We’ve taken lots of shots, had some that we thought were the greatest thing since Ansel Adams and worked diligently to grow our craft. If you’ve been lucky, you’ve also managed to sell some of your work. But there is another side to all these beautiful images.
Photography is an art form that brings beauty, reality, information and emotion to the world. Unlike most other art forms, producing copies of a great photo is pretty straight forward. If you’re talking digital, it takes a few mouse clicks. If you’re talking prints, it takes a bit more, but it’s still not a long involved and tedious process. By comparison think of what it takes for a visual artist to do numbered prints. (If you are not familiar with printmaking, check here.)
I am a strong believer in sharing, giving back, helping others, doing what I can to make the world a better place. As photographers, we have a unique opportunity to accomplish good with our cameras, our skill and our time. There are many different ways to do this. I’m not proposing one over another. What I get out of doing good works with my images is that warm feeling when people are able to benefit from my actions. Think in terms of donating to charity or volunteering at a soup kitchen.
Here are a few of the ways that I’m aware of where people are using their images for the good of others.
At the top of the list is one of my mentors, Jim LaSala. Jim is one of the truly gifted photographers out there. He has dedicated countless hours to documenting the plight of the Haitian people since the earthquake several years ago. His images are some of the finest photographs you will ever see, both artistically and technically. He has made any number of trips there at his own expense, because as far as he is concerned, it is the right thing to do.
A number of my friends volunteer to be photographers for specific charities or charitable events. I know a number of photographers who volunteer to take pictures at big charity events (think Susan B. Koman walks for the cure). They will spend all day, often under less than ideal conditions taking pictures that are either given to the subjects or sold back to the subjects by the charity as a fund raiser.
One friend has been the official photographer for the local Cub Scout Pine box Derby. I know he got started because he had a grandson in the Cub Scout pack. Since then he likes to tell us how thrilled the kids are to see high quality images of the cars that they have worked so hard to build.
Our photo club is working on a couple of initiatives. We have a number of shows and exhibits each year. For these shows, the images are typically 16 x 20 inches or bigger, matted and framed. We all enjoy participating in the shows. When the show season is over we are faced with the question, now what do I do with them. To answer that, we’ve started a program where local charities can choose from a variety of donated, framed prints to use in their fundraising activities.
We are also putting together a portrait day in concert with four local charities. The idea is that we will provide the photographers, cameras, lights, backdrops, etc. The charities will publicize the event to their members and supporters. There is a charge for each sitting which is paid directly to the charity. In return, the supporter gets a high quality 5×7 print as well as a hi res digital file of the image.
Okay, so at this point you are probably saying talk is cheap, what am I doing? I’m on the committee that is putting the shoots together. Working with one other member we started the pictures for charity pitch. As the club webmaster, I also manage getting the images online so that the charities can see them. (cheap self promotion time) If you take a look at my website, you’ll see that I tell anyone wanting to use my images for educational, religious, spiritual purposes, or to promote yoga (another of my passions) should contact me as I am honored to have my images used for those purposes.
I’ve been going on retreat to the same Jesuit retreat house for a very long time. I’ve managed to get some wonderful images of meaningful places around the house and property. I’ve shared any number of those images with the house. Last year, I decided to go a step farther. I started making 3×5 cards using some of these images and give them anonymously to my fellow retreatants. They are laid out on a table with a sign saying please take on or two. Every year, they “sell out”. Each year as I get more images, I create new cards. Here’s a sample.
If you ask people who go on retreat to this house what are your favorite places/things in the house, this window is almost always one of the top things mentioned. I don’t get paid for the cards, in fact I incur a small cost because I print them. What I get back from them is seeing how much they are enjoyed. Several of my fellows go out of their way to thank me and tell me how much they enjoy them and how meaningful they are.
We are always hearing about the bad and the ugly in the world. We are overloaded with tacky selfies and mealies (is that a word) that have us asking what made the poster think anyone is interested in it. As serious photographers, we have the opportunity to not only bring some beauty to the world, we have the opportunity to help those less fortunate than ourselves.