We’ve recently been incredibly inspired by a handful of photographers who are giving back to their communities in ways that go far beyond the occasional volunteer day or pro bono assignment. From a celebrity photographer who started a grassroots revolution donating portraits to the needy to a fine art photographer-turned-wildlife savior, these individuals have dedicated an exceptional amount of time, talent, and passion to their cause. We’d like to share with you the stories of five photographers whose devotion and generosity is truly remarkable—artists who are compelled to make a difference.
Nick Brandt: Big Life Foundation
When an elephant he photographed was killed by poachers in 2009, English photographer Nick Brandt was moved to begin Big Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the rapidly disappearing wildlife in Africa. Unable to ignore the bloodshed of big game hunting and poaching, Brandt’s Big Life Foundation now employs over 300 people from local communities to track down and arrest the killers of elephants, lions, and other animals. The organization currently covers over two million acres across two countries and is the only cross-border anti-poaching operation in East Africa.
With the demand for ivory and other animal parts rising in recent years, as many as 35,000 elephants are being slaughtered each year and currently only 20,000 lions are left living on the plains. Other animals such as rhinos and giraffes are no longer safe from the cruel fates of traps and hunting. Thanks to Big Life Foundation, now every kill usually results in an arrest. The organization goes beyond preventing animal cruelty and seeks to change the environment where these creatures live by helping the coexisting impoverished communities. They have been key in building schools and providing locals with education about their precious natural treasures. A monumental task with profound results, Big Life Foundation is a constant effort to curb the tide of death in the last great wildlife frontier.
If you would like to contribute in helping purchase vehicles or equipment, please donate.
Jeremy Cowart: Help-Portrait
After volunteering at a local homeless shelter in 2009, celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart was inspired to give the gift of photography to those who could not afford it. He put out a call online to see if fellow photographers would join him in his endeavor, and since then he has had over 20,000 photographers donate their time and talent to take almost 300,000 portraits in 60 different countries worldwide.
Help-Portrait‘s goal is simple—helping photographers give to their community by doing what they do best. Setting up at local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and inner-city schools, each Help-Portrait photographer captures their subjects and then pays to have those photos printed, never using them for commercial gain or even in their portfolios. Make-up artists, personal stylists, and local frame shops and printers are often brought in to make each Help-Portrait event something truly special. For some it is the first family photograph they have ever taken, for others it is a moment to feel special in the spotlight.
Kevin J. Miyazaki: collect.give
With a desire to combine charity and art collecting for the greater good, photographer Kevin J. Miyazaki created the online gallery collect.give (“collect dot give”), a gathering of photographers selling affordable fine art prints for artist-selected causes. Since 2009, collect.give has sold more than 800 prints and raised over $47,000 for nonprofits around the globe. Each limited edition print is sold directly from the photographer, who then pledges to donate 100% of all proceeds to an organization they feel passionate about.
Photographers include Jane Fulton Alt, Clarissa Bonet, Caleb Cole, Amy Eckert, Geoffrey Hiller, Susan Worsham, and the site recently raffled off a Vivian Maier print. The charities are often personal to the artist and cover a range of causes including the environment, animal protection, Alzheimer’s, and AIDS awareness.
Alicia Hansen: NYC SALT
Photographer Alicia Hansen began a small after school program that has now become an established, full-fledged photography program that equips and enriches the lives of troubled youth in New York City. Serving primarily Washington Heights and the Bronx, NYC SALT‘s graduates have a 100% acceptance rate to higher education in a demographic where one in four teens drop out of high school. Most are the first in their families to attend university. NYC SALT has gone beyond teaching teenagers photography, giving dozens of students an opportunity to break out of the cycle of poverty and achieve something greater.
Offered as a free 4-year program, NYC SALT is taught by industry professionals covering both the technical and contextual aspects of contemporary photography. Students are equipped with professional grade tools to interpret their world with a strong, creative voice. Volunteer instructors include experts from Getty Images, Sports Illustrated, and The New York Times.
NYC SALT is currently trying to raise $8,000 to provide cameras and a trip for students to visit potential universities after high school. If you would like to help them reach their target, please donate. You can also contribute by purchasing a print by NYC SALT students in the print shop.
David Zimmerman: Himalayan Arts Centre
American photographer David Zimmerman has long been in love with the people and traditions of India, and with the help of his wife he recently opened the Himalayan Arts Centre, a place providing arts education and inspiration in a remote, often neglected part of the country.
Located in Dharamsala and nestled at the foothills of the Himalayas, the school is surrounded by Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples. Going beyond photography and filmmaking, the Arts Centre is currently implementing classes in painting, dance, music, and creative writing. A meeting place for artists both local and from around the globe, Zimmerman’s Arts Centre believes in education for every individual, and workshops and lectures are always free to attend.