TORONTO, MONTREAL — Marriott International worked with renowned photographer, Trey Ratcliff, this summer on his “Rediscovering the Americas” tour visiting 10 Canadian and U.S. locations including Toronto and Montreal. The idea was to have him explore these cities to capture beautiful destination photography and videos.
During his tour, he hosted Art Talks in each city and Toronto was the first city on his entire tour to sell out. Ratcliff has work in the Smithsonian Museum and is often commissioned by celebrities to create custom work for their art collections. His work will be used across Marriott International properties, social channels and potentially their marketing materials.
Some of the topics he addressed are summer travel through Canada, photography tips, and mindfulness through travel.
Ratcliff spent four days in each destination, taking photos and giving his Art Talks at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto and Ritz-Carlton Montreal. While he posts just a few photos per day on social media, he takes about 2,000 photos per city. “And most of them are terrible,” he told CLN in an interview.
“Ratcliff is an artist on a somewhat quixotic mission to help spread consciousness and mindfulness to the world through photography and creativity,” according to his website. “Running the #1 travel photography blog in the world, StuckInCustoms.com, has taken him to all seven continents over the past decade, and Google has tracked more than 140 billion views of his photos, all while building a social media presence with over 5 million followers.”
While all the stats are impressive, Ratcliff boils his purpose down to a few basic concepts. “In my Art Talks, I try to inspire people to create, to share photos and stories and things learned. It’s all about love, and while that is hippy schmaltzy, I believe in love and just being very kind to people.”
He lets people know about the Art Talks by making Facebook events, through a newsletter that has 125,000 followers and through his blog. “Some of the people who come out have been fans for 15 years. They ask some crazy questions and they’re super-honest,” he said. “I’m sometimes crying when we talk about it.”
Ratcliff is often asked if taking pictures detracts from being “mindful” and “present” in a space. They cite people who are constantly on social media, staring at the screen, wondering what people will think of them — which is the opposite of being mindful.
“For me, when I’m taking photos, I’m being extra mindful. I know how to use my camera — it’s a natural extension of my hands and body. There’s a 360-degree sphere of activity. I have this rectangle — and I’m so focused on finding out what matters right now.”
He has a number of tips for taking photos that stand out. First, include people. “If I leave a city with not enough photos of people, I feel I have missed out. And statistics show that when you share online, photos with people in them get 30 to 40 per cent more interaction.”
Two suggestions when photographing people: get in much closer to them than you think, especially their eyes; and for children, get down to their level when you’re taking the photos.
This is the first time Ratcliff has spent any extended time in Toronto — his first visit here was 15 years ago at a travel photographer conference. This time he spent four nights in the city.
“I’m a francophile,” he said, explaining why he was so eager to visit Montreal. “My first trip out of the U.S. was in university, when my Dad took me to Paris. I didn’t know Montreal was that French — there were some amazing cafés and food — it felt great.”
His biggest surprise about Canada in summer was how hot it was!
“The bad thing is that I had to leave, and I really don’t know the cities that way. After four days, I’m just starting to figure out the city. But I get to come back — I’ve made lots of friends there.”