Pete Longworth is an enchanting storyteller. His energy is raw, real, contagious. He’s a living, breathing, radiating example of how what you see in the world, determines how you feel. I was fortunate enough to spend some very precious time in Pete-land at the Wanderlust Festival on Sydney’s Cockatoo Island where I enjoyed his wonder, learned to get present – visually – and revelled in a unique opportunity to hear the perspectives of one of Australia’s most captivating visual poets. As promised, Pete left me in a better place than the one he found me in. I’m truly grateful for our meeting, and our energies now conspire to change the world through a mutual desire to open people’s eyes to the beauty that surrounds. Starting, here…
Growing up on 6000 acres in outback Australia, Pete lived with sheep, wheat and cattle. These days, he dances the globe with a searching eye for the uncommon. He has a talent for connecting with strangers and a passion for inspiring new perspectives with his Art of Seeing concept. His seductive visuals celebrate everything sexy, subtle and sacred through his authentically unique and cheeky approach to life.
Pete is a TEDx talking, globe walking, fun-loving photographer. A gypsy, a lover, a Digital Shaman, Pete has headlined Australia’s famous Vivid light festival and has taken the stage internationally for Lululemon, Apple, Nikon and the Australian Government. His work has adorned the screens of Cannes and he is a two-time winner at the New York Independent Film Festival.
Pete joyfully inspires the realisation that what you see controls the way you feel, and that we all have the power to create more beauty in our everyday… Life is our canvas. Be an artist. Make a masterpiece.
Images from Pete’s Instagram
Here’s a taste of my chat with the superbly wonderful, Pete Longworth.
Pete’s journey…So far…
I’ve chilled in the hills of Hollywood and nearly died racing rickshaws in Bangkok… I’ve shot fancy weddings in the Greek Islands, chased rainbows in Hawaii and held exhibitions in New York… I’ve been free-diving in Dubai, hitchhiking in Cuba and skinny dipped more times than I can remember… I’ve been pampered, I’ve been pepper-sprayed… I’ve been seduced, I’ve been punched in the face… I’ve been treated to rooftop dinners that cost more than my first car and I’ve eaten fried crickets on the streets of Cambodia…
I’ve photographed tourism campaigns, third-world orphanages and fashion pages… I’ve landed on the wrong side of the law in El Salvador, danced alone in the desert, and I’ve jumped out of a perfectly good plane with five women in lingerie… I’ve lost my marbles on a beach in Goa and I’ve survived Vegas, barely… I’ve had AAA access at carnival in Rio, and I’ve had every right removed when I was put in a cell in Canada… I’ve loved, lost, let go and wished I never.
The history pages have been colourful and the lessons rich. Life is my favourite muse. She is a wonderland of serendipity and misadventure. Energy has been my currency and leaving things better than I found them my mission. Visual storytelling is my passion and it has provided the ultimate backstage pass into hearts and homes of people all over the planet. It’s been a blessed journey.
I’ve been honoured, but mostly I’ve been humbled. I’ve climbed the mountain of my ego just to discover a vast mountain range that rolls on! But as my own bullshit slowly dissolves, I am realising that it’s not about me. As sexy as it is to be on stage and have your name on a poster, the real juice is understanding that I’m actually a conduit for something bigger. For now, that is helping people see the world [and themselves]… differently.
1. You’re a storyteller, gypsy, photographer, artist and globe-trotter – you’ve been called a Digital Shaman – what exactly does this mean to you?
I’ve never been very good at holding to societal norms… I choose adventure over logic 93% of the time, and I’ve certainly made fantastic mistakes along the way! But I’ve always been wildly curious about life and the human experience – I honestly think we are walking miracles. I’ve found my artistic endeavours are a great way to deepen my understandings of pretty much everything.
Taking that further, for me being a Digital Shaman is about exploring spirituality through technology. I mean, why do these need to be paradoxical elements that can’t along? So I play with rousing inner awakenings through creative collisions of the hi tech, the uber organic and the higher self.
2. Tell us about growing up in country NSW, “running away”, the Country Camera Club, and how this 360degree journey has affected you…What have you learned? What have you brought back to your roots?
As I offered up ways for them to see the world differently, I realised something significant for myself… You don’t have to travel the world in order to see it. There is a galaxy in every moment, and too often I would miss things because I’m lost in some lustful greed to be somewhere else. Funny thing was, even when those moments and places arrived, I had not developed my ability to fully enjoy them.
As cliche as it may be, the only truly tangible thing we have is here and now, so I’ve learnt to make the most it. Think about when you are really happy, those moments when your heart sings, and I’ll bet in those moments you are 100% present to the experience… happiness = being present!
Four years ago I sold everything I own, followed an inner-niggle, and I moved to New York to swim with the BIG fish. I didn’t have anywhere to stay, no job, and not even a visa to work there. I sat in my derelict Air BnB room on my first night, counted my cash, and realised that I only had $2200 to my name [great timing to discover that reality]! Consequently, there were plenty of meals I didn’t eat, and I certainly learnt how to hustle. But as I surrendered and continued to walk on an invisible staircase of some Universal faith, I discovered that fortune really does favour the bold, and that there is no greater sense of reward than honouring that inner-niggle.
4. You’ve said “The Art of Seeing isn’t about the quality of the pictures you’re taking, but the lessons you learn while you’re taking them.” What does this mean to you in terms of the importance of learning how to be visually present in your own life?
We all know that yoga and meditation serves our body and brain, so you can think of the Art of Seeing as being yoga for the eyes. Best thing is, you don’t need fancy pants, a special room or an expensive membership, you don’t even need to lift a finger, you just have to open your eyes. So enjoy the traffic.
5. What are the keys to obtaining a greater appreciation for the things around you? What are five easy things that people can start to change about their days right now, to shift their perspective, to see the beauty around them…
Take 3 Deep Breaths…
Close your eyes right now and take a deep, expansive breath. Hold it in and start to feel for your heartbeat. Attune to the sensations as you mindfully release the air from your lungs. Repeat that twice and pay attention to the simple shift that just took place. I have an alarm set on my phone at 3.33pm everyday to remind me to do this and I’ve grown to love it.
Visual Meditation 101…
Look around the room and take note of all the shapes you can see. Take about a minute and purely focus on shapes, nothing else, look everywhere. Find your favourite shape and make a mental note. Repeat this process looking for texture, shadows, lines, light, and colour. Mindfully note each of your favourites. Then write them down in your diary, journal or notebook, but do so later in the day. It will help you reignite the experience and deepen your ability to connect to those moments and observations. Like any art, the more you apply to it, the richer the rewards.
Splendour in the Mundane…
Give your attention to something seemingly mundane – a table, keyboard, an orange, lighting fixture, carpet, floor or wall. Touch, experience and contemplate that object… how it was made, where it was made, the mood of the person that made it, whether they had a silly moustache, was the sun shining when the fruit was picked, what was the colour of the tractor, what are the subtle variations in colour/tone/texture. Contemplate anything, everything. Explore how much wonder you can extract from this object, revel in it and learn to celebrate the splendour in the mundane.
A moment with your Food…
Next time you cut up fruit for your smoothie, or you prepare the vegetables for the stir-fry, take a moment to notice what the inside of that piece of fruit or vegetable looks like. Now take another moment to consider that you are probably the only person on the planet that will ever get to see what the inside of that piece of fruit or vegetable looks like! I just think that is pretty groovy and well worth marinating on!
Attend a Workshop…
I host workshops all over the globe and I personally promise to leave you better than I found you. Come and experience one, enjoy the energy, and start to see the world… differently.
(See below for dates of Pete’s upcoming workshops)
6. You’re a bit of a gypsy, spending your time between NY, LA, Sydney and country NSW…how are the communities different in each of your homes? Do you think it’s possible to create such strong communities outside of rural areas?
Home is certainly where the heart is, and good people create good community wherever they are. Rural communities create a special bond for sure, there is an unspoken courtesy and consideration that some city dwellers never quite get to tap into, but I believe that comes down to time. If we over-populate our existence, we leave little time for the basic joys of community. That being said, I’ll take depth over distance any day. Surface talk is meek and in my experience, any community that dares to delve deeper into themselves, and each other, is a strong community. A sweet lover once taught me… that the deeper we dive, the more beauty we find. So get your flippers on and come say hello!
7. What have you learned about the importance of a sense of community versus the ‘grass is greener’ concept?
John Butler said it best… “The grass may be greener, but it’s just as hard to mow.”
8. You work with various different mediums to create these seductive visuals – do you have a preferred tool or does it depend on the message or feeling you want to evoke in your audience?
I was once rigid in my ego as a professional photographer, but I now enjoy whatever medium best conveys the story or creates a meaningful experience. Being open to collaboration and new ways of being in the world has opened doors to incredible opportunities. And it never ceases to amaze me how the world conspires to help you whenever you get out of your own way.
Pete on ‘The Art Of Seeing’
UPCOMING WORKSHOPS IN SYDNEY:
All listings also available on www.petelongworth.com
Saturday, May 23, 2015 from 10:00pm – 1:00pm
Saturday, May 23, 2015 from 3:00pm – 7:00pm
Sunday, May 24, 2015 from 1:00pm – 8:00pm
Tuesday, May 26, 2015 from 6:00pm – 10:00pm
Pete Longworth was at Wanderlust Festival Australia. For more information on upcoming Wanderlust events globally visit www.wanderlust.com
How do you see the extraordinary in the ordinary? The splendour in the mundane? Tell us your visual story in the comments below…