Trey Ratcliff: Photography, Forest Bathing, Buying Instagram Followers, and More – The Kevin Rose Show

Key Takeaways

  • “Every photograph is a gateway to a story you can tell”
  • If you’re feeling down or anxious, try taking a walk in nature
  • Traveling to new countries has a whole host of benefits
  • “The greatest creative gift that anyone can give to themselves, is to let go of themselves”
  • The fact is – many people on Instagram are buying followers, likes, and comments
    • This creates a false economy and makes a ton of people feel hopeless when it comes to building a social media following
    • (You can buy 100k followers for a few hundred bucks)
  • In 2018 – $2 billion was spent on influencer marketing (this figure is only growing)
  • With social media, this is the first time in history where people are seeking the approval of complete strangers
  • Dabble in lots of areas and when you find something you love – go all in
  • In a way, psychedelics revert your brain back to a child-like state 

Books Mentioned

Intro

Trey’s 360 Degree Camera

  • While walking the Camino de Santiago with Kevin Kelly and Matt Mullenweg, Trey wanted to capture some of their conversations
    • To do so, he purchased a 360 degree camera – the Insta360 ONE X
    • How does it work? – You put in on a selfie stick and when the video is stitched together, the selfie stick is erased so it looks like it’s just a giant orb floating out in front of you
    • Here’s one of his conversations with Matt Mullenweg, and another with Kevin Kelly
  • Kevin and Trey shot a conversation together while walking through the woods in Oregon – check it out
    • “There’s something extra stimulating about a couple of people walking through nature”

The Power of Nature

  • “When I have any anxiety, just sitting in my studio working on photos, if I just go outside and walk around in nature for 5 or 10 minutes, that anxiety disappears”
  • The beautiful scenery is one reason why Kevin loves Oregon so much
  • The Japanese have a practice called forest bathing
    • They’ve done studies showing that if you go and spend time in the forest, your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and inflammation markers drop

Japan

  • Trey has been to Japan ~10 times
  • One of his favorite spots – Japan’s Wind Chime Garden
    • We couldn’t track this place down online
  • Another – Japan’s Puppet Town
    • When people die, they replace them with life-sized puppets dressed in the actual clothes of the deceased 

The Wonder of Travel

  • “I think it’s great to open your mind to new experiences because as you get these unusual audio and visual inputs, it actually rearranges your brain”
    • There’s been studies that show the more open you are to new experiences, the more creative you’re likely to be  – “That’s why travel is good for everyone”
      • “Travel can soften hard edges that your own particular culture, the one you grew up, might have created”
  • Kevin, on the benefits of travel – “I just feel more connected to the world as one big place, versus it being just all about the U.S.”
  • Trey actually moved to New Zealand a few years ago with his family (his wife, and his kids aged 10,13, and 17)
    • Every year, he tries to take his family on a longer trip to expose them to what the world has to offer

Photography and Trey’s Blog

  • Trey’s background is in computer science & math – he’s done a lot of IT work throughout his career, but he’s always known it wasn’t for him
  • After doing some world traveling, at the age of 35 (he’s 47 now) Trey bought his first camera (a Nikon)
    • He eventually started a photography blog to distribute his photos
      • Trey was doing something unique – sharing full res. photos with no watermarks (not many people did this for fear of their photos being taken)
      • Eventually the blog started to make money with ads/affiliate stuff
      • Soon enough, Trey decided to make extremely limited edition prints of some of his best photos and sell them (like really limited edition – usually only 3 prints at a time) – things snowballed from there
        • “In a world where there’s an infinite amount of everything, people want what’s rare”
        • Nowadays, with these limited print runs, here’s how Trey prices his photos:
          • With larger print runs (3 photos which are 6-10 ft. in width) – The first two are priced at $75k and the third at $90k
          • The smaller prints (usually 3 photos which are 3-7 ft. in width) start at $15k and go up to $65k

Trey’s New Book: Under the Influence – How to Fake Your Way into Getting Rich on Instagram

  • The subtitle – Influecer Fraud, Selfies, Anxiety, Ego, and Mass Delusional Behavior
    • Why the long title? – “Sometimes the only chance you have to advertise is the book title”
  • Trey almost titled the book “How to Stay Zen on Social Media”
    • Related – “The greatest creative gift that anyone can give to themselves, is to let go of themselves”
  • The fact is – many people on Instagram are buying followers, likes, and comments
    • This creates a false economy and makes a ton of people feel hopeless when it comes to building a social media following
    • Why do people buy followers?
      • Ego
      • To get more business deals
        • In 2018 – $2 billion was spent on influencer marketing (it’s only growing)
    • In the book, Trey ran an experiment growing a test account to >100k followers which he only paid a few hundred bucks for
      • It’s much easier than you think to do this (all detailed in the book)
    • You can also buy Instagram comments
      • Some of these services even let you write your own comments, which you can distribute across your posts as you see fit
    • How can you tell if someone’s doing this?
      • There are certain sites that let you examine the historical timeline/growth of an Instagram account, but it takes quite a bit of time to do this
        • Most brands spending money on social media marketing definitely don’t look into this – “It’s the wild west out there”
  • Another point in the book – this is the first time in history where people are seeking the approval of complete strangers
    • “Now people base their self-worth on absolute strangers who will never have any material impact on their lives…this is a bad thing”
      • Because of this – anxiety rates are sky rocketing
  • Trey adds – “Don’t fall into the trap of despair based on the false reality that appears to happening”

Podding

  • This is another concept discussed in the book
  • What’s a pod? – It’s a group of Instagram accounts who communicate offline (north of 1,000 people) via something like WhatsApp
    • When you post a photo, you message it to the pod and within 5-10 minutes, everyone in the pod is required to like/comment on it
  • Without a pod, a  photo you post to Instagram is likely only seen by ~1% of your followers
    • Why? – The Instagram algorithm is optimized to boost a user’s screen time in order to increase advertising revenue, so they only show photos with the most likes/comments
    • You can’t view your feed chronologically
    • Any comments/likes boost the photo within the Instagram algorithm – increasing the % of your followers who see it 
  • How can you find these pods?
    • There’s Facebook groups – just search “Instagram pods”
    • You can ask other people who appear to get a lot of comments if they’re part of one
  • So if you’re trying to grow an Instagram following, if you’re not in a pod – you’re at an immediate disadvantage

How can people grow a real Instagram following then?

  • “It’s very difficult”
  • The most important thing – have a pretty photo
    • But you could argue that anybody can take a good photo nowadays
    • “Every photo is a gateway to a story you can tell”

Trey’s Life Advice – Discover Your True Self

  • “As you find your true self and become more open-hearted and vulnerable, you start to tell your story, and you can tell your story through whatever your creative mechanism is”
    • “Everyone has some kind of true calling that they get obsessed with, and they might not know why”
      • For some people, they’re lucky enough to turn this calling into a monetary vehicle
  • Another piece of advice – read books from a wide range of areas
    • “As you read all these diverse subjects, you’ll be better able to bring a unique approach to your creative pursuit”
  • So dabble in lots, and when you find something you love go all in

Psychedelics

  • Trey is a huge fan of Burning Man – he’s gone 8 years in a row (the first few years he didn’t drink/do drugs)
    • Then he decided, what the hell, and took mushrooms (he was in his early 40s at the time)
      • “I realized it removed a bunch of the filters that the human brain puts into place…I just found it to be so intellectually stimulating”
      • “I found it opened up rooms in my mind that I could revisit at any time.”
    • Later on, Trey recalls trying LSD:
      • “It showed me how incredibly beautiful and wonderful the universe is, and how lucky I am to be apart of it”
      • “I see this wonderful tapestry of consciousness, how we’re all connected and all in this together…the answer to everything is love”
      • What else has LSD done for Trey?
        • “It’s made me more bold, less apologetic, and I now have less fear. This is so important for creatives.”
        • “Now, when I look at the world, I see things a little bit differently…I see the trees differently, the mountains differently, and the sky differently”
        • “I now understand that you’re not the thoughts in your head, you’re the silence behind the thoughts”
  • Kevin has had only one high dose psychedelic mushroom experience and says it was “life changing”
    • In a way, psychedelics revert your brain back to a child-like state 
      • Its really amazing – a piece of tree bark or a blade of grass can become the most fascinating thing in the world
  • The psychedelic, ibogaine, has some pretty remarkable effects at reversing addictions to dangerous drugs like heroin

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