Intro by Skip Cohen
When Phoenix wedding photographer, Corey Schwartz, wrote to me, I know he didn't anticipate my request to be allowed to publish his email as a blog post. What Corey wrote made so much sense from so many different directions. Here's what I love about this approach to giving back...
" Morning Skip-
I've been following you for quite a while and thought I'd tell you about a personal project I've just completed.
I deplore working for free. Unfortunately that's what most aspiring wedding photographers do. They need to practice, portfolio build and gain experience so they price their services so low that an unsuspecting bride actually hires them. Unknowingly, the photographer hurts the market, the bride and themselves.
The market is damaged because the rates undercut legitimate photographers and change the expectations of the marketplace. It hurts the bride because she will likely get substandard photos, while someone "practices" at her wedding. It hurts the photographer because they sell their services so low. They're working for minimum wage or losing money when their rate should be fully loaded with unrecognized things like taxes, insurance and wear & tear on their equipment.
I recognize these photographers need to practice. I need practice: I need to shoot more. I need to shoot stuff that matters. Stuff that might have an impact, that could not be reshot. I need to shoot under pressure; shoot in difficult lighting and shoot more creatively. I want to be influential through my photos. I need practice accomplishing all of those things.
The way I chose to get that practice, without selling my services short, was to select a worthy charity and donate my services to them. I chose the Phoenix Children’s Hospital to be the beneficiary of my work.
My concept was to tell multiple A Day In The Life stories at the hospital and compile the best images into a coffee table book to be given to donors. I approached the hospital's marketing and communications department with the idea.
I called every month for a year and a half. I persisted. I met with them, again and again. Eventually, they said “Let’s do it”. That began 9 months of negotiating with lawyers over copyrights and contracts.
As my photographer friends found out what I was doing they asked to shoot parts of the project. My little personal project grew to a cadre of 40 photographers, photo editors and retouchers all volunteering their time and skill to celebrate in photos the miracles that happen at the hospital every day. They were "practicing" too.
We followed stories of infants having open heart surgery, of toddlers with cancer and kids that have inexplicably become paralyzed. We were exposed to fear and triumphs, to medical failures and victories. It was real life and reminds me on a daily basis how precious and fragile life is.
We began shooting last October and continued through mid January. At the completion of the project we had taken 10,000 images. From that archive, the photo editors picked 200 images to be published in a coffee table book given to each of the hospital's donors. It show the donors how their donations affect the lives of children too small to say thank you.
If we failed, no one got hurt: no bride missed a key moment because of an inexperienced photographer. We all got to practice in a very live, dynamic situation and a worthy charity received something they couldn't afford to purchase.
My advice to aspiring photographers is to get out and shoot more. Don't give your valuable services away. If you need practice, create a situation that gets you the practice you need without devaluing your service.
All the best,
The success of projects like this goes so much deeper than just the skill sets of the artists involved. This is about passion for humanity. It's about identifying a cause and a need within the community to tell a story, but not just about kids. It's about the dedication of each person in the process.
Visit the website and read the stories about each player in the game. From surgeons and nurses to hospital staff to helicopter pilots and therapy dogs - everybody played a role. Capturing the passion and dedication of everyone involved is a remarkable endeavor. The icing on the cake is the recognition from the community, in part, captured in the video below from the local news station.
A big congratulations to Corey and everyone involved. You sure make me proud to be a part of the photographic industry. Skip Cohen