“Here we are, two kids, on opposite sides of the world with one eye closed and one eye open.” Tokyo based Patrick Tsai and New York based Coley Brown share images from opposite sides of the world on their collaborative blog, “Growing Up”. Growing Up beautifully and intimately documents the universal experiences of childhood, coming of age, and becoming adults. The two took the time to answer some of our questions about their own experiences going through these same things.
Patrick Tsai as a baby
Coley Brown as a child
Left: Patrick by Coley. Right: Coley by Patrick.
Where did you grow up?
Patrick: I grew up in Stockton, California. It’s kind of like a suburb of nowhere.
Coley: I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and lived there until I was 18. From ages 4-14 I mostly played soccer, made rockets,
went camping, and played Legos, and at 14 I got a blue electric guitar and started into a music obsession.
Did you have any secret talents?
Patrick: I was good at making bad short films.
Coley: I used to go in the woods in Tennessee and shoot arrows.
What were you afraid of as a child?
Patrick: I was afraid of Chucky – the doll that was possessed by a murder. I always felt like he would come at me from the dark.
Coley: Everything being a lie, like in the Truman Show
Who did you look up to?
Patrick: I liked the writer Gary Paulsen who wrote The Hatchet. A lot of his books are about dog sledding by himself in the middle
of nowhere. That sounded cool to me.
Coley: I have three older half-sisters, the youngest of the three being nine years older still. I really just wanted to be like them,
they went camping a lot, and listened to cool music.
Who was your first crush?
Patrick: Some stupid popular girl with blonde hair I bet….
Coley: I had a crush on one girl for years and years when I was a kid, but I never really was brave enough to do anything about it.
What poster did you have on your bedroom wall?
Patrick: The New Kids on the Block. Then later, when I was eight, I was taken to the Depeche Mode Violater concert. I couldn’t see
anything because I was so small so some stranger put me up on his shoulders to watch. He started dancing and then I got scared
because I thought I would fall. Anyways I came home with the biggest Depeche Mode poster ever.
Coley: At first I had only one or two paintings or pictures from art class, then one day it occurred to me to rip almost every page
out of my guitar magazines and tape them up. My sister’s rooms had a similar motif, but with early 90’s fashion magazines. Then
one day, as suddenly as they were put up, They were all taken down.
Did you have any nicknames?
Coley: In soccer sometimes people would confuse me as Coley the Goalie, even though I never played the goalie.
What did you want to be when you were grown up?
Patrick: Seinfeld…a biologist. Or an actor.
Coley: A sculptor, a Porsche engineer, and an inventor.
Where was your favorite place to be?
Patrick: My backyard.
Coley: I used to visit one of my older sisters every summer in Portland, Oregon. Portland is so different from Baton Rouge! It’s
a bit more progressive and there are mountains. I felt really grown up and free there. One summer the night before I left, I went
out all night with some new friends and we drove up to Vancouver, Washington. I was running so fast in this pitch dark street that
I fell and skinned both of my knees right through my jeans. On the airplaine the next day, you could see my bloody scraped knees
through the corresponding holes through my jeans. I think that was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been on a plane.
What’s the best book that you were forced to read in school?
Patrick: Well, I reread “The Giving Tree” a few months ago for the second time, and I think I understand it much more now
than I did then.
Coley: “The Giver”.
Was there a particular film, book, or album that was a big influence to you in your youth?
Patrick: There were a lot… but when I saw “Rushmore” in high school that was the film that I had subconsciously wanted to
make. It changed me as well as American cinema in general.
Coley: My two favorite books that I can remember are “Oh! the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss and “The Little Prince”. They are
What did you and your friends do on the weekends?
Patrick: We made home movies and also played Nerf war.
Coley: My friends and I would pile in to one persons car and drive as late as possible to the weirdest parts of town. There seemed
to be a never-ending supply of abandoned factories to sneak through and creak around in the night. I spent a lot of time beside the
Mississippi River in Louisiana. There’s a country road that stretches alongside the river for miles and miles. My friends and I would
pick different points to explore night after night. This is when I started photography, to document the secret experiences and journeys
that we would have at night time. One of my favorite adventuring spots was a giant geodesic dome (by Bucky Fuller) that was
abandoned and in the middle of nowhere… Once you got in and shined your flashlight up it was like entering an alien space station,
very distant and covered in soot, ash, and cobwebs, and surrounded by an incredible unknown and dangerous darkness. It was these
kind of places I’d get lost in and my biggest inspiration for the kind of world I want to be in.
What was your first job?
Patrick: Working in a movie theater, which I thought was the coolest because everyone who worked there had died hair and
Coley: Every summer I mowed the lawn of a big office building alongside a highway. I was alone in the sweltering heat!
Where was the first place you traveled to on your own?
Patrick: I guess that would be this special art summer school called CSSSA held at the Cal Arts campus when I was in high
school. There were all these other “artists” from all over California who were selected to go. The minority at school was
now the majority. It was a new experience for me being surrounded by similar minded people…. And I was introduced to Super 8
and I fell in love with a girl in a Hawaiian shirt with dyed-red hair.
When did realize that you wanted to take photography seriously?
Patrick: My Japanese girlfriend invited me to Japan one summer when I was still in college. She broke up with me after I arrived
in the airport in Tokyo. I was stranded in Japan with very little money (I thought I was going to crash at her place the whole
time), so I had to find a way to get bye and pass the time without spending money…. So I began taking lots of pictures and
Coley: I went to art college for a year but then left the South to move to New York – mostly because I was bored and wanted
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Patrick: I took a photo of a unidentified corpse in front of the Chinese police. I was immediately questioned by the Chinese CSI….
Maybe that was one of the craziest things…. I don’t know.
Coley: I barely escaped a near death lighting storm in the desert a few years ago..
What is your favorite memory from your youth?
Patrick: My mom sometimes used to take me out of my classes at elementary school, and we would drive down to the local diner.
I would get a hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. She would just watch me eat it. We did that a lot. It was nice.
Coley: I was always really excited for summer camp, to go kayaking and sleep in cabins and make friends with people who just
wanted this stuff also…