed by Israel, before spending 3 weeks throughout western Europe.
In Dubai I was hosted by an awesome Couchsurfing host Niraj. In Israel, I was received by so many familiar and lovely faces of characters met through Conscious Impact ("CI" from here forward) + traveling in India and Thailand in 2016. Thanks for a lovely time, Nitzan, Ben, Laor, Neta, and Zvika. I also got to explore a tiny bit on my own in Israel and got to walk through and soak in the smells and sounds of the old city in Jerusalem, took a dip in the Dead Sea, and hitchhiked with Ibaia (partially) out of there. My first destination in Europe (ever!) was Madrid. I had a lovely time with my architect/Conscious Impact volunteer friend Laura, and wrapped it up with a quick and fun reunion with a traveling friend Hudson from India last year. Barcelona was next - hung out/stayed with friends from India, CI, as well as Seattle - Elsa, Alexandra, Lili, Margaret. Those beaches! Thanks to Couchsurfing too I met with some radical (transplanted) locals running a bar and create a community lunch weekly out of food waste that's run by donations. Paris - cycling all around the city, crashed with 2 old CI friends Boyan + Inkeltje and caught up with my Chilean friend Santiago but we cross paths with in Panama all the way in 2009(!). And yes, that's acro yoga under the effel tower (Image 6). That's what's up. Manchester - kicked it with Graham, my photog buddy/brother from another mother and his local friends. Bath - stayed with my aunt Jackie, uncle Kori, and cousin Kevin from Hong Kong while catching up with my Argentinean amiga Ariadna met through - yes you guessed it - CI. London - lovely weather (what!?), lots of biking both in the city and in the countryside, and more CI reunions and hanging out with the likes of Sonya, Alastair, and Mark. Brussels - beer, fries, desserts, and quiz night with my traveling companion Emmanuelle from Ladakh, India, from last year. Amsterdam - of course I biked all around this flat and awesome city! Big thanks to Shama for the lovely company. Caught up with my old high school buddy Charles, too. Nijmegen for a quick lunch-reunion with Evita, then Horst with Micky on his family's asparagus farm + full-spandex cycling (in the summer rain). I hadn't seen him since my bike tour trip in 2013! Finally, Berlin with the one and only Ivona and her adorable pup Kazzie. A nice beer and chat with Dino, too. Last but certainly but least, quick appearance and hang out sesh with Ellen right before departure. What a radical, cool city, Berlin. This was a teaser in all of these places at best. 3 weeks in western Europe was far, far too short.
Home with family by late June. Rainbow gathering and road trip with an entourage of CI friends and extended family (way too many to tag - you guys know who you are!). Back to Seattle/Pacific Northwest. Reunited with good friends, and in particular, meeting Caroline and Michael's kiddo for the first time (Image 7). Much time in the mountains, in nature - thanks Evan for hanging. Worked on the complete redesign of my site throughout July and August. Much time with Glenn, Denise, Julia, and Jackie plus others from the Beacon Food Forest. Absolutely loved that. Reconnecting with friends and community was so good. Southbound road trip with a spontaneous vehicle that fell into my life. Craigslist friends, old friends, epic camping under Mt. Shasta and in the redwoods, and before hopping over to the east coast, a beautiful gathering and retreat with the CI crew in Sebastapol, California. Plus, Allen's birthday. As always too, gratitude to Orion, Beth, Mariana, Satwika, and Greg for being the main pillars of support especially for Season 3 being on the ground 100%.
East coast is because of that gorgeous wedding that you may have seen some photos of (Image 8). 2 years in the planning and it happened. The weather couldn't have been more perfect, and an awesome reunion of old friends from Honduras, Ghana, and various parts of the US. Massive shoutout and congrats to the couple Jennifer and Tom who made this all possible for me and everyone else.
Wrapped up that remaining road trip down California to be with the fam bam before taking off on a new life chapter. Nephew time, cycling with the kiddie trailer, playground time, and of course family portraits ensured (Image 9).
BTW, kinda cheated with September, because really I am using 3 photos from that month haha! That month was epic on unparalleled proportions - the road trip, the flying, the wedding, New York City!, unpack everything, repack everything, then moving my life to New Zealand with (yet another) one-way ticket. I presented 20 images as a glimpse of my life in front of a crowd of 500 within the first day of arriving (Image 10 - thanks Jonny!), and continued the rolling snowball by attending the Social Enterprise World Forum to jumpstart connections and appreciation for local knowledge and culture. I've been mostly in the same city since. Shoutout to Peter for kinda dragging me down under. October and November (Image 11) was mostly about creating and cultivating these new connections to make my new life chapter thrive in a way I have never experienced before. I have been blessed with support and love from new friends throughout Christchurch, NZ, and beyond. Massive thanks to Erica and Preston for having been pivotal in thse past few months. New projects, new learning experiences, new challenges, and new growth. There has never been a moment of boredom or stagnation. I am also starting to venture out and explore more of the south island in good company (Image 12), and sometimes happily on my own. Earlier in December I had the awesome chance to hop over to Australia. What a great little visit. Catching up with friends, quality conversations, avoiding poisonous things that could kill me, dumpster diving, and reuniting with my grandaunt and uncle who I hadn't seen for 22 years!
I can't tag enough people in this post, because truly a countless number of individuals made this year possible and extremely memorable. All I wish to say to all of you is thank you - for your presence, your lessons, your challenges, your smile, your encouragement, your support, and your contributions to the world.
The cold and sore throat I've been recovering from since before Christmas has really been a blessing, too, as it was given me the perfect reminder and reason to stay put (finally) and simply rest, reflect, and process this momentous year that is 2017 and commence a new rotation around the sun healthy, healed, and with a bang. Watch out, I have big plans for you, 2018!
Written by a new friend and gifted to me on Christmas. What a special treat!
Your eye is
Your heart is
Your mind is the
Look out for the light
that sliver of time,
that fragile crystalline moment
that will reveal
a hidden dimension.
Turn a photo into portraits. Into art.
Reveal something new
like an explorer’s first map
of an unknown country.
First steps. First dawns. First light.
was previously unknown.
Pull back layers to reveal
something about them and perhaps
So keep telling their stories.
Keep painting, with light.
It's already Christmas eve here in New Zealand! Hope everyone's able to spend time with friends and loved ones AND have the ability to unplug-reconnect in nature. Much love from down under. 💚
Pretty radical to have been called up yesterday for a photoshoot for the Student Volunteer Army and nearly immediately getting the photo published on stuff.co.nz
Big thanks to Jonny Knopp for the referral and Sam Johnson for making the shoot go very smoothly!
It's incredible how easily our emotions can get turned upside down simply by a few words from the right individual.
I've been, for the most part, riding on a high since landing in New Zealand 46 days ago. From reuniting with old friends, speaking for the first time in front of an audience of 500, attending an immensely inspirational conference of change makers, meeting heaps of new friends and making professional contacts, living and working in a new environment, exploring the wide open spaces and all the nooks and crannies in between, to reaffirming my own purpose and value in life -- this past month and a half has been enjoyable as well as enlightening.
I don't believe many people, including my friends and family members, understand why I do what I do and the unique rewards plus challenges that this lifestyle brings. For starters, it's easy to romanticize my travels as a never-ending fairytale of wanderlust and adventure. It's easy to look at my Instagram & Facebook feed and be "so jealous." It's easy to be mesmerized by the kaleidescope of colors, textures, foods, landscape, humans, sunsets, and moments of joy that I have meticulously captured and curated to organize, edit, caption, and share with you and the world wide web. That, my friends, is not the full picture. No one's social media accounts is ever the full picture. Anyone who thinks it's anywhere close completely undermines the platter of human emotions and spirit that makes life both challenging and endearing.
Like you, I sometimes-often struggle to get out of bed. I have had mornings, afternoons, and evenings where I sit there, with both palms of my hands in my face, thinking and feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders and in my heart (e.g. just now). Everyone's been there. I don't think I've been honest enough to myself to articulate and post those moments, too.
"... follow your dreams... But I do pray that you will settle down somewhere with a job/family one day."
The 'But' negates everything prior.
"... just something to make a decent living..."
Because I don't?
Because not having 5, 6, 7 digits in my bank account says I am not successful? Because my conscious decision not to hold down a regular job while putting down a mortgage to pursuit some rotten fantasy capitalistic societal propaganda "American Dream" makes me any less valuable? Because I choose to put my own happiness and the greater good of humanity and the earth before my financial earnings prove that I am not worthy?
Don't slap your right hand with your left. Don't say "I am proud of you" when the next thing out of your mouth is "will you settle down." I can't take this contradicting bullshit.
I've been working hard and living a decent life. I don't need $50,000+ USD/year to live "happily." Hell I don't even need $10,000 in most parts of the world. Don't and stop using the standards that have worked well for others on me. "Getting a job", "make more money", "settle down", and "have a family" are NOT things I have needed nor need at the moment.
I was brought up to be a decent human being, and I've been living within the moral ethics that you and many teachers have instilled in me. I in turn have done what I could to spread that to more people I come across who are younger, around the same age, and even older. Isn't that enough? Why does my happiness, my lasting joy, need to conform to some guidelines of the past? Can you really believe that there is one road map in this quest of life? I am not drug dealing. I am not harming anybody. I choose work that fulfill and cultivate meaning and purpose. I choose to invest in knowledge and in learning from the world instead of financing a $60,000 vehicle. I choose to serve those in need while nurturing my evolving needs and interests. I have supportive friends who nurture my creativity and sense of curiosity. Most of them bring zero monetary value to my life, yet their presence, their lessons, and their companionship are invaluable. That is all I could really ask for.
Do you know how hard it is to uphold this nomadic, creative life? Do you know how many moments I have to stand strong in the face of defeat, failure, and disappointments one after another while thousands of kilometers away from familiar faces and loved ones? Do you realize the difficulty and the sustained strength necessary to continue staying inspired and to inspire when the media splits out tragedy day in day out, when I am aware that the ice caps are rapidly melting, the carbon and sea levels are rising, the soil are eroding, the ecosystems are being destroyed, with species rapidly going extinct, that there is widespread injustice, fear, hunger, pain, suffering all across the world, and folks undervalue your work, never pay you, and some even ask you to work for free? Do you really know?
Don't say "proud" so casually anymore. It's like cry wolf. You say that, and say something else enough times, and I won't even believe it anymore.
Tomorrow is a new day. Onwards.
Major gratitude to Alex & Fraser of Upstream Daily for doing what they do -- recording and spreading inspiration for me and so many others who tune in all around New Zealand and beyond. This was a memorable moment for me as it was just my 4th day in the country but yet I had already felt so welcome and supported by a thriving community of do-good-ers at the Social Enterprise World Forum. In this short interview, I talk about Conscious Impact - its founding, what our global and local team has accomplished together in the past 2 and a half years in Nepal, and also some personal inspiration and advice in being a creative professional.
Collaboration with artists Kiel Johnson and Nadine Wells from Los Angeles. Such a fun project to witness and help out with. Time-lapses are by yours truly. Stop motion idea and executed by Erica Austin-Knopp. The TEDx Christchurch event itself was absolutely incredible. So happy to have been a part of it.
Here's the intro video filmed and cut together by Nadine.
What a special treat to find that PechaKucha named my presentation to be "Presentation of the Day" on their blog! It was my first time speaking and presenting in front of a group of 500+ and must say it was a bit daunting and I felt underprepared to deliver my best.
Regardless, a heartfelt thanks to the Pecha Kucha Night Christchurch team, especially Erica Austin-Knopp, in putting together an amazing event and making this a reality for me. Also shoutout to Peter Wells, A.J. Kennedy, and Allison Zetts for supporting me and being there that evening!
Check out my talk and the 20 images I chose at: http://www.pechakucha.org/presentations/finding-purpose-through-travel-service-and-photography