“It was in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that my passion became serious,” Daniel Lewis, the talented street photographer also known by his online pseudonym “ItsForGotham”, tells us. At the time, Daniel felt torn between his creative ambitions and the reality of everyday life; he was working a day job in customer service and had been unable to complete his college education due to financial issues. “I wanted to share what I was seeing all around me. And I saw all these photographers who didn’t have fancy cameras or expensive equipment. I realized you didn’t need that to produce great photos. It’s about the art.”  He decided to quit his job and pursue his dream full-time by documenting his surroundings from behind the lens of his iPhone 5. “My parents thought I was crazy”, Daniel recalls. He hasn’t looked back since.

By the Spring of 2015, Daniel had experienced a tremendous level of success through his art, but something was still missing. For Daniel, connecting and engaging with the community has always been a priority– it’s no coincidence he chose the name “It’s For Gotham”–but he hadn’t yet discovered the perfect way to give back.  It was this desire to connect to his community as a mentor that brought Daniel to Skillshare. He published his first class, Synesthesia in Photography, in early March 2015 and immediately felt a relationship forming with his followers that he had yet to experience on any other platform.  At first, this caught Daniel off guard.

“When I first saw my students joking about stuff from class,” he explains, “that’s when I realized they were really listening to what I had to say and reacting to it. They really cared. It surprised me.” This level of engagement was both exciting and challenging; having never taught or shared his skills in such an open forum, Daniel realized he needed to adapt. He learned to keep up with his students by providing feedback on their projects–he often reaches out to students personally to thank them for exceptional work– and of course listening to their feedback in return; “I now like to always keep a two-way conversation going,” he explains.

Today, Daniel is one of the most loved teachers on the Skillshare platform, which he describes as “a community built on community.” He will continue to share his passion and skills with the Skillshare community through his second class, focusing on photo editing, which is set to publish later this week.

Written by:

Nataleigh Kohn