Ep54: The Darker Side of Creativity | with Daniel Arnold

Daniel Arnold, is a world-renowned NYC street photographer who has been hailed by Gawker as ‘The best photographer on Instagram,’ by Wired as ‘Instagram’s ultimate street photographer,’ the New Yorker turned over their Instagram feed to Daniel for a week to document activity on the NYC subways, and his work is regularly featured in Vogue as well as The New York Times, just to name a few of his accolades. And in the interest of full disclosure…Daniel also happens to be my cousin.

In this marathon conversation Daniel and I take a deep, candid, and unfiltered look at the creative process. We leave no stone unturned and share both of our very honest experiences with both the amazing (i.e. manic) sides of creativity…and we also aren’t afraid to talk about our numerous personal experiences with depression and burnout. I thought this article would be both helpful and timely given that October 7th is the beginning of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

If you are dealing with mental health issues, whether or not you work in a creative field like us, know that you are not alone.

If you’ve ever felt like your creativity is a calling, a part of your identity, or something you simply must get out of your system in order to feel alive or be considered a productive member of society, you don’t want to miss this conversation.

And as soon as you’re done listening (or even while you’re listening), do yourself a favor and look up Daniel’s Instagram page. His photos will literally blow your mind. And I’m not saying that because he’s my cousin….his 200 thousands followers definitely agree with me.

Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • The social safety net of holding a camera
  • Creating art as a response to stress
  • The performative nature of being human
  • How photography lowers the unreachable pedestal of cultural fame
  • The ways in which creativity is bred through confrontation
  • Creativity as a positive relationship with the fear of inadequacy
  • Legacy, wanting to be loved, and feeling like your contributions to the world give you internal value
  • Processing expectations and moving past the disappointment of not meeting them
  • Depression and it’s relationship with creating
  • “Stop trying to be a good photographer…just make a mess”

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Daniel’s Instagram Page

Our Generous Sponsors:

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Guest Bio:


Daniel Arnold could be the William Eggleston of Instagram. Using his iPhone (along with a Contax G2 and Yashica T5), he captures the daily rhythms of New York street life in moments of both high drama and sublime banality. When he needed extra cash in March (“I had 40 bucks in my bank account and 10 grand of credit card debt,” he said), Mr. Arnold told his Instagram followers that he would sell 4-by-6 prints of his photographs for $150 each. By day’s end, he was $15,000 richer.

In 2012, the gossip website Gawker published an article about how Mr. Arnold had been censored: He had posted a cheeky but artfully composed photo of two topless sunbathers at Fort Tilden beach. Though he had only 1,500 followers at the time, Gawker called his Instagram feed a “stream of brilliantly voyeuristic snapshots of New York City streets.”

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Elyse Rintelman. The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”