Magazine Article


Charitable Captures
Photographers team up with charities and other nonprofits for good causes

Running a business involves using your brains (to make smart business decisions) and your gut (instincts can go a long way when dealing with a challenging client). But letting your heart occasionally rule the roost can be the impetus behind your most inspiring projects, as the photographers in the stories that follow can testify. In celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in honor of all the good causes that exist out there, we're bringing you these compelling stories of how some of your fellow photographers chose to donate their time, efforts, and funds to help people in need in a variety of situations.

Diamond Girls: An Empowering Experience

Over the course of five months, I photographed several breast cancer survivors for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, a breast cancer research and support facility. The women exposed their scars, reconstruction (or lack of), bald heads, battle wounds, and their hearts as they allowed me to capture this challenging time in their lives. I photographed them alone, with their husbands, their girlfriends, with and without clothing. It was an empowering experience for my "Diamond Girls."

In February 2008, I hosted the Diamond Girls Gala, a gallery showing of images of each woman. Every image was accompanied by that woman's story of triumph--[stories that were] sad, happy, emotional, angry, spiritual, and raw. Several restaurants and local businesses donated food and silent auction items. In just over two hours, my little company (plus several wonderful volunteers) raised more than $2,000 in the fight against breast cancer. It was an incredible experience for both me and the women who participated.

Shown here [at right] is an image of Joy, one of my Diamond Girls, and her partner. Joy chose not to do reconstruction and instead got 12 butterflies tattooed all over her chest in place of her breasts to symbolize her strength, beauty, and triumph.
-Andi Diamond ,

Laughter: The Best Medicine

My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006; my friend and client was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005; my son's girlfriend was diagnosed with melanoma in 2006 at the age of 17; and another friend was just diagnosed this year with colon cancer. The cancer in our area is extremely high, and I wanted to do something for the community--to share my photography and show that laughter is the best medicine. 

With the help of Jodi Waymoth, my friend and client, we decided to create "The Spirit of Survival" portraits [shown above left], which show cancer survivors laughing and having fun with their family members in my studio. Every cancer has a color--we chose different types of cancer, placed a scarf around the cancer survivor, and [created] black-and-white prints with the scarf representing the cancer. Each print is 16x24, framed and matted. The American Cancer Society (ACS) in our area is displaying all the portraits and asking for donations to go directly to ACS.
-Jayne Schumacher,

Revved Up for UCP

In June I was hired to photograph a classic car show in Houston called "Classy Chassis," held at Reliant Stadium. I specialize in writing and photographing vintage and classic cars for car magazines around the world. The event benefited United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Houston. Among the beautiful cars on display were superbly restored Bugattis, Duesenbergs, Jaguars, Ferraris, Porsches, and Corvettes. The cars brought automotive history to life, but more important, they benefited children with disabilities and their families.

At the end of the day, a spectacular 1939 Bugatti Type 57C Van Vooren Cabriolet once owned by the Shah of Iran and entered by the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles won Best of Show. I was moved by the compassion and devotion displayed by the volunteers. I donated my entire fee to the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation during the awards ceremony. I told committee member David Dutch. His hug was from the bottom of his heart, and I felt it!
--Howard Koby,

"Mr. Picture Man" Helps At-Risk Kids

My sister is the co-founder of Gordon Parks Elementary School in Kansas City, MO, a charter school that caters to at-risk children. It has been in existence for 10 years. More than 90 percent of the children come from Operation Breakthrough, which is run by St. Vincent's Day Care. For 10 years, I've done individual, class, and special-event photography as my contribution to the community. 

When I roam the school, children invariably call out to me, "Hey, Mr. Picture Man!" It's a label I enjoy immensely. The photo shown [at bottom left] is from Back to School Night, held in July 2008.
--Jim Jarvis,

Walls of Hope

I donated fine-art portrait work to line the walls of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), as well as the halls between the north and south lobbies, in the Margot Perot Center for Women and Infants at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. The work, entitled "The Walls and Halls of Hope," is valued at $75,000 and features a series of 54 images of Presbyterian-born children, many of whom are premature birth survivors, and their families. Over the next few years, I'll continue to add other installments of photos to the displays.

Touched by my own experience, as well as those shared by my clients, I wanted to give back to the Presbyterian community in a personal and inspirational way. I reached out to my client base and asked for volunteers who had children born at the hospital. More than 200 families volunteered, and I chose 45 families to feature in the permanent display. I hope to share their stories of survival, joy, and hope with other families, especially those of newborns admitted to the NICU or needing special medical attention.

Each one of these families has an incredible story, and I wanted to capture that in the photos. My work brings me great joy every day, and I'm happy to be able to share that with others in the community. Our main goal in carrying out this project is for a parent of a baby born prematurely to see the images of these survivors along the walls of the NICU and think "Miracles do happen--if this baby made it, so can mine."
--Kimberly Wylie,

It's a Beautiful Life

Last year I followed my heart and produced a calendar to raise funds for pro-life education. The result was a lush calendar called "Life Is Beautiful." It featured beautiful, noncontroversial quotes about life that go beautifully with each photograph. The expenses were underwritten by various corporations in the area. The local daily in Philadelphia, The Bulletin, picked up the story and ran free ads for us. It was printed magnificently by Marathon Press, who gave us a nice quantity discount. We raised $7,000.

We're at it again this year, with 10,000 copies to be printed. Our story this time is fatherhood. It includes many photos of fathers and their children, and will be equally lush.
 --Maria Kurmlavage,

Daniel's Care

We were drawn to Hospice's Daniel's Care program; the main mission of Daniel's Care is to assist children with life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses by providing them with the highest-quality care. Daniel's Care services enable children to be at home as much as possible, allowing the families to lead a more normal life.

This inspired us to start the "Images That Speak" program. We not only wanted to give back to our community--we also wanted to give families in need a memorable gift. The program was created to provide one Daniel's Care family per month the chance to visit our studio and to receive a free wall-size, matted, framed Relationship black-and-white portrait with their child. We feel blessed to be involved in this program--these brave families allow us to put a "face" on the Daniel's Care mission.
--Tim and Bev Walden,

Calendar Girls Redux

I produced a calendar, called "Bares It ALL," similar to the one in the movie Calendar Girls. I decided I'd photograph women, mostly survivors, and have them topless but covered with creative props or creativelighting. 

I'm currently working on the fifth calendar! To date, we've made more than $150,000 and have helped women all over western North Carolina. As I like to tell people: Don't ask what the world needs; ask what makes you come alive, and go do that.
--Robin K. Reed,

Say Cheese! Kids Fighting Cancer

"The Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF) has presented a photography exhibit titled 'Things That Make My Face Say Cheese,' featuring the photography of six children who are fighting cancer. I created and directed the project, designed to raise awareness of pediatric cancer by gifting young oncology children with a digital camera, pairing the child with his or her own personal professional-photographer mentor, and sending them off to photograph whatever or whomever makes them smile-ultimately creating a photographic exhibit to move, touch, and inspire.

"In May 2008, the exhibit had its premiere at a photography gallery in Santa Ana, CA. In June, the show was on display at CHOC (Children's Hospital of Orange County). It was also on display at the Orange County Fair, which, coincidentally, had "Say Cheese" as its theme this year. South Coast Plaza, the premiere mall of Southern California, displayed the exhibit during its Festival of Children in September. In October, the exhibit will travel to Loma Linda University Hospital for its final show of the year. After the exhibit tour, plans are to auction the photos at the foundation's year-end dinner and fundraiser. Plans are also underway to continue the project next year.

"We wanted to have professionals work with the kids to help them in identifying and capturing the things in their life that gave them joy and made them smile. We were delighted by what they delivered."
-Al Nomura,

Focused on a Cure

"What started out as a fundraiser for my sister last year, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, has become our 'Focused on a Cure' campaign here at Irresistible Portraits. We have always tried to help out our community by raising awareness through photography. What better way to help a great cause than to get your family together and finally have the family portrait that you can never seem to fit in everyone's busy lives.

"Last fall, we photographed handicap children at Wings of Eagles, a therapeutic horse ranch, to raise money for the ranch. This summer, we formed our own team, Digital Divas, to walk in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer being held in October. We're raising awareness for breast cancer and fighting to find a cure. We recently sent an email to our clients and friends to see if they would be interested in sharing their stories of how this disease has changed their lives, to help them or others that are going through this. We photographed these awesome women and used ideas from their stories in a collection that was displayed at our studio in August and September. We hope to be able to display this campaign as a traveling exhibit throughout our community."
-Renda Ayscue,

Strength Through Survival

"Dreams can come true, and I'm living proof, as it happened to me this year. I had a vision five months ago of doing a black-and-white study  to honor local women and give something of myself back to the community. Through networking and a chain of events, I created 'Strength Through Survival,' a pictorial celebration of the triumphs over breast cancer.

"I had some goals that I wanted to meet along this journey. One was to meet these women I was about to photograph; learn from their stories, and portray them as they wished to tell their stories to the world. I chose the Mercy Pink Ribbon Fund to give back to the community-it's a local organization that enables people with little or no insurance to receive advanced breast cancer screening.

"I wanted to have a grand opening for the event to raise awareness and funds for this organization, which we did last October. We raised more than $1,400 in three hours. I also wanted a big party to celebrate all of them at the end. The party was a high-tea and fashion show. We had raffles and door prizes, and vendors participated in the event. We raised more than $7,500 for the fund. The show is on the Mercy Hospital website (

"Along the way, I met some incredibly strong women. These women are survivors, they are your family our  co-workers , your friends, your neighbors-and without your help and support, they would never have made it through their darkest days. This exhibit is not just about me as an artist -it's about all of the survivors. I'm just the vehicle that has given them a voice."
-Rose Norton

Making a Difference in Kids' Lives

"I feel I've made a difference in the lives of many young children with pulmonary disorders. I became involved in a camp for these kids in 1986 (I had two stepkids who attended this camp). My wife and I went to the talent show that year, and we both said we would like to be involved in the camp. I started taking photos and slides for the camp to show parents and potential donators what went on there.

"For the last 10 years, I've been doing a video that shows better what the camp does for these special kids while also taking photos. After camp is over, I make DVDs, and we provide them for all the campers and staff to remember their year there. When I see one of the children during the year, I can see how much camp and the video means to them. This experience has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. We just completed our 23rd year."
-Scott Riecke,

Local Assistance

"We've always dreamed of what we would do if we won the lottery. We'd love to start a foundation. Along with funding several favorite organizations and answering needs of the community, Michael would do photography for nonprofits in need, and Jennifer would handle public relations to spread the word about our efforts and services.

"Throughout 2007, we, through studio m, have been able to donate more than $80,000 in studio services and products to local schools and nonprofit organizations. Beneficiaries include La Jolla Elementary School, The Bishop's School, Old Globe Theatre, Museum of Contemporary Art, Las Patonas, Tony Hawk Foundation, Sundt Memorial Foundation, San Diego Repertory Theatre, and more than 50 others.

"Through a program Jennifer launched a few years ago, the studio reaches out to schools and organizations prior to their respective fundraising events, offering donations of gift certificates for professional portrait sessions and fine-art photography prints and gifts, including albums, handbags, and jewelry. Each year, the offers are greatly appreciated, but 2007 was a watershed year for our giving. We have really streamlined our process of donating so that we can reach several more organizations and tailor each donation to a specific event. Whether it's the Jewel Ball or a potluck dinner for a high-school sports team, we're thrilled to be able to participate.

"Along with the donations of gift certificates, Michael continuously offers in-kind photography services to a few special groups, working throughout the year with the ladies of Las Patronas on their photography needs, and photographing the students at his daughters' school for a spectacular slideshow shown at the annual gala. He has also provided event photography for groups such as the Boy Scouts of America and the La Jolla Recreation Center.
-Jennifer and Michael Spengler,

Helping NJ Families

"I am one of the board members of the 503c corporation Arms Around Morristown. What we do each year is find the 20 poorest families in Morristown, NJ, no matter how many kids they have (one family has 9), and we treat them to school bags and supplies, holiday meals, and home repair; we're working on adding auto repair and doctor care in the near future.

"The families (we hope) will keep changing as some of the families move up from being the 20 poorest. What we offer is free to our clients/friends, so we constantly look for gifts from small companies, large corporations, and individuals. Our goal is to bless and improve the lives of the families we serve. We miss the ones who leave, but we are glad that they are moving up and onward.

"Right now we help people who are known by Morristown's Office of Temporary Assistance. Therefore, they're all legal citizens living in Morristown but have great needs, which we try to meet."
-Bill Truran,

Keeping Seniors Company

"For the past 15 years, I've worked the Wilmette Rotary Club Golf outing and provided complimentary images to the club. Wilmette Rotary use the images to attract golfers to the annual event, which raises several thousand dollars every year to fund their charitable projects.

"In addition, my family spends its Thanksgiving at the Wilmette Seniors Club, serving Thanksgiving dinner to the elderly. This tradition began when the Simm clan, first-generation immigrants, didn't know what to do with themselves on a holiday they weren't quite used to. So I, and the children, all set off to work as servers and helpers at the Rotary-sponsored event for lonely seniors.

"The children all started at around seven years and kept it up until adulthood; Ahmed, my eldest boy, missed just one year while on active duty in Iraq with the U.S. military. Other than that, the tradition continues."
-David Simm,

Project Cuddle

"For the last several years, we've been privileged to work with Project Cuddle, an amazing organization dedicated to preventing infants from being abandoned. Our dear friend Debbe Magnusen started this project in the small garage of her home, and it has now grown into a nationwide program that finds homes for unwanted babies. In addition, Project Cuddle helps pregnant women who might otherwise abandon babies to safely deliver the babies, and then finds loving homes for them.

"Over the last year, we worked with Project Cuddle to create a calendar to help generate funds for the organization. We photographed some of the beautiful babies and children who have been adopted through Project Cuddle. It was amazing to work with these families. We asked each mother what she felt the first time she looked into her new baby's eyes, and with tears in their eyes, they said things such as: 'It's amazing how much love you can have for a child, knowing you would do anything for her'; 'I couldn't wait to get her home and spend the rest of my life loving her'; 'All of our dreams came true when we first held our child in our arms.'

"You wouldn't believe the joy and gratitude that emanated from these proud and loving parents. We really enjoyed working with them and their beautiful children, photographing them in our studio for the 2008 calendar that Project Cuddle sells to raise funds for their organization. And it felt good to us, too: We were honored to be a part of such a worthy cause. Graphic designer Anjani Gupta also contributed by donating her time to help design the calendar pages.

"We were very surprised and deeply touched when Project Cuddle presented us with the President's Choice Volunteer of the Year Award. What a remarkable and unexpected recognition to receive! Spending time with these remarkable parents and their adorable children was enough of a reward for us.
-Maria and Prasad,

Caregivers United

"For the past year, I have worked on a photography project, the Raymond W. Holman Jr. Caregivers Portrait Project, which is presently on exhibit at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. The project is the result of my father, Raymond W. Holman Sr., dying from complications of dementia in 2001.

 "The exhibit focuses on 57 family caregivers who have or still are taking care of family members with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. My father developed dementia in 1997, and shortly thereafter I hired two caregivers to stay with him eight hours a day at his house, since he could no longer be there alone. On August 16, 2001, my father passed away in his house (as he wished), and not in a nursing home. I believe the two caregivers who took care of my father extended and improved the quality of his life.

 "In 2004 I was shooting an assignment for WHYY TV/12 Public Broadcasting Station in Wilmington, DE. The assignment was about a husband and wife, Florence and Russell Collins. Russell developed frontal temporal dementia when he was 50 years old. Florence became his primary caregiver. I decided at the completion of that one-day assignment to approach Florence about doing a long-term project on them, which lasted for eight months. I went to their house on average once a week. It soon became clear I was witnessing the same love and care that I saw when I watched the two women take care of my father.

 "At the completion of my eight months with Florence and Russell, I attempted to get a photo story published in local newspapers both in Philadelphia, PA, and Wilmington, DE, but had no success. In the spring of 2007, I decided to do a portrait project concentrating on caregivers. Richard Watson, the curator for the African American Museum in Philadelphia, approached me about having the exhibit at his museum. I approached the Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter, and they agreed to partner with me. Shortly thereafter, I approached WHYY TV/12, which also agreed to help get the word out that. I was seeking caregivers who would be willing to come to my studio to do a portrait session. A very well-known councilperson, Philadelphia councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, came onboard and provided great support.

 "On May 8, 2008, the African American Museum in Philadelphia had the opening reception for the Raymond W. Holman Jr. Caregivers Portrait Project. It was a huge success. People have come from as far away as Los Angeles, West Palm Beach, and Detroit to see the exhibit."
-Raymond Holman,

Helping NJ Families

"I am one of the board members of the 503c corporation Arms Around Morristown. What we do each year is find the 20 poorest families in Morristown, NJ, no matter how many kids they have (one family has 9), and we treat them to school bags and supplies, holiday meals, and home repair; we're working on adding auto repair and doctor care in the near future.

"The families (we hope) will keep changing as some of the families move up from being the 20 poorest. What we offer is free to our clients/friends, so we constantly look for gifts from small companies, large corporations, and individuals. Our goal is to bless and improve the lives of the families we serve. We miss the ones who leave, but we are glad that they are moving up and onward.

"Right now we help people who are known by Morristown's Office of Temporary Assistance. Therefore, they're all legal citizens living in Morristown but have great needs, which we try to meet."
-Bill Truran,