President’s message: Photographers can change lives

© Gregory Daniel

Like many photographers, I donate sessions and portraits to various fundraising auctions. These charitable donations can not only help my favorite organizations, they can also reap marketing benefits such as building goodwill and name recognition in the community.

These charitable marketing opportunities are great, and there’s even more you can do with your talents to make a difference in the world. A doctor giving time and expertise to treat those who can’t afford health care, a hairstylist who cuts hair for the homeless: Acts of kindness can change someone’s life. People offer of themselves in this way because they can. It feels good to give of ourselves unselfishly.

Photographers, too, can use our talents to give without any compensation and make a difference. I have seen colleagues photograph shelter animals to help them get adopted. Industry vendors donate cameras to underprivileged schools for the purpose of creating yearbook photos. This list could go on and on. Our profession and our industry deal with emotion and memories, and we believe in the power of photography.                        

This portrait of 3-year-old Cade is my favorite because
it includes all his favorites: superhero cape, blanket,
and Mom. He is a superhero!
© Audrey Wanckett

I have seen firsthand the power of creating portraits for people who might have never thought to have one made at a particular time in their life. I worry when I hear that a child is battling cancer or any life-threatening disease. Or when someone is dealing with cancer or ALS. The last thing they are thinking of is having a portrait taken. Most are not feeling well, and let’s face it, there are likely some big medical bills they have to deal with. For me, this is a time to reach out and encourage them to let me create a portrait. Whatever they’re dealing with medically is a part of their personality at this time. I love to add family to the portrait if I can and capture the relationships. If it’s an adult, I ask if they have a special person who is their rock—perhaps a spouse, the friend who goes to treatments with them, or the neighbor who brings them meals.

Making a portrait in such instances is about bringing a smile to someone’s face, about showing the beauty of that subject even through the toughest times. It’s about giving them a good memory. My hope is that these subjects will treasure this portrait as a defining time in their lives while they go on to live a long life after beating their disease.

Audrey Wancket is the president of Professional Photographers of America. She owns Wancket Studios in Spring Grove, Illinois.