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A Fundraiser Turned Doc Project

July 7, 2008





So a friend emailed and asked if my wife and I would photograph an event she was putting together to benefit an organization offering to support to a village in Zimbabwe. So, being she is a good friend, I said fantastic. And, I wanted to see their organization first hand. One of my current goals is to find work with NGO’s. You might think this would be easy, but it really isn’t.

On a sidenote:
Several months ago I was in LA at a gathering of NGO’s based in Latin America. There was someone there who is a coordinator for NGO operations in the region, and someone made an introduction for me. “You are a photographer?” she asked. “Yes, I am,” I said.
“I take advantage of photographers all week long,” she said laughing. Now this was a slight surprise to me, and when I inquired she said, “Well, photographers think that NGO, or nonprofit, means we don’t make money, so they always donate their services for free.” I’m a believer in sustainable relationships, so for me, I want to work with NGO’s but I can’t do it for free. It doesn’t make that much sense. If you go out of business, how can you help support anyone?

Back to our movie, already in progress…

Okay, what do you do? Let me guess…shoot digital, burn a disc? Sound about right? I just couldn’t get myself to do it. For me, when I work this way, it is extremely difficult to get excited about what I’m photographing. The mystery is gone, as are the highlights, and I cant’ bring myself to just “burn a disc,” a method of work that is destroying our industry, at least in part, in my opinion. Clients can see and feel this detachment with your work, and consequently, they know you if you are willing to turn and burn something you will, chances are, also “cut them a break” on the price.

So, I shot a rangefinder with black and white film, and treated this event like I was working on a documentary. This is really fun because nobody pays any attention to you, and you can drift in and out of the crowd without people saying to themselves, “Here is the photographer.”

There were other photographers there so I was not worried about “covering the bases” a painful way of working when you are trying to make something different because while you are “covering the bases” you are missing other images that might be better.

Now, the other photographers were using digital bodies, zooms and flash. I was using a rangefinder, one lens and no flash. The odds are that the other photographers images would be viewed as being “more useful” because they are straightforward. But, I try to always stress that I’m not the guy you want if you are looking for straightforward or “basic” stuff. This is not to say the other photographers are not making good pictures, quite the contrary, they probably are, but I’m looking to make something that is mine and in the tradition of what I have done in the past, or perhaps to describe it in another way, my style of image.

I try to rationalize it this way. Am I a content provider or a photographer? Why would someone ask me to shoot something? Because I happen to own cameras or because I can provide them with something that can’t get elsewhere?

Why would Vanity Fair hire Larry Fink to shoot a party? Does he shoot traditional party pictures? Not by a long shot, but he will make pictures that will appeal to an entirely different demographic of people, and will be able to make pictures that will introduce that event to people who would have otherwise not been interested.

Also, this event is about an African NGO. How many projects like this are running right now, asking for donations, showing imagery, etc? The last thing in the world I would want to do is provide something expected, something that doesn’t make someone stop, look and listen.

We all suffer from image fatigue, and when it comes to this subject matter we REALLY suffer from image fatigue, so you have to try and make something will transcend what people associate with this type of event, project, etc.

Luckily, for me, my friend is really into photography and lets me do what I think I should do. And, perhaps most importantly, for me, this way of working is FUN! REALLY FUN!

So, here is just a small sampling of the images. If you don’t like them you can’t post! You must agree to like them and sign a contract stating so. And, pay a fee. A small fee. And, I own the copyright to your signature, forever, in any way I deem fit. In the entire universe. And yes, I have a personal vendetta against shadow detail.

PS: I’m still sick which is why I’m taking the time to write any of this. I have loads more on the way. I’m miserable.

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