Giving back

I truly consider myself fortunate to be able to use a camera every day to earn a living and I have had more help than I can count along the way from teachers, friends, clients, co-workers and everyone in between. One of the best ways I can return some good will is to give back to the community.

As a photographer, there are many ways to use your well honed skills of vision to individuals and organizations that need someone with creativity and a desire to do good.

Flashes of Hope is a nonprofit organization that seeks to change the way children with cancer and other life threatening illnesses see themselves through the gift of photography. They do this by partnering with professional photographers and connects them with the families in need.  

In Connecticut, they do this at the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital and during the Summer at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, in Ashford, CT, which was founded by the actor and  humanitarian Paul Newman in 1988. I have been part of the Flashes of Hope camp photo sessions and the experience with the families and kids was truly remarkable. The appreciation for what we were doing and the honesty in the faces of these kids reminds me of why I love meeting and photographing new people every day. 

I have for years worked with the Domus, a Stamford, CT based social service organization that helps at-risk kids with housing, guidance, charter schools and much more. They have a deep ongoing need of visuals, both photography and video, to tell their story. I work with their team to create compelling images to tell their stories to the masses and get the word out about their mission to help those that need it most. The best thing for me about Domus is the amazing appreciation they have always have for the work I do. There are always gracious thank you emails, notes and calls and quite honestly, nothing feels better than a heart-felt thank you.

Recently I was told about a relatively new nonprofit photo initiative called Help Portrait. This project, while similar to Flashes of Hope, mobilizes a community of photographers on a single day to use their photography skills to give back to those without the financial need. They need help from not just photographers, but  makeup artists, hair stylists, producers and assistants to help make the day a success.

So, if you have the desire, grab your equipment and give back a little. You may be surprised how good it feels to help those that need it most.

Garland @ Domus - September 13, 2012 - 8:45 am

Every time I show someone your pictures of our kids, they are amazed: “Wow!” is the most frequent comment.

I wish every nonprofit had a photographer like you as a partner to help them tell their stories. We cannot express enough how valuable your work is to helping others see the good, the fear, the resilience of our kids. They are arresting like no snapshot could ever be, and that’s what we need: People must be stopped in their tracks to think about the fact these kids are right here in their own backyard and need support to be the caring, productive adults our communities need.

Thanks for posting about our kids–another way you’re helping tell their stories.

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photo envy #1

When I first came to Connecticut I was working as a newspaper photographer for a daily newspaper. It’s still one of the best experiences I have had as a photographer, as you are shooting 5-6 days a week, working with other photographers on a daily basis and working on deadline in competitive situations can be really fun.

One of the photographers I shared a darkroom (yes, a darkroom) with was one of the more prolific people I have ever met in my life. His name is Patrick Whittemore and he’s been on staff at the Boston Herald for well over a decade now.

Patrick had this way of saying the smallest things, with the greatest impact. One day we were looking through the stack of daily newspapers together and as we turned the page, Patrick stopped, sighed, looked ,shook his head and looked some more.

I truly don’t remember the photo or the photographer who Patrick was admiring, but he said something I will never forget. “Rich, when I see another photographer’s work and I have photo envy, I know I’m looking at good work.

I thought about what Patrick said many times since then and have even quoted him (or paraphrased) at least once a year when I do the same thing. Looking at work by other photographers is one of the ways we grow as visual communicators.

In honor of that moment many years back, I am going to start a new blog entry called “Photo Envy” I’d like to take credit for the title, but it belongs to Patrick.

In these Photo Envy posts I will highlight masters of photography, unknowns, published pieces and anything that strikes my fancy.


There is no better way to start this segment with one of the great living portrait photographers of our time. His name is Dan Winters and his work is nothing short of amazing. Thoughtful, introspective, meticulously executed and printed. One of the most impressive consistencies about Dan’s work is his ability to photograph people, places, things, events and they all feel like Dan Winters images. Sure he photographs celebrities, but not nearly the same way one other photographer would approach or execute a celebrity portrait.

This first installment of Photo Envy celebrates Dan Winters. Check out his work and I think you’ll agree that Mr. Winters work is something special.

Josh R. - November 6, 2012 - 1:18 am

Dan’s work never ceases to amaze!

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portfolio showings

I have had a lot of calls in recent weeks from photographer friends, at all stages of their careers, who were getting their portfolios ready for meetings with art buyers, photo editors, creative directors, reps and anybody else who hires photographers.

yes, it’s Photo Plus time again and people from all segments of the photo business descend on NYC for a few days of shop talk.

Part of the reason photographers attend is the hope to steal a few minutes of some art buyer’s day to show them their work.

Having been through a portfolio showing on more than a few occasions, I thought it would be helpful to offer a few thoughts on the process.

1. Have a handful of photo/creative friends to help with the editing,flow and pairing of your images (my good friend, San Francisco-based photographer Michael Winokur, helped me with my edit, as shown at left). You are only as good as the worst picture you show. Put your killer images at the beginning and end of your portfolio.

2.. Good meetings don’t always mean an assignment and a bad meeting doesn’t always mean you won’t get an assignment. Some of this is purely timing (having the right work in front of someone at the right time) and some of it is just luck. In short, don’t get too excited when a meeting goes well and don’t get too upset if a meeting goes poorly.

3. Listen to what reviewers are saying for patterns about what is working and what is not. Don’t make any decision based on one person’s feedback. Opinions can range widely, so use your gut (and your friends guts) in the end about what to include and what to eliminate.

4. If you are really torn about what constitutes a good edit, you might consider hiring a photography consultant.


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what’s your idea?

The mind and ideas of a photographer are easily the greatest asset they possess. New cameras and lenses are fun, but your ideas will win you new work.

So you get that first assignment for client X and your subject and/or his business is about a dull as watching paint dry. What do you do next?

Use your brain! It’s why you got hired in the first place.  Think about what you will shoot if you have the most agreeable photo subject ever, no matter how unlikely that might be.

I had an assignment to photograph the CEO of a technology company for a business magazine. Their business was software and the office was nothing more than a bunch of offices with computers in them. The office space was Ok, but nothing special. What to do?

I had a couple of ideas going into the shoot, but they would require an extraordinary amount of trust and cooperation from the subject. When I got to the office with my assistant, I asked the PR person how easy going the CEO was and she said he was really cool and very friendly. I asked her if she thought he would stand on his desk for a portrait if I asked nicely. She laughed and said she thought he would, but I’d have to ask him. When we met I pitched three ideas, the most outlandish of them was a photo of  him on his desk kicking a pile of paper off the desk.


The CEO said yes to every idea I proposed and was as enthusiastic as a subject could be about an outlandish idea.

I came out of an assignment with 3 really nice images, the magazine used one of them full page in their print edition and the editor was really happy with what I came out of the assignment with.

What’s your idea for your next shoot?



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