The first time I watched Born Into Brothels, I had the immediate urge to pack my bags, jump on a plane, and help out in some faraway place. (I’m pretty sure many other photographers out there did too.) The reality, though, is you don’t have to fly around the world to make a difference.
There’s been a lot of buzz and recent Photo Betties posts about photography-marrying-philanthrophy, so we decided to dedicate this one to getting involved with current charity organizations. We’ll be following up with Part 2 which will cover locating existing opportunities, as well as tips on finding and creating your own projects.
Volunteer Photography Organizations
Started by Kristin Weaver, an internationally published fashion and wedding photographer, Images for a Cure is an annual event held each fall (usually October, in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month) promoting The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, their beneficiary charity. Photographer registration is from August to September – and each participating photographer is encouraged to set their own session dates, plans and pricing – and donate 100% of their session fees to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, via their FirstGiving page.
Wish Upon a Wedding, which we posted about in April, is the world’s first non-profit wish granting organization that provides weddings and vow renewals for couples facing terminal illness and serious life-altering circumstances, regardless of sexual orientation. They work with all types of wedding vendors in addition to photographers, including planners, venues, caterers, rental companies, videographers, bakers, officiants, florists, stationary designers, DJs/bands/musicians, salons, transportation companies, and more. With 18 chapters around the country (and 10 more coming soon), you can help out in many ways – volunteering your skills, financial donations, hosting a fundraiser and more!
Operation Love Reunited, or as many call them “OpLove”, is a non-profit organization that assigns photographers to families with loved ones getting ready to deploy, are currently deployed, or are coming home. The participating family chooses a photographer and up to two sessions per year. The photographer volunteers their services for the session(s), a 4×6 album for the service member, and a CD of images from the homecoming. If you’d like to volunteer check out the blog which is filled with information and inspiring photography from OpLove sessions.
Flashes of Hope is a national, nonprofit organization that “changes the way children with cancer see themselves through the gift of photography.” They transform hospital playrooms, waiting areas and even hallways into studios, and photograph children solo, then with their family and loved ones. Photos are delivered as enlargements, prints and on disc, all free of charge. “It’s an indescribable treasure that forever preserves the grace, dignity and beauty of each child.” To maintain the highest ethical and professional standards in the industry, they work primarily with published and commercial photographers, as well as members of The American Society of Media Photographers. If you fit the bill, you can apply as a photographer or, if you want to help in other ways, you can still be part of this amazing organization as a general volunteer, or with a donation.
PhotoPhilanthropy helps to connect, shed light on and reward connections between photographers and non-profit organizations around the world to tell stories that drive action for social change.” Great photography helps inform, educate and inspire volunteers to act, donors and grant-makers to give, people to push for new policies, and to give those who are not heard, or seen, a voice. In addition to helping facilitate Volunteer Connections, they also give annual Activist Awards for winning photo essays, Student Production Grants (which include financial, promotional and supportive assistance), promote Artist Residencies and Workshops, and have a great blog which they update often with inspiring imagery and stories from around the world. It’s no wonder their goal is to “Change the world, one photo at a time!”
Credit: PhotoPhilanthropy 2010 Grand Prize Winner - Josh Meltzer
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) volunteers offer “gentle and beautiful photography services in a compassionate and sensitive manner” to families who have suffered the loss of an infant. “The soft, gentle heirloom photographs of these beautiful babies are an important part of the healing process. They allow families to honor and cherish their babies, and share the spirits of their lives.” They are always looking to recruit volunteers for their database to be on call to offer Remembrance Photography Services to be on call when needed, as these sessions are sudden and require quick response. If you’re interested you can sign up to volunteer as a photographer, assistant photographer or digital retouch artist – as well as read volunteer articles for background and advice.
Founded by Celebrity Photographer, Jeremy Cowart, Help Portrait is a grassroots movement of photographers giving their time, gear and expertise to offer portraits to those in need. The idea is simple, powerful and global.
Each December, this year on 12/10/11, photographers will sign-up online, create or join teams, and offer portraits to those who wouldn’t normally have access to, or be able to afford, professional photography. People like the homeless, orphans, single-parent families, people of ill health, the elderly, veterans and more. It’s the chance to not just take a photo, but give a photo.
Tiny Sparrow is a non-profit organization who helps provide photography to families with children who are facing life threatening illnesses. Their volunteer photographers provide a session as well as a beautiful album to “carry the love, joy and everlasting memory of each individual family.” Currently located in Texas, but with a goal of expanding in 2011, Tiny Sparrow also accepts donations through PayPal.
Images of Hope is a non-profit organization that brings awareness to childhood cancers and illnesses by offering free portrait sessions to children and families dealing with cancer. Their purpose it two fold. First, to capture timeless moments that will last a lifetime for the families, and second, to spread awareness. Founder, Jessica Oatman, whose son, Montana, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age two, looks at photography as “a great outlet and a wonderful way to document his journey.” Looking back through the photographs has helped them “realize what we have really been through.”
With an artist list of that spans continents, Heart Speaks photographers worldwide are committed to stopping the unnecessary euthanization of adoptable animals. Their goal is to increase the numbers of adopted animals in shelters by just 3%, and give rescue animals safe, loving homes. The power of a image can speak volumes, so Heart Speaks connects artists with shelters and animal relief organizations to effect social change and better the lives of humans and people alike.
Pictures of Hope is a charitable organization of professional photographers who provide complimentary, documentary-style, photography sessions to babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and their families. Members are professional, established photographers (many of whom are “NICU mothers” themselves) who hail from across the United States and Canada and are dedicated to donating their time to a cause they believe in, and sharing the gift of photography with families in need.
It’s also important to note that bereavement photography is not their focus. While photographers may be asked to photograph a bereavement session, services are generally geared to babies in the NICU at any point during their stay (not just those terminally ill) which could mean a 27 week preemie or a NICU graduate about to go home. There are specific requirements for membership which are listed here.
Started in 2008 by Felicia Reinhard, Inspiration Through Art (formerly called The Littlest Heroes Project) is made up of professional photographers, artists, children and other volunteers across the world who provide a variety of programs and services to children who are fighting serious illnesses and/or life-altering disabilities. Sessions can be home-based, at benefits and fundraisers, or hospitals or clinic visits, and are specially catered to each little hero. Services include photography, but they also also offer special programs and fun art-related sessions as well. They also have a comprehensive list of partners, other organizations who need volunteers and worthwhile vendors.
The Tiny Light is a Canadian-based, female-run organization that connects member photographers with children and families that have been faced with a life altering diagnoses. Applicants must be professional photographers with a client base as well as a online portfolio, willing to donate their time and talent as well as a disk of ALL high resolution images from the session. Families who are accepted receive these portrait sessions free of charge. Their current list of photographers includes only Canadian-based photographers – but the application does not say whether or not that is a prerequisite for membership. If you’re passionate about joining the cause – get in touch!
Dog Meets World, at first mention, sounds like an animal-based charity, right? In fact, the “Dog” is a sweet stuffed puppy who helps their photographers to spread joy and smiles. Their mission is to give children and families in developing countries personal photographs, often for the first time. DMW seeks to change the way people travel by creating positive cross-cultural interactions and rather than simply taking pictures, to give them as well. Travelers bring along a digital camera, a portable printer and the stuffed Foto mascot dog to photograph children and practice Take & Give Photography! DMW believes with simply sharing a photo, photographers can practice ground-level diplomacy and voluntourism for all travelers.
Celebrating Adoption was officially started by Jenifer Samaha in 2007, and is a national organization of photographers who donate their time to document and celebrate the love and bond of adoption. Volunteers give these sessions at no cost, and families who participate must have gone through the adoption in the past twelve months. Their member list is quite extensive… although we did learn that unfortunately, due to personal issues, they are not able to accept any additional photographers at this time. We still chose to include Celebrating Adoption in our list, however, in case you may know of families who can benefit from their services, or if it inspires you to start a similar endeavor yourself!
We’d like to give a big shout out to Shutter Mission, who we found midway through our research for this post, and helped add a few additional resources to the list. Bookmark their site – it’s filled with photo-related charity organizations as well as stories and spotlights on photographers who serve them. You can also nominate a photographer who gives back that you’d like to see featured, and there’s an extensive list of complimentary resources for photographers who donate their time and services to charity. Simple, straight-forward, informative and inspiring!
If you’ve found this post useful, have something to add or want to share it with your friends, family or fellow photos – please post, tweet, comment, share – and help us motivate others to make a difference, one shutter click at a time!