As photographers, we tell stories, immortalize history. We make tangible the intangible. Authentic emotion is the root of all that we do within documentary photography. Thus, as I’ve found in the last four years of pursuing this craft, it seems only natural to channel this potential into not simply creative and financial provision for my family and me personally, but into good in, around, and for my community.
Here are 4 ways I’ve found to give back through photography:
1. Document celebrations
I’ve written before about the 5 reasons I shoot every day. One of those is freeing inhibitions.
Since becoming a photographer, I’ve gotten many a snide comment, a teasing jab at the camera I keep on hand at nearly every gathering, every event. Additionally, the number of times I’ve run into someone or been stumbled over as I work to get just the right angle, well, the number is embarrassing.
However, becoming my family’s historian is a gift I like to believe will be cherished for generations to come. Taking your camera to events, play dates, excursions and celebrations for the purpose of documenting rather than a single shot for the photo books changes the way you look at your time.
Suddenly, the expressions, interactions, details take on new meaning. Then, burn a CD for those involved or set up a DropBox account for simple sharing. Allow others to experience the joy without a price.
Shooting for the purpose of preserving history for future generations is humbling, noble and rewarding.
2. Embrace a passion
Spend some time reflecting on what last moved you to the core. Although it’s easy to get caught in the routine, the logistics, the details, when was the last time you paused? When was the last time you wept? When was the last time chills swept across your skin, stilled to the soul by awe?
Giving in the channel of a personal passion has the potential of being the most meaningful experience you may ever have.
Personally, I see birth as the greatest miracle there is. When a spirit joins earthside, pink lungs filled with life for the first time, skin against skin, love created new; it is everything. Nervous, excited, agony, nakedly vulnerable, the myriad of emotions through the arrival is unparalleled. Photography has given me an avenue of honoring mothers through photographing their births.
While most of the time this is a paid endeavor, I’m sensitive to every story and listening to the heart behind why some may not be able to afford my services gives me the chance to share my passion even in situations where I may not be getting paid and thus bless others in an incredibly sensitive time. Some of the most powerful experiences of my life have been when I have had the chance to gift my time and talents to families who do not have had the resources to pay me.
In these situations, the reward of documenting entering life was far more lasting than any paycheck.
3. Support locals
As an entrepreneur, I’m acutely aware of the essential nature of networking. Seeking out fellow creatives and small business owners to not only support their endeavors, but learn from their expertise has been an avenue of giving back I’ve just recently discovered.
I keep a careful ear out for individuals whose work ethics humble me and whose drive inspires me. Kansas City local, Sam Unruh of Unruh Furniture, went from tinkering in his garage to employing and mentoring young men, to developing a reputable, outstanding brand, to now seeking out single mothers to provide charity through free family tables for in his own giving back.
Partnering with him to feature his work has not only developed meaningful, strategic relationships but allowed us the opportunity to reach wider out to the community with our missions. See Unruh Furniture’s session here.
Another Kansas City local, Brooke Salvaggio, left everything of comfort and mainstream to follow her passion of real food. Living on the land, working daily towards self-sustaining systems and provisions, everything about her life about dedication. See more about Urbavore’s farming movement here. In both cases, photographing these courageous individuals – free of charge – in order to recognize their work and success was an honor.
4. Respond to need
In a world flooded with information, we don’t have to seek out those who are hurting; they are ever present.
However, photography is an avenue of not simply feeling, but responding.
Look for ways to utilize photography to bless these individuals, these communities, whether by raising moral, awareness or funds.
Being such a visual and viral industry, photography has a unique capability to reach an extremely broad audience. When a friend’s daughter was diagnosed unexpectedly with leukemia, my husband and I both were deeply moved, and our hearts were stirred to use our passions for documentary photography for more than simply a profession.
From this, a movement has been born.
This week, we launched the Freely Given Movement.
Freely Given is a social enterprise created to rally the community behind families in crisis through the power of social media and the sale of uniquely designed apparel.
Unavoidable landslides are constant in our journey. We find ourselves caught up in hardships – stretched in every sense of the word. The valleys close in, the bottom of our financial capabilities reached, drained by medical expenses, a job suddenly gone, transportation finally on it’s last mile, a loved one lost, or perhaps it is everything that has come at us at once, and fast.
This is when unity must prevail.
This is the time to come alongside, to build community, to hand-in-hand give freely to those traveling through a valley of their story. Freely Given is my chance now to put my passion for and gifting in the craft of photography, filming, blogging to tell stories of hope, faith and inspiration.
Along the way, profits from the purchase of uniquely designed apparel will go to meet the identified needs within the stories. The first featured story is three year-old Kit and her shocking diagnosis with cancer. See her story here.
Our hope is that someday this movement would catch fire nationwide, enabling photographers to give back to their communities regularly while inspiring even greater networks with their stories.
In conclusion, photography in and of itself is a gift, therefore giving back is not just a privilege, but a responsibility.
Allow yourself to listen to the stories that are already happening. Let your heart settle on the magnitude of what those around you are facing. Then, allow your soul to sift through the information and dream for how you can come alongside your neighbors. Your unique involvement will, undoubtedly, be the catalyst for more than you can imagine.
Writing and photography contributed by Allison Corrin French.
Follow Allison at the following links:
Ok, this is Marie writing now.
Awhile ago, Allison wrote to me with sincere compliments on the philosophy of Fearless and Framed®. We’re kindred hearts, she once said.
Sharing some of the stories she’s photographed has been an honor, because she’s an exceptionally talented photographer and why I’m excited to support her and her husband in this journey.
I challenge you there, reading, to find a way to give back in the upcoming season. Visit Freely Given. Be inspired. Give back.