We all like getting fabulous presents.
We all like getting fun new clients.
We all get excited when we’re getting more work and getting more money and getting more exposure.
Getting is special.
Getting is cause for celebration.
Getting is thrilling and rare.
Giving is for everyone.
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what you do. We want to know: how are YOU giving? Share your giving stories on Instagram with the hashtag #FocusOnGivingBack, and read on to learn how four inspiring image-makers have crafted a lifestyle of giving.
“We are all survivors of something.” – Carla Ten Eyck
From teaching workshops, to mentoring young creatives, to contributing to the Thirst Relief auction, Hartford, Conn. photographer Carla Ten Eyck learned at an early age the value of giving back. “I was mentored by a wonderful photographer when I was in high school,” Ten Eyck explains. “I always wanted to pay it forward, and help show kids that there are jobs out there that can help you see life differently.”
Six years of grade-school students can attest that the wedding photographer’s goals are being achieved. Ten Eyck guest lectures, pro bono, for the school’s photography classes, and offers field trips to her nearby studio. And this fall? Ten Eyck brought together her photography community to provide free school photographs in a low-income district, complete with complimentary print packages for each student.
Ten Eyck is surely influencing this next generation of givers, with both her volunteerism and her inspiring personal projects.
“I started Survivor Stories because I wanted to connect people,” says Ten Eyck. “We are ALL survivors of something, and I thought seeing that would help others not feel so alone in their plight.”
Ten Eyck’s first subject was a bold woman named Boo, who had recently beaten breast cancer for the second time. Boo wanted to be photographed strong and bare-chested, revealing her scars to the world. “Our session was full of sunshine and laughter and the biggest, warmest smiles,” Ten Eyck remembers. “Unfortunately, the cancer returned for the third time a year later, and Boo passed away. But Boo’s smile lives on forever because she took the time to stop and appreciate the life that she fought so hard for. She was a truly incredible woman.”
Ten Eyck’s story is a reminder that, while other may benefit from our gifts, the very act of giving changes us, the givers. “People say they don’t have the time to give back, but it’s because they’re not making it a priority. Donate household things to Goodwill or your local Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Write a check to your favorite charity. Even something small can help in really big ways.
“Giving has influenced me as a person because it reminds me that the world is so big, yet so small,” imparts Ten Eyck. “It reminds me of our connection to one another. It reminds me that we could all be in that space of need one day.”
“Everyone wants to be loved.” – Jeremy Cowart
Celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart’s inaugural trip to Africa was also his introduction to meaningful giving. “It was the first time I realized that a simple camera could help a non-profit by telling its story,” Jeremy explains. “That trip changed everything for me.”
Cowart’s “everything” has proven monumental to the world at large. Since that game-changing trip, his humanitarian projects have blossomed to include books, collaborative art projects, and the renowned nonprofit Help Portrait, a worldwide movement of photographers using their time, equipment, and expertise to give back to those less fortunate.
“It’s not about the gear or cameras,” he explains. “It’s about time – that’s it. People in need just want you to spend time with them. Everyone wants to be loved.”
That desire to show love spills over into every aspect of the Nashville photographer’s life, including his latest endeavor. “I’m now trying to build a hotel called The Purpose Hotel that will help various non-profits and causes all over the world,” Cowart shares. Every aspect of the hotel will have positive impact, from the thoughtfully-sourced products and amenities offered to guests, to the charitable contributions made by the business.
“Giving is far more fulfilling than photographing a celebrity,” Cowart admits. “Helping someone in need is way more valuable than making a pretty person look a little prettier.”
“Another forever home found!” – Joanne Lee
Portrait photographer Joanne Lee was raised to give back, and has carried the tradition of giving into her adult life. “There are so many homeless pets in need of loving homes. While I can’t help all of them, I can help in some small way,” Lee shares. This is why she photographs foster dogs – in hopes of finding them forever homes.
“I once photographed a hound – not a cute puppy, not a cute fluffy lap-dog; but a hound who needed a home. He had such a sense of dignity when he walked in. I photographed him on a regal looking canvas backdrop, posted his portrait on my social media, and within one hour a woman commented on his portrait, asking to adopt him. That is why I do what I do! Another forever home found!”
This Maine photographer’s love for our furry friends is an exquisite example of passion driving giving. “Find a cause you love,” Lee encourages. “Draw on your own experience. It doesn’t take a ton of time or money – especially when you can see the impact of your contribution.
“When potential adopters see a portrait I’ve created and then go on to adopt, it makes my heart full! My volunteer work has certainly shown me the power of a photograph. For that one dog, I made a difference!”
> Save lives (and supply a few cozy beds!) to Joanne Lee’s favorite non-profit, all-breed rescue shelter, Lucky Pup Rescue!
“Good deeds are inspirational!” – Huy Nguyen
Community-builder and former photographer Huy Nguyen encountered the concept of giving back as an adult. “In the last few years, I have come to realize that there will never be a perfect place or time to share with others,” Nguyen acknowledges. “The only way to give is to give – regardless of the circumstances.”
Nguyen’s first memorable giving experience was in 2010, after an earthquake devastated the people of Haiti. “I got my photographer friends together to lead a day-long online critique session to raise money,” Nguyen recounts. “We spent all day critiquing photos sent in by photographers from all over the world in a unified spirit of trying to help as much as we could.”
Rallying the troops, as it were, has proven to be Nguyen’s calling. He has successfully called to action an entire industry through Fearless Photographers, a network of wedding photographers who want not only to make incredible images, but also to make the world a better place. “I encourage photographers to tune-in to their communities and give back through either time or financial contributions,” Nguyen describes. “Recently, Fearless Photographers offered our members one free year of membership, valued at $129, if they each made a $100 donation directly to any charitable organizations in relief of Hurricane Matthew.”
Additionally, Nguyen’s annual Fearless Conferences have become fundraising events, with all profits donated to charitable organizations. “We are encouraging the photography community to make their giving-back efforts known. We don’t want them to hide their good deeds!” Nguyen exclaims. “Good deeds are inspirational to me and I want everyone to learn and be inspired by one another.”
Nguyen puts his money where his mouth is, highlighting the charitable efforts of such photographers, and financially supporting the creatives who are giving back with the Fearlessly Inspirational Photographers Awards. Three huge-hearted winners were recognized in the first year (pictured above.) “I think, as wedding photographers, we are all very fortunate to be working in a great industry with many opportunities for creativity and personal satisfaction,” says Nguyen. “Start with just 1%. That’s $1 out of $100, or $10 out of a $1,000 booking.”
“This is just the beginning of what is possible in our wedding industry. I think the spirit is catching on!”
To honor these caring creatives, we’ve made financial donations in their names to their favorite organizations.
How are YOU giving, donating, volunteering, and serving? Show us and hashtag your story:
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