interview interview advent

Interview Advent Day 23 : Branden Harvey

12/23/2017Jake Ryan

Branden Harvey has been a huge inspiration of mine for a long time now, Branden was one of the first people I followed when I downloaded Instagram many years ago.

I have followed his work along the way and throughout the years he has only got more inspirational. From telling the stories of non profits to now producing his own newspaper filled with good news. 

I recently asked Branden some questions about his work and the Goodnewspaper. See what Branden had to say.  

Hey Branden, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hey, My name is Branden Harvey and I am a storyteller focused on the good in the world. I tell stories in all types of ways. My background is in photography and I went on to tell stories through social media and right now I am even telling stories through a podcast and a physical newspaper.

Let’s start with your photography, as a wannabe photographer a few years ago I first found you on Instagram and was really impressed and inspired by your work. I found your photos to be so simple and yet incredibly creative at the same time. How long have you been taking photos and how did you turn your love of photography into your career? 
I started out shooting photos when I was 16 years old. I was given a free camera to use for an entire year to use as part of a photography class I was taking in high school. It was incredible because it gave me access to this tool I was really excited about. Every single day I would go out and shoot new photos and then I would go online and be inspired by people who were doing incredible work. I would seek to learn to do what they were doing. I would do a lot of trial and error until I figured out exactly what types of images I wanted to achieve. 

The way this turned into a career for me is that I would shoot photos every single day and then I would choose the very best of them— only the very best, and then I would put them online where people could find them. I think that’s the secret. Shoot a lot, curate really well and then put it where people are going to find it. For me that was Facebook, Flickr and a website I had built myself. Eventually people started to come across that work and people would start hiring me. It blew my mind in the beginning that people would hire me and it still blows my mind, but that’s when I actually started to turn this into a career. 

It didn’t take me long to discover you were more than just a photographer, although I’d originally followed along with your journey as I loved your photos, I was quickly hooked by your story telling. Every photo had a meaningful caption to go along with it, this could be an input into your own life or the life of others. Has storytelling always been important to you?
Honestly, I don’t think I knew it the whole time but when I look back on it now, I realise I cared way more about storytelling than I ever did about photography. I’m passionate about photography, I enjoy photography, taking photos is fun for me – but at its core, photography is just a tool to tell stories. Sometimes I am just unable to convey the entire story that I want to tell through one single photo. I have always been passionate about writing, I was a writer growing up. As a kid I had older mentors invest in me to help me become a better writer. Not that I’m an amazing writer but I had that support system early on and I was able to take that writing and apply it to my photos and be able to craft this narrative I really cared about.

What advice could you offer for someone who wants to make money from their passion for photography?
Really focus on what part of photography you’re really passionate about. For a long time I thought I was really passionate about photography in general and then I thought I was really passionate about weddings, and then sports. All these different things I would photograph and I quickly realised I was really drawn to the things that had a really strong narrative; that told a really cohesive story. That lead me down the path of wanting to tell more stories of nonprofits, to tell these really impactful stories of people who were experiencing injustices and pain and heartbreak and how they went beyond that to find hope, joy, health, safety and justice. And for me that was a really powerful story and that was the type of story I was  interested in. More than anything I would say, if you can find something you’re really passionate about, your work will show it. Your work will show that passion and people will hire you and you will make money. But don’t focus on the money, because that’s not where the passion is going to be, focus on the things that are going to get you energised.

I understand you have to travel a lot with your work, how difficult is it trying to juggle your working life while also wanting to enjoy visiting a new city/country?
I love the fact that I get to travel so much for my work, it's really, really fun to show up in a new city every week or every month and get to experience it and be a part of it and create work. Whenever I am travelling though, I am usually not on my own schedule. I am on the schedule of the client, whoever I am telling stories for or whoever I am interviewing for a podcast or whatever kind of story I am trying to tell for my publication. So I don’t always get to do everything I want to do, but ultimately for me, when I travel, I am most drawn to the people and all the stories I tell. I am telling stories of people, so on my most recent trip to Egypt I would have loved to have seen the pyramids or on my most recent trip to Rwanda I would loved to have gone on a safari, but the truth is the thing I am most excited about are the people I stumble across. So wherever I go, there are always people and that’s what brings me the most joy.

You’ve worked with some huge brands and you even got to visit the White House, when you’re achieving so much in your field of work, do you find yourself struggling with ambition for projects or does it push you into setting bigger goals for yourself?
I’ve always found myself to be an incredibly ambitious person and I have always been drawn to really ambitious people, but sometimes ambition can get in the way of where you really want to be going. Sometimes ambition takes the steering wheel when it really should be sitting in the passenger seat. I have been trying to learn how to be present and enjoy the things I have already achieved before moving on to the next thing that I want to achieve. 

For me it comes down to being more intentional about celebrating, which doesn’t come naturally to me at all. I try to remind myself on a daily basis, a weekly basis or even a monthly basis, that, “you have things to be thankful for, you’ve done things that you should be proud of” and to sit there and to enjoy that and experience that. Not only in the world, but in my heart and in my mind. That has been a game changer for me because I have found the ambition that I have when I am grateful comes from a much more authentic place and is actually much more sustainable.

Let's talk about the Goodnewspaper, when did it start? Where did the idea come from?
With my work travelling around the world, shooting photos for nonprofits and telling stories that mattered, I came across all of these incredible stories of people making an impact in the world. I came across stories of people using creativity and innovation and their personal stories and using their personal platforms or situations to do something that matters and do something to make a difference in the lives of other people. But so often when I turn on the news I feel overwhelmed and I feel a lot of people feel that way as well. So, I wanted to remind people of the good in the world. I wanted to show people the incredible, impactful work that I had seen from my travels as a humanitarian photographer around the world. 

During the process of this, I was reminded of this incredible quote from Mister Rogers where he says, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” And it’s an incredible quote because it reminds us that even in the darkest situations, even in a world where it feels like they is a lot of injustice or pain or suffering, there is still good to be found. So that’s when we went down the path of creating a publication that shares real good news, not just feel good news, but real good news that matters. 

Although it worked and you surpassed your goal massively, were you nervous when you launched your Kickstarter campaign for Goodnewspaper?
Yeah, let me tell you… I was so incredibly nervous when we went to launch the Kickstarter. We knew we wanted to use Kickstarter as we wanted to bring a lot of people into the experience. We wanted to allow everybody who wanted to, to be a part of the campaign. 

But I was just nervous. I was wondering, “Are people going to want this? Am I the right person for the job? Is this something I am equipped to do? Is this something people even want or need right now?” And I remember my hand just shaking before I launched the Kickstarter. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to delay the whole thing but my team was really incredible and they helped me press that button and we launched it. Fortunately, that nervousness, although it never fully went away, really quickly subsided because we were actually fully funded within 52 hours of the launch of the Kickstarter campaign.

How has the feedback been since the papers started being distributed?
It’s been amazing. Honestly I wasn’t expecting such a great response, it has been incredible. Not just that people are ordering the newspaper for themselves or ordering the newspaper for their friends, and subscribing and sharing it. But the thing that energises me most is that people are actually taking action because of the Goodnewspaper. They’re seeing stories of people who’re creating good news and they’re going out in their own circumstances, in their own places of work, or their passions, or their abilities, or their towns, etc — and they’re becoming good news. And that is actually our mission statement. ”Celebrate good news. Become good news.” that’s what we’re really passionate about. Sharing stories that move people towards action. And that’s what matters to me more than anything. 

If you could get a copy of Goodnewspaper into absolutely any person’s hands, who would you love to have reading a copy?
Ah, this is a really tricky question because they’re are so many people I admire that I would love to see this. However the first person that comes to mind is Bill Gates. Bill Gates has made such an impact in the world in regards to global health and global poverty. I love data, and if you look at the data on how the world has changed over the last several decades, you can actually just look at the charts and say this is the year that Bill Gates got involved in this country or in this region fighting this particular disease or whatever it is. The numbers just drop significantly. It’s just wild, so I would love Bill Gates to just read this as ultimately a thank you. 

They’re also people in the world that don’t realise that the world is already great and that there is so much incredible work that has been done and I would love for them to get to read the newspaper and get to learn about the reasons why the world is great and see that it is continuing to get better.

What are the plans for the future of Goodnewspaper?
Right now we’re in the process of creating Issue 03 of the Goodnewspaper. We’re so excited to get this out in the world and share this, and we’re planning our second year of the Goodnewspaper so if people subscribe today they’ll continue getting the newspaper into 
Year Two. I can’t reveal anything just yet, but I am so excited about the direction we’re taking Year Two. It’s going to be so good and I think people are going to really love it. I know it’s really energising to me, personally.

As someone who is a huge inspiration to many, where do you find your inspiration?
For years I have been completely inspired by people who use their unique platforms, talents and abilities to make a difference in the world — in a way that is totally unique to them. I love seeing business owners who use their business to impact their community. I love seeing authors who use their ability to write, to change the way we think about things. I love seeing athletes using their platform to bring attention to issues. All of these things energise me so much. It’s great because you can’t just copy these people, these people are uniquely qualified to do something in a way that is unique to them. So the thing that inspires me most is to ask myself, “What am I uniquely qualified to do? What do I have a unique ability to take action in?” That’s where I start and I think if everyone started there I think the world would be an incredible place.

And finally, what are your plans for the upcoming year? 
If you had asked me a year ago, what I thought I would be doing a year from now, I would never have guessed that I would be making a newspaper. In fact, I would never have guessed I would be doing most of the stuff I am doing. So I don’t ever pretend I know what I’ll be doing a year from now. I do know that I will continue pursuing the idea of telling stories that matter and telling stories of the good in the world. And whatever path that takes me down, I am excited about it.

Thank you Branden for taking 
the time to speak to TravelFoodFilm

Make sure you follow Branden's work 
Goodnewspaper -
Goodnewspaper Instagram -
Branden's Instagram -

All photos in this post belong to Branden. 

Did you miss Day 22? Catch up here - CaptainBarto 

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