"Go Deep in the F*ck Up" - Alex Strohl for The Creator Class Stories

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to see one of my all-time favourite photographers ever in the flesh. Was I okay? Not really. This was the guy who has nearly 2 million followers on Instagram, worked with brands with household names such as HP, Google, Facebook and Canon (just to name a few). If that’s not impressive enough in itself, Alex has also been regularly featured Forbes, Vanity Fair, and Gentleman's Journal for his travel and nature photography that is so breathtaking it almost seems surreal. 

Growing up in suburbia, it was my dream to get out and move to a big city, which was granted when I relocated to Toronto for school at 18. Don’t get me wrong - Toronto is the greatest city in the world (in my humble opinion) and I would have the opportunities I do if it wasn’t for this city. But as a person who has trouble focusing on any single thing for more than 20 minutes, I admit living here 2 years has me itching to get out for a little bit.  Now there’s a reason Alex Strohl is my favourite photographer ever, and it’s because of his talk that I was able to gain a whole new perspective on the city, ambition, travel and my own work. 

For some context, Alex hosted a one-day exhibition at Free Studio in the heart of Downtown Toronto in collaboration with The Creator Class Stories series where he told his story to a room packed with creatives from all disciplines, all over the city. 

Landing in Toronto the day before, Alex and his team spent the day exploring the city, starting off his talk with a quirky video of him doing typical Toronto-y things - shopping at Peace Collective, grabbing a (ridiculously expensive) latte, meeting up with local creatives (in which Peter McKinnon, another one of my faves, made a cameo). Although no more than a minute in length, this video was a nice wake-up call, being able to see the city from an outsider’s perspective humbled me in the way that it gave me deja vu of how I saw the city with fresh eyes when I first moved here. 

Now getting into the real content. The first thing I noticed was that his slides contained just his photos and no text whatsoever, reassuring the fact that a true artist is able to convey their thoughts through their work.

On The Creative Process 

The most important thing that he addressed that was surely lingering on everyone’s mind, was what it meant to be a creative. Alex emphasizes the importance of originality and how scarce it's become in an age where people can post anything and everything on social media platforms. While everyone is getting their inspiration from mood boards and Instagram, Alex mentioned that his creative process revolves around the opposite - getting offline in order to avoid imitation and really take ownership of his ideas. After all, what you make should be a vessel to convey how you feel. Instead of looking on Instagram for inspiration, he physically goes to art museums. Instead of scouring  Google Maps and Yelp, he pulls out (yes, these still exist)  a good old atlas. He makes a careful effort to tay off the computer especially during the early planning stage (check out his workshop, where he dedicates a chapter specifically on his process). As someone who is constantly dealing with the unpredictabilities of nature, something that personally resonated with me was how comfortable Alex was in these situations, and how he even strives to make sure that there is room for these spontaneous situations. 

I like putting myself in shitty places and getting myself out of them. I like the feeling of when things go wrong. Whenever I plan a trip, I make sure to give only 40% chance of success because the best photos happen when things go wrong.
— Alex Strohl