Doing the Right Thing
Photographers, regardless of professional or non-professional standing, are always on the prowl for the next great shot, the next visual equivalent of “the shiny new toy”. For those of us able to make a dollar or two in the business there are other driving forces which spur us on, and for the full time commercial guys it’s a swinging door between the push for the almighty dollar and the means by which to express their art: without the one you can’t afford the luxury of the other.
Some years ago, in 2004, I noticed a lady at a kids soccer match. It was a cold Western Sydney Saturday morning, but she was rugged up in resplendent matching pinks from beanie to footwear and the rug around her, the only colour relief being a pair of dark sunglasses. Obviously the mother of one of the players on the team I was supporting, I pointed her out to my wife, with a comment about how dedicated some parents were to watch their kids when they were obviously freezing.
Later Belle told me about Kerrie-Anne, that she had Cancer, and that the prognosis wasn’t particularly good. A young family including a developmentally challenged young boy who (at the time) really wasn’t connecting with the world. And I decided I should do something to help. But what?
At the time I was doing the occasional wedding, basically just starting the business side of my photography, and by my standards today I was a reasonably good photographer (I like to think I am much better today). Via a mutual friend we got some contact happening, and after I convinced her husband that I wasn’t some ghoul after photos of the (possibly) dying lady, and that this was a genuine offer without any catch or hidden agenda, we were on. (The biggest stumbling block for him seemed to be that I would not charge anything for the session, the post production, or the provision of a set of digital “negatives”).
I picked a park relatively local to us, we set some basic “rules” (dress styles etc), and basically went and had a ball for a couple of hours. Poses, swings, more poses, a bit of climbing & sliding, some bubbles, and the day was done, and I had hundreds of photos. It was definitely the hardest shoot I had done to date, purely because the intent of the day was hanging over us. Kerrie-Anne kept up a wonderfully brave face throughout, though there are a few shots where you could see that the strain of life in general, and remaining happy for her kids was taking it’s toll, along with the spread of the disease.
There were many great outcomes from that day, but for me there is one that stands out. According to Kerrie-Anne and her husband, Liam had never really connected with “strangers” before, and I certainly would have fallen into that category. However with just a little bit of extra attention I had Liam being very chatty and smiling at the camera, and giving me enough attention that I could get some great shots. They both later told me that they had never seen him come out of his shell so quickly or happily before – yet another smile was created !!
When she saw the results Kerrie-Anne and her family were certainly happy, and extremely grateful. The intention to create a set of memories for Kerrie-Annes children against a day when she could not be there anymore was clearly understood, if never explicitly stated. She found some lovely frames, we printed to suit, and I later saw that they were proudly and prominently hung around her home.
The issue is that we all have the ability to make a change for the better, without the requirement to make a dollar. This is the first time I’ve published anything about this session, I’m doing it with Kerrie-Annes complete permission, and I’m not using it to promote the business – hell I do work like this for free !
At the moment, with the Global Financial Crisis that everyone keeps bleating about, I feel we’re losing sight of what’s necessary, while at the same time we’re trying to carve out a larger portion of the meagre dollars available for luxury items such as family photographs (gee they look good, but will they feed the family during a recession ?). Sometimes we should put aside the dollar drive and get some food for the soul instead.
Those of us who wish to have the description “pro” anywhere in our photographic title should be prepared to step forward and locate people within our community who are genuinely needful of our assistance, who would otherwise not be able to avail themselves of the services we offer, or who might not consider the creation of such precious memories to be as important as they potentially are.
Are you a photographer, reading this ?
Have you made a difference to a clients life,
or the life of those around them,
without charging a single cent ?
Can you be doing more ?
and if you can do more
why aren’t you already ?
In these days of financial doom & gloom, buck the trend and do something for free. If you’re struggling you can bet your life others are too, and a little bit of your time is just that – some time. If it brings smiles, warmth, or joy to others you can consider yourself paid in full.
And what about Kerrie-Anne ? Well,within days of the shoot she went back into hospital for more aggressive treatment, with a very doubtful future. The recovery was fairly long and difficult, but Kerrie-Anne has one of those spirits that just doesn’t quit. Just a few months after her treatment she was back at the soccer for the Grand Final, cheering on her daughters team.
I am so very glad to say that she is still around right now, living with her kids not far from me, and we all still keep in contact. Last year she celebrated a “signature” birthday, with a big party of all her family and friends
(and I learned that a larger man shouldn’t ever wear a larger white shirt !)
Today is the day. Look at those around you. Find someone who you can help, someone who can benefit from your unique abilities.
And feel good about it.