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The Wondering Eye

The little instant camera icon on your iPhone where you post photos of drinks and grainy concert shots, along with the occasional nature snaps, is where Brian Kaiser unlocked a giant world of travel, new friends all over the world, and a new business. One of Columbus’s pre-eminent Instagram stars (more than 67,000 followers as [...]
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The little instant camera icon on your iPhone where you post photos of drinks and grainy concert shots, along with the occasional nature snaps, is where Brian Kaiser unlocked a giant world of travel, new friends all over the world, and a new business.

One of Columbus’s pre-eminent Instagram stars (more than 67,000 followers as of press time) still holds down his day job with the Ohio Environmental Council, but has taken his passion and his budding talent and translated it into new business proposition. Wonder and Wander, a marketplace for brands and mobile photographers, was designed by Kaiser as a one-stop shop—a hybrid between traditional talent agency and a creative agency.

“The idea came to me as a solution to several problems I noticed as I became more engaged in the Instagram community and more established as a photographer,” he said. “First: how do photographers with large audiences connect and work with brands in an authentic and fair way? Secondly: how can emerging photographers with a unique voice translate their online success and passion into a career.”

This month, as Kaiser prepares to hang his first public show of some recent shots under the same title at Thank Yoga Studio, (614) focused the lens on what makes him wander and wonder:

Have you been continually amazed by how vast and connected this Instagram world can be?

It really has been amazing. Even more important to me than the overall number of followers has been the friends I’ve made all over the world through Instagram. I have friends in London, Malaysia, Brazil, Guatemala, New Zealand, and almost every state in the U.S. Anytime I travel to another city—I just mention where I’m headed on one of my posts and within hours I have a half dozen people that are willing to meet up and show me around the city. The community is really incredible like that.

To that end, one thing I’ve found amazing is that via Instagram photographers, who sometimes can be a competitive bunch, seem much more collaborative and supportive. Do you find that to be true?

I’ve never really run into that on or off of Instagram but I definitely think the Instagram community is really collaborative and supportive. Just by the way it’s designed—the default way to interact with people is to “like” their photo. That reinforces a kind of positivity. I also think the diversity of styles and skill levels on Instagram creates a space where people can connect over their shared love of photography and be inspired and supported as they progress. I owe a lot of where I am to the photographers I met through Instagram, who shared their favorite locations with me, showed me a cool editing technique, or simply stood in front of my camera when I needed a subject. I’m fortunate to have connected with guys like Adam Elkins (@bigmanjapan) and Javi Gutierrez (@javi_gutierrez), who are constantly pushing me to get better—to think about new ways to approach my photography, and most importantly, are always down to go out and shoot.

Building on that, does this bridge the gap between “amateur” and “pro?” Do these distinctions really exist in the same definition anymore?

It does to some extent. But the truth is, the entire photography industry is evolving. Now that everyone has a camera on their phones, emerging artists who didn’t have access to a formal education in photography, or who can’t afford an expensive full-frame DSLR, can find an audience for their work. That doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay their dues, but in some ways this removes some of the traditional obstacles and, maybe in the process, blurs the lines between amateur and professional.

When starting W&W, did you have any concern about monetizing or co-opting something that had started very organically?

Not really. One of the things that I think makes Wonder & Wander unique is that we see the artist and the brands we work with as equals—as co-collaborators. This approach ensures the content we create is authentic, engaging, and original. If I can create a space where people can pursue their passion and turn it into a career, then I’ll be happy.

What continues to provide inspiration for your shots? Does it get more challenging not to duplicate yourself in this medium?

I’m always pushing myself to improve and progress. Sometimes that’s by working on composition or my editing. Lately though, I’ve been trying to spend more time at the outset focusing on the concept and getting outside of my comfort zone. One of the great things about Instagram is the sheer amount of inspiration that’s out there—if you are willing to go look for it. It’s easy to get too comfortable doing what works or falling back on what’s familiar. But if you’re not growing and challenging yourself, what’s the point?

What surprises you most about what you uncover through your work?

It might sound egotistical but what surprises me the most is my own creativity. Sometimes as I’m setting up a shot I have no idea what I’m going for and then, out of nowhere the idea falls into place. And when it does, I know immediately that I’ve found it. It’s almost like magic sometimes. Even in the moment, I can barely articulate what I’m looking for but when I see it, I know it, and that feeling is unlike any other I know.


Thank Yoga is located at 29 E Fifth Avenue. For more on Kaiser, visit wonderandwander.com, or follow @brianmkaiser on Instagram

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First-of-its-kind high school helps students break cycle of addiction

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Students recovery from substance use disorders often relapse upon leaving treatment and returning to their old school. A newly opened school on the city's east side seeks to help young people break the cycle of addiction through dedicated care and attention.

Heartland High School is Ohio's first school specifically for students recovering from addiction. The inaugural class consisting of 8 students will receive a recovery-centered education that aims to create a sense of belonging, self-confidence and purpose.

The purpose of a recovery high school is to give students in recovery a high-quality education in a safe and supportive environment that is specifically conducive to substance use recovery.

Heartland High School will receive and maintain a charter issued by the state board of education. Students will be awarded a state-recognized diploma upon graduation.

Heartland High School is located at 760 E. Broad Street in Columbus. For more information, visit heartlandhighschool.org.

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Review: Not Chicken Takeover debuts today!

Mitch Hooper

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Hail seitan!

No, this isn't a religious cry—it's a plant-based one. And the newest addition to the ever popular Hot Chicken Takeover will soon have everyone from carnivores to vegans saying the same thing.

Hot Chicken Takeover is a solidified Columbus staple. The lines for lunch at the North Market prove that, and expanding to Clintonville as well as Easton Town Center further show that the hype for HCT is real. And as a vegetarian, my jealousy was at an all time high. But now I can officially confirm: Hot Chicken Takeover is certified good. Look out Impossible Burger, you've got some competition.

The menu option at HCT is created out of the aforementioned seitan. Basically, as Wikipedia so eloquently describes it, it is: "Wheat gluten is a food made from gluten, the main protein of wheat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving the sticky insoluble gluten as an elastic mass which is then cooked before being eaten." I know what you're thinking: yummy!

But before you stick up your nose, this isn't just your run-of-the-mill tofu knock-off. Compared to tofu which can become squishy and sponge-like, seitan holds it's consistency where it stays more firm similarly to what happens to fried chicken. And this holds true at Hot Chicken Takeover. Whether you have yours served on a sandwich or atop two slices of white bread, the seitan never loses it's texture and consistency. It goes to show that nine months of hard work pays off (shout out to Craig Morin!).

Speaking of texture and consistency, the exterior of the seitan brings all the flavor and heat you'd imagine from the regular menu options. It's crispy and soaks up that house-made ranch dressing, plus little fried bits fall off throughout the eating process. It's the simple things like crispy and spicy bits of the "skin" that give you the full experience.

Eating this "Not" Chicken Takeover really reminded me of my first experience of trying the Impossible Burger. As a vegetarian, you almost feel guilty eating something that resembles what it's trying to replicate so well. Though the Impossible Burger takes the crown for appearance (it freakin' bleeds, ya'll), HCT is a close rival. And the seitan at HCT isn't nearly as a flavor diva like the Impossible Burger. The flavor is similar to chicken, but it also allows the other flavors to shine like the sauce. Meanwhile, the Impossible Burger sometimes feels like it's just trying too hard. Chill out, ya know?

It's a big ask for meat-eaters to ditch the delicious chicken at HCT for a meal, but it's worth it. As I brought back leftovers to my predominately carnivorous office, the only complaint they had was they wanted more. As for my vegan and vegetarian friends, save some house made ranch for me.

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Dear I-670 drivers, your lives are about to change

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Notice anything different on your I-670 and/or I-270 commute this week? Could be the nine 600-square-foot, 110,000-pound digital signs towering over the freeway.

When operational this fall, these signs will display information about the first ever Ohio SmartLane.

The I-670 "SmartLane" is the left shoulder that will be opened when traffic slows to a crawl. It will begin just east of I-71 in downtown Columbus and extend to I-270 on the East Side.

https://twitter.com/ODOT_Columbus/status/1158603393377738752

The SmartLane will be closed most of the time, indicated by a red X. But when traffic dips below 50 mph, The Dispatch reports traffic monitors will send signals to the overhead signs to open the SmartLane.

A green arrow will appear along with a speed limit for SmartLane drivers to abide by (slower speeds keep traffic moving during congestion). A yellow indicator will appear when the lane is about to close.

ODOT will be installing more than 30 traffic cameras to monitor the lane for any obstructions, reports The Dispatch. The right shoulder of I-670 will be free for disabled vehicles to use.

The $61 million project is expected to be open in October. Visit ODOT.com for more information on the project and the new traffic patterns.

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