In 2013, Tyler Ross, a Canadian videographer, was working as a garbage man to make ends meet. “That was shitty,” he says. “I was shooting videos part time but I wasn’t making enough money to survive.” Over the course of the past three years, he paid his dues—interning and helping out whoever he could with shoots—and eventually got the opportunity to work with Kanye West.
Ross, better known by his Instagram moniker WhiteTrashTyler, was born in Nova Scotia, a Maritime province in Canada near the Atlantic. The son of two school teachers, he started shooting skate videos with his friends as a hobby. But it wasn’t until he began helping an old roommate make YouTube videos that he decided he wanted to pursue a career as a videographer. “I realized it was something that I was passionate about,” says Ross, who declined to give his age.
After graduating from college with a marketing degree, turning down an office job at a tobacco company, and a short stint as a garbage man, he booked a flight to L.A. to pursue his dreams. “I knew I wanted to do something more creative,” he says. He slept in hostels on Fairfax Avenue and on friends’ couches, and made connections and assisted anyone who needed help shooting or editing videos. “I learned everything when I was in L.A.,” he says.
Since then, Ross has contributed to West’s “Famous” visuals, and shot behind the scenes footage of the rapper’s Saint Pablo Tour and the making of Yeezy Season 3 to Season 5. He also edited the five-minute video montage West wound up giving Kim Kardashian on her 36th birthday, as well as Drake and 21 Savage’s “Sneakin’” and Future’s “Use Me” and “My Collection” music videos. Today, Ross is currently on the road with Travis Scott, who’s on Kendrick Lamar’s Damn Tour. “[Travis] just DM’d me and was like, ‘Yo! Clear your schedule and come on tour with me,’” he remembers.
In his first ever interview, Ross talks about what it’s been like capturing candid moments of West and Scott, working with other big-name artists like Drake and 21 Savage, and what’s next for him.
How did you get the name “WhiteTrashTyler”?
I feel like WhiteTrashTyler is an extension of me. When I tell people I'm from Nova Scotia, the first thing they say is “Where the hell is that?” They expect me to be some hick from Canada. So I think it's funny to just roll with that assumption that people have about me. That irony is amazing.
How did you start working with Kanye West?
I met Gabe from [Los Angeles-based group] UZi and he was making music and directing videos at the time. I was sleeping on his couch and would just help him with whatever I could. Then when Ian Connor started creative directing for [Kanye West’s clothing line] Yeezy, he told ‘Ye, “You should have people filming this stuff using a VHS camcorder.’ So Kanye brought Gabe in, and Gabe asked me to help.
How would you describe your style? You use VHS right?
I shot using a mini DV camcorder and VHS camcorder when I was younger. I like using VHS cameras because they remind me of home videos, and people are always more comfortable around it. But I definitely love mixing formats. Through my work with Gabe I’ve been using VHS but I’ll still shoot HD stuff outside of that. It’s just become a blend of the two. Sometimes I’ll be shooting and pull out a different camera and just see what happens.
What inspires you?
A lot. People and the conversations [I have] with those who I meet. People from different cultures and walks of life. I'm lucky to be working around high-level artists. Everyone who’s in the room usually has some kind of story of how they got there, so that in and of itself is really inspiring. I’m inspired by reinventing something that was made in the past and making it more modern. For me, pushing the needle forward is not getting stuck in only making music videos. It’s about taking everything I've learned and pushing projects to a higher level. I feel like everyone at some point in their life is told you can do anything, and it's true, but you really have to believe it or you have to see it to really believe it. If you really want to achieve something, you'll find a way to do it.
To what extent were you working with Kanye West and for how long?
For a little over a year, I was documenting events that were going to be used for his other projects. I helped shoot and edit the “Famous” video. It was an inspiring experience because I had been working for [Kanye] for around six months before anybody even knew that I was doing anything with him. The “Famous” video was the first thing that came out that people were like, "Oh, shit! You worked on that?” I remember we were finishing up the video right before the premier. We were literally exporting the file while we were in the car on the way to [The Forum]. When we walked into the arena, Kanye’s music was playing and I was just like, “Shit! This is gonna be packed in an hour and everyone’s going to watch this video.” That was a surreal moment.
What did you learn most from working with Kanye?
The importance of collaboration. The true magic is finding the right people to bring into the room and create with. For me, that was my favorite part of filming him. The way he spoke to people that he had just met to convince them to be part of a project was inspiring.
I feel like I just went to school with Kanye and now I'm like, “How do I take everything I've learned and start developing my own mood board?” I hope that I'm always learning and developing myself. If you're not trying to achieve better then what's the point? Something might seem like a long process but that extra day, that extra week, that extra month you put in… 10 years from now, you’ll be happy you went the extra mile.
You posted an amazing video on your Instagram of Quavo riding a horse. What was that about?
That was in Calabasas. These people were just walking their horses down the street and Quavo—I don't think he'd ever been on a horse before—was like, "Can I ride it?" [laughs] And they're like, "Yeah, I guess.” He got on it and he was a natural. It was pretty amazing to me. I was like, “What the hell is going on right now?” I just started filming it.
You shot some of the footage of interactions between Kanye and Travis that wound up in Travis’ La Flame documentary. Tell me about that.
Travis was about to put out La Flame but he knew I had filmed him and Kanye together a bunch of times, so they asked me what clips I had. So I sent them a little reel of different shots that I had. After Kanye approved them, they added some of it in the documentary. I shot Travis testing Kanye’s [floating] stage for his Saint Pablo Tour, Travis gifting Kanye a watch, and Travis in the crowd at the Saint Pablo shows.
What’s your favorite moment so far from being on tour with Travis?
He had a show in Houston and his mom surprised him with a visit from his old teachers. That was special because Travis said he was basically failing one of his classes but his teacher really loved him and believed in him. She basically passed him because she knew he was a special kid. His mom was crying. That happened right before he went on stage. Being able to see people’s growth and hear stories like that is pretty special.
What was the energy like at The Criterion in Oklahoma City when Travis performed “Goosebumps” 14 times?
That crowd was insane! They broke the stage barrier hours before Travis even got there. Everyone had to be evacuated to fix it. Kids were raging in the streets, there were cops everywhere before the show even started. They didn't want me to film ‘cause every time the kids saw the camera they started chanting Travis’ name and rushed the doors.
You helped edit Future’s “Use Me” and “My Collection” music videos. How did that happen?
That was through my mentor and good friend Nick Walker. He’s an amazing director; he’s someone who doesn’t have a huge following on Instagram but, to me, he’s one of the most talented people I've ever worked with. There have been moments where I was like, “What the fuck am I doing out here [in L.A.]?” You never know what you're going to be working next week. He’s always been someone who has encouraged me to keep going and gives me projects to do. One day, he approached me and was like, “I'm doing these videos for Future. I want you to edit them.” I would go to his office and edit those videos with him. I also edited the FKA Twigs mini-doc, Baltimore Dance Project, and Freddie Gibbs’ “Pronto” video.
What’s the end goal from here?
I don't really want to have an end goal. I hope that I'm always hungry to figure out the next thing or inspired to feel the need to always be creating something. That's the goal.