Weddings must be fun to photograph—people clinking glasses, wearing fluttery silk, and holding hands. Most people will happily pose for the camera and grin, but plenty of beautiful flowers and candles are conveniently available to soften even the countenance of the grimmest great aunt.
But what about a different sort of assignment—when you’re asked to capture something hidden in the shadows that has nothing to do with a happy event?
One of my fellow A21 Campaigners found herself facing this challenge not long ago. Caroline Howard is a wedding photographer here in Charleston, SC, who recently created a photographic series for The A21 Campaign-East Coast’s: BE HER FREEDOM fundraising/human trafficking awareness event this past June. (She was also in charge of the entire design of the art installation used to portray a victim’s journey from darkness to light, but that I’ll save for a separate post.)
Her evocative series attempts to convey even a small portion of the despair and deep sense of isolation a human trafficking victim may suffer.
I decided to go interview style today.
Me: How difficult was it switching from photographing weddings to images representing the darkness of human trafficking? What kinds of challenges did you face?
Caroline: It was definitely a challenge to switch from shooting weddings to shooting a darker subject, not to mention that everything I knew about journalism was stripped away; I had to create those feelings of darkness, heaviness and oppression.
Me: Do you think this experience helped you grow as a photographer? In what ways?
Caroline: Before this series, I had never shot personal work. If I photographed someone that wasn’t a paying client, there was a work-driven motive behind it, typically to build my portfolio. Even though this was for a specific event, I had never (in almost six years of being in photography) shot something that was putting myself out there, my aesthetic, putting my vision into a medium of art. Shooting this series gave me the affirmation that it’s okay to produce work, produce art, without a motive. Although I’ve transitioned back into wedding mode with the approach of fall wedding season, I’m actually working on another project just because. It’s a nice feeling.
Me: Any particular words of wisdom or advice for other photographers out there who might be interested in volunteering their services for a cause? How to go about it?
Caroline: The biggest thing I’ve realized is to be proactive. There is a surprising amount of people who want to get involved, but we need people with specific ideas—people, and artists, who can step forward and say ‘Not only am I willing and interested in getting involved, but I have some ideas on how I could make it happen. This is an idea I have.’ Because when it comes down to it, organizations and groups are excited and willing to take on talented volunteers such as photographers because it’s something not everyone can do. But they may need some ideas on how best to utilize the talent of a skilled individual.
I am so thankful to Caroline for the interview and for the opportunity to show off her incredibly moving photographs. Please visit her photography website at CarolineRO to see more of Caroline’s amazing work. I’d also like to thank Meryl over at Recovery Thru My Lens for sparking the idea for this post by asking how a photographer might volunteer.
What unexpected opportunities have come your way via volunteering? What are some talents you might offer up? What might you present to a nonprofit?