Someone on Facebook recently asked that ‘if given several thousand dollars to make the world a better place, what would you use it for’? I thought about it and decided if that were the case, I would have a photography program for children abroad in an area where they would otherwise not have that opportunity. Given that photography is an expensive hobby and unfortunately an even more expensive career, some might scoff at the idea. First off, it’s been done before. Second – hear me out.
Some time ago, I spent a summer capturing memories for children who were on vacation in the mountains. Please note that for privacy reasons, I can’t give out too much detail and some of my wording may come off as strange.
Anyways, during a group photo, one child- 6 years old, stood out. They were clearly uncomfortable but not in the usual shy way. Instead, the picture taking process made them violently angry and disturbed. While instinct was hinting otherwise, I called out for them to help me. The child cautiously walked out towards me but eagerly watched as I showed them how to grab focus. By the time my camera was in their hands and the strap draped around their neck for protection, the child was significantly calmer.
The next afternoon, I noticed them sitting by themselves while the other children ran and played in the distance. A counsellor came up and sat next to them, but the child turned away seemingly trying to make themselves disappear. Some time of this going on and I was done. Again, I asked the child to come help me. Immediately, their posture brightened and although a smile didn’t develop on their face, one could clearly tell that they were excited. This time, I helped them with the strap and gave them free range of taking whatever photographs they wanted. This was one of them:
They also took pictures of the other children playing, even directing them as to how to pose. I followed nearby just in case something came up. As the shadows grew longer, child hurried towards me to show the pictures they’d taken. One of them was of another staff member.
“Please keep this one in a safe place” the child begged me.
A couple days later I sought out the other staff member after the child was sent away due to an unfortunate series of events. Apparently, the child had confided in them, sharing details of their home life. Abusive family members, bullying, ect. It was truly heartbreaking and for the first time, I understood why photography was therapeutic for them.
After that, ( and a trip to a foreign country in which I let kids take pictures with my camera) I’ve decided that photography can be a wonderful way for children to explore their surroundings, tell their stories and even seek refuge from unfortunate situations.
Click on the link for a list of organizations that give back through photography.
So, now it’s your turn! If money wasn’t a factor, how would you make the world a better place?