About a month ago I commented on a Facebook post, I didn’t know it would make me go outside my comfort zone to challenge and push myself and my photography.
I like shooting. I enjoy the whole process of photography from walking around looking for the right images, to working with models to play with light and shadows, to trying to capture the right shot at a concert or roller derby bout. The editing of images to reveal the complete vision that I saw once I clicked that shutter button. The thing is, all these images I create I do for my own benefit, for me. I hang some images at group shows, give them to friends and provide them for charity auctions. I shoot for me. The shooting I do during my off hours are for me.
The past couple years I have been interested in finding some organization to offer up photography services as a way to help where I can. I never knew where to go or what type of organization to approach. The thoughts were always in the back of my mind in case I found something that I felt would be easy and fun to do. Because it was at the back of my mind I never really brought it to the surface and researched my options. Sure, I would think about something with animals or the homeless, those were some typical areas where people with cameras turn to, they popular areas. These are organizations that you can get some compelling images and are great for editorial use and are universal in using. All this sounds right up my alley but I also didn’t want to be typical – go figure.
Scrolling through Facebook I see someone post an article about someone taking pictures at a hospital of some parents with their unfortunate stillborn child. The post on FB was asking for people’s thoughts on that article. I was moved by what I read and so my response on the thread was “I would go in a heartbeat to go to the hospital to offer these services if I was asked to be a part of it. And when I was done I would go to the nearest bar and finish off the day/evening there.” Another friend replied to my comment letting me know there was an organization that specialized in this called “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep”. So, I had to check out the group and see what they are all about. I said I would do it if asked so if someone informs me about a group that dies it how could I not check them out and possibly join in.
Looking at the site I saw what the application process was that it took to be one of their affiliate photographers. This was a more thorough application process than I expected, but completely reasonable given what they do. What was asked for was 10 portraits – 5 in controlled lighting situations and 5 in natural light. A panel of photographers will judge they images based on a list of criteria and if you score the appropriate number then you are invited to join the organization.
Now, I have submitted photos for review in shows that haven’t been accepted before but I these were nationwide shows so I wasn’t too concerned about the images being accepted – I figured might as well give it a shot, I had nothing to lose. Reviewing the application process for NILMDTS I was apprehensive and nervous. This wasn’t a nationwide show submission, this was a solo process and I would be judged on my photography, my process, my final products. This wasn’t just a selection committee for hanging said images on a wall that I would be submitting images to, this was putting my skill on the chopping block to see what would happen and see if it was adequate enough for an organization. Needless to say I was hesitant and even contemplated not applying because of the extensive process that is necessary – I was going to take the easy route by backing away.
I talked with a couple people and they offered up their opinion and support. They said that I shouldn’t be worried and that I will be fine and have nothing to worry about. While hearing their support and comments felt nice, it didn’t wipe away the nerves I had. After some hemming and hawing I decided I needed to go through my images and see if I had the necessary shots that the organization required in the application process. Guess what…I found some. Well, ok I can’t say it was a complete surprise. I had done several studio shoots so I knew I had the controlled lighting requirements. My concern was that I had enough natural lighting shots, which is ironic because I prefer natural light, however I haven’t really done natural light portraits. After some digging around I actually found some images that I thought would be adequate. Side note, it was a fun trip down memory lane looking through albums going back 4-5 years. I rediscovered some images and memories. With a held breath and nervousness I collected all the images, formatted as required, and sent them off to get the application process started. The site mentioned that hearing something back could take up to 4 weeks, patience not being a strong suit of mine – especially when it comes to photos – so this was going to be a challenge to me, but well worth it.
A little after 2 weeks pass by and hitting the sync icon on my email I finally received an email from the organization. I was finishing dinner with friends and about to walk into the theater to watch the 30th Anniversary showing of Ghostbusters when I opened the email from NILMDTS congratulating me on being approved to be an affiliated photographer. I was thrilled that my photos were marked such that I was able approved and at the same time a whole new set of nervousness was laid upon my shoulders. Do I know what to do? How will I respond to that first phone call? Can I do this? The reality of the situation became overly apparent. I am pretty safe in assuming that I am not the only person to face these questions and couldn’t wait to get access to the special forum for the photographers so that I can start, or join, those specific discussions.
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep – To introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture.
This is way outside of my comfort zone. The way I see it, I will be invited to not just take lasting pictures for parents whose children will never leave the hospital as a growing family but the one responsible to create those images so that the parents will have something special to leave with, some peaceful images of a terrible situation. Don’t get me wrong, when I was filling out the application and reading all the information I recognized the gravity of the situation that I would be walking into, but at the time is was nested in the ‘if they take me’ cloud. Once I received the acceptance email that cloud morphed into the ‘they want me to be a part’ cloud. This is not something that will be easy but is something that needs to be done.
All my non-work shooting is for me. My shooting is to let me have fun and explore my artistic fancies and fun. When I pick up the camera on off-hours it is all for me and if some things don’t work out they don’t work out, no biggie. But I needed to do something that was outside of myself, something that was bigger than me. The images I create will not be mine to share. The images I take will not be put on Facebook or G+ or on my site to show what I have done. The photos I create will be turned over and nobody will see them outside of however the family decides to use or share them. This is something greater than me. This is not for me this is for the families.
This new path was all from a FB post and comment. We never know where opportunities will present themselves so we should always keep an open mind and perspective otherwise we might miss something that is laid at our feet – whether we know it or not.
*The images in this post are the 10 images that I sent in my application.