It was my last semester of college. I was sitting alone in the Great Hall eating lunch when one of the men's soccer coaches came up to me who I had never talked to before. He sat down across from me and, looking into my face, told me he had noticed my work around campus and thought I was a great photographer, that my work in photography would take me to amazing places in my life. He said I would be able to meet important people in the name of pursuing my craft. As a young college student hoping for a career in photography, I was glad to hear these encouraging words. He left me with a word of caution, however. He said that while there is nothing wrong with the notoriety and money that can come from this exposure, throughout all this, I must always remember that I can do much more than simply take pictures--I have the power to do good. I have the opportunity to change minds. I must not allow my vision to become blinded to the good I can accomplish for others through my work. Only this would make me truly happy. He then stood up and left. I honestly didn't know what to do with it for a while. I think it was several minutes before I could take another bite of my lunch. It was was an experience both chilling and inspiring all at one.
A few weeks ago I was given the chance to take the first step in following his advice. Thanks to a friend and fellow Covenant College grad, Kate McGaughey, I did a shoot for an non-profit called That Grace Restored who rescue women who were trapped in the sex industry. Kate works to raise awareness of this organization and asked me to help her with photography. While the girls are making the transition out of that life, That Grace Restored provides work and support through the making of journals from recycled paper. Here's what they say about their purpose:
At That Grace Restored we come together with women marred by the commercial sex industry to provide space for them to find their original purpose and intrinsic beauty. The pieces you see have been crafted by a luchadora who has taken paper that is no longer wanted, and molded, reshaped and pressed it back into its original form--a form that is incredibly beautiful and purposeful. By purchasing this handmade product, you are creating an opportunity for a woman to mend her wings and fly by earning an income, learning new skills in a stable environment and benefiting from vocational development.
My hope for this shoot is not only that the photographs I took will be able to benefit That Grace Restored and further their cause, but that I might inspire others to follow my small example and make a conscious effort to do something you're gifted at for the betterment of someone else. To my fellow photographers, this couldn't be easier for us. If for no other reason, do this to practice your art. Find something you can stand behind and volunteer some time and images. You'll find that your mind is expanded, as well as your work.
If you would like to purchase one of these books you can find them here on their Etsy page.