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Member Spotlight - Joan Brady - PPA Today

Member Spotlight - Joan Brady

Joanbrady_headshot.jpgThe Most Rewarding Part of Photography
For Joan Brady, of Joan Brady Photography in Washington, D.C., being a professional photographer means more than just capturing and selling great images. She also views it as a great way to help give back to her community.

Photography as a Bribe
Brady's work in photography began in 2001 while taking a three-month leave of absence from her 80-hours-a-week corporate job. During the leave of absence, Joan thought she would like to become a social worker or a teacher. To further this goal, she took a volunteer position as a homework tutor at a local group home for foster children. But once she started her volunteer work, Brady faced the challenge of trying to get the children to actually do their homework.

"I knew I needed something to bribe the kids," she recalls. "I had just gotten a 1.2 megapixel digital camera and decided to try trading the kids' pictures for their homework. I printed the pictures on my home printer to fill each child's little photo album, and I quickly discovered that the kids would do any amount of work for more pictures: extra reading, extra math problems, extra anything academic."

One day when she arrived for work, a staffer at the home took her aside and explained that some of the children had gotten in trouble for taking their new photo albums to bed. (The kids were not allowed to take anything to bed with them.)

"They wanted to look at those images before they fell asleep and first thing when they woke up in the morning," Brady explains. "I began to truly see the importance of those pictures to the children. Over time, I came to understand the connection between the pictures and the children's self-esteem."

Joanbrady_1.jpgMaking It Legit
Her experience as a volunteer at the foster home inspired her to open a children's photography business. She met with the photographer who shot her wedding, PPA member Clay Blackmore, M.Photog.Cr., and began helping out in his studio. In April 2004, she opened her own studio.

Brady joined PPA on Blackmore's recommendation and immediately began to see the benefits. "Imagine how annoyed I was with myself when I was cruising the site months after joining and found the section with model releases. I had just spent $1,500 having contracts written for me--ugh! I could have saved the bulk of what I spent," she says. "Now I always check PPA first, before I purchase, before I take a class, before I do anything."

joanbrady_2.jpgPhotography for Charities
In addition to her for-profit children's photography, Brady is involved with many charitable causes, including taking photos of foster children during "Wednesday's Child," a local news feature that profiles a child up for adoption. She learned that those children consider the hour they spend with the newscaster as the best time of their lives. But before Brady volunteered, they had no photos to remember or commemorate the event.

"I already knew that children in foster care don't often have their pictures taken...if ever. So I offered to go on the TV shoots and document the experience for the child," Brady remembers. "What I discovered was that in addition to making a difference for the children, the images made a difference in 'introducing' children to prospective parents."

Along with her work with foster children, Brady recently volunteered to take photos of children in Como, Miss., at one of the lowest-performing schools in the state and country.

"It was truly an amazing experience," she says. "But the majority had never been photographed before. They didn't know how to smile on command...and they were barely able to smile spontaneously. I was freaking out. And then, out of nowhere, it came to me: 'Jump up and down three times. Spin around three times,' I ordered. The kids were so dizzy from spinning that I was more likely to get a natural expression. I have used that technique ever since, and it works just about every time."

Her favorite part of the experience was seeing how happy her photos made the kids, and what really struck her is what one of the teachers said. "She shared how children had come up to her, holding up their photo and repeating proudly whatever I had said to them," Brady explains. "It made me realize the scope of my responsibility in dealing with at-risk kids and how much they crave any positive feedback. We should always be mindful of the impact of our words."

joanbrady3.jpgBrady also works in pet photography and has several non-profit projects in this area as well. For example, she volunteers with Paws4People, an organization that trains prison inmates to train service dogs. Brady photographs the graduation of the dogs at the prison, the inmates, their families and the dogs' new families. In addition, she is currently participating in a year-long Paws4People project to document the life of one of the service dogs after being given to a family in need.

"I agree with everyone I have read on this topic--you do non-profit work because it's meaningful to you," Brady adds. "You are rarely going to make money as a direct or even indirect result. While I love the work I do that I get paid for--it's fun and it pays the bills--it's my non-profit work that I find the most rewarding."
Read more about Joan Brady here.

Joan Brady Headshot © Ellen Zangla
All Other Images © Joan Brady

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on July 30, 2010 3:05 PM.

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