Give and Take (Nothing)

For many photographers the concept is fairly simple. Give me money and I’ll take your photograph or sell you one that I’ve taken. The idea of getting paid to take a photograph is not a new concept and quite often becomes the desire of many aspiring photographers, myself included. For some of you who follow my blog on a regular basis, you might recall some of my recent posts when I have talked about wanting to do more with my photography and use it for a greater purpose. Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing some research on organizations and individuals who are using their talents to take a photograph and get nothing in return. I thought I would pass along a list of organizations that have really impressed me. If you know of another concept or organization that I haven’t mentioned here please feel free to share back with me.

The Maple Leaf Mission is an organization based out of Edmonton Alberta whose mission is to provide portrait photography to families of individuals who are: facing a terminal illness, living with a debilitating illness yet demonstrates a life lived to the fullest, military families celebrating homecomings or deployment, soldiers returning injured from a tour. For more information on The Maple Leaf Mission visit

Help Portrait was started by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. The concept is simple. Find families or groups who would like a portrait but can’t afford to have one taken. Single parents, underprivileged families, families affected by illness, army veterans, or just a neighbor. Go to to learn more.

According to their website “Outside the Lens™ (OTL) is a San Diego-based youth media literacy program dedicated to celebrating the vision and voices of children around the world and across cultures. Students (K-12) tell their unique personal stories using photography, writing and other digital media forms while under the guidance of writers, poets, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, artists, and teachers.” I like this concept a lot. The idea of giving a young person a camera should help us see the world in a new perspective. Right now they are participating in a global photography project called Water in Focus which documents the use, waste, conservation and pollution of the world’s water supply. If you are interested in learning more about Outside the Lens visit them at

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is an organization that has really captured my attention for personal reasons. The mandate of NILMDTS is to help parents recover from the loss of a baby. This might seem like a morbid type of charity but for parents going through a very difficult situation it might be an important part of the healing process. For parents of stillborn babies, and babies that die shortly after birth a photograph might be the only thing they bring home from the hospital. Right now they have over 12000 volunteers in 40 different countries.

Photo Philanthropy is an organization that is all about social change. They connect photographers with non-profit organizations around the world. Projects may include environmental causes, social and economic situations in places like third world countries, or education on a variety of topics. If you are thinking about donating your talents to a cause this might be a good place to start.  You can connect with them at

If you are interested in learning about more organizations to partner with you may want to look at the website or do your own search on philanthropy and photography.

“From what we get, we can make a living;
what we give, however, makes a life.” –
Arthur Ashe

Back to School

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
John Wooden

I had an opportunity to go back to school this week, not as a student but as the teacher.  I forgot what it was like to walk into a strange school for the first time and have no idea where I was going and not know a single person.  It was déjà vu of school for me except I wasn’t the short freckle faced kid; I was the old guy with a goatee and the furniture seemed a bit smaller than I remember.

I was asked by a friend if I would like to talk to a middle school group of students that get together every week for a club they call Solid Rock. They came to hear me speak about being a Christian, a photographer and as someone who is concerned about environmental issues and how they all tie together for me.  I’ll admit, even though the audience was young and likely had little to no expectations, I was still nervous.  As the father of three, including a middle school boy, I should be able to relate but I spent most of the week before struggling to prepare and wondering what my message should be.

I came to the conclusion that I would just share how I arrived at the point in my life when I decided I wanted to campaign for environmental issues.  I don’t think of myself as an environmentalist.  I think of it as a natural fit as a Christian and how I want to be a good steward of what God created for us.  It is as old as Genesis.  It has also become personal as the father of an asthmatic. I have watched many days and nights as she has struggled not being able to breathe, sometimes even requiring emergency room care.

As it turns out they were all great kids and I was the one who learned something that day.  They were so full of ideas and enthusiastic about the opportunity they had to make a difference.  They talked as a group about cleaning up garbage around their school, doing more recycling, and other changes they could make in their school and neighborhood.  They accomplished more in 45 minutes as 11-13 year olds than some meetings I have been in with adults for several hours.   We all need to be more child-like and just do something.

I read an article recently by Tony Dungy titled “Where Have All the Role Models Gone” in which he shares some insights into the lives of pro athletes and how our youth look up to them only to be let down quite often.  I’ve been there many times myself as a fan of sports.  I don’t usually think of myself as a role model but that day in the classroom the kids seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.  The defining moment for me was when a young girl named Shannon came to me after the presentation and asked me for my autograph. I obliged and initially laughed it off with a bit of silly humor but after leaving and replaying the day in my head my feelings towards the conversation with Shannon changed. It made me realize the influence we have as adults on our youth with the words we speak and the way we act.  It was at this moment I realized we as adults are all role models whether or not we want to. We just need to decide what kind of a role model we are going to be.

Do you know who is watching you?