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April 5th, 2011

My Visitor from Tehran

Posted by liveBooks

As a kid growing up in Ohio I started a door-to-door sled-pulled grocery service for elders during the Blizzard of 1978. In the early 90’s I started the Chicago MadHousers to build small temporary shelter for homeless individuals. Ten years ago I started FiftyCrows Foundation to support documentary and photojournalistic photographers that document social issues. Renowned photographer and National Geographic Society Fellow, Chris Rainier, asked me to help him to start the NGS All Roads Photography Awards to support storytellers documenting their own culture. And here at liveBooks our philanthropic efforts are extensive, from supporting an orphanage in Mexico, to working in the local homeless kitchen, to donating over one hundred websites for organizations around the world.

But why? Why do these things?

Last week I had visitors from Iran. One, an outstanding Iranian photographer that had won an All Roads Award back in 2006. The other visitor was her husband, a Washington Post correspondent based in Tehran. I remember the first workshop for the All Roads winners, I was teaching them the basics of how to shake hands, how to create an elevator pitch, and of course how to put together their new liveBooks site. Now, four years later, I was the awe-struck student, listening intently to Newsha’s tales of her assignments for The New York Times, exhibition opening under the terror of being arrested, awards and honors from around the world, and the evolution of her artistic vision.

I once heard that, “we are not looking for the meaning of life, but rather, the experiences that remind us what it means to be alive.” For me, the experience of being of service for a fellow human is such a reminder. After Newsha and Thomas left, I smiled for days, knowing that in some small way I had contributed to her path.

This is why we do these things. This is why I suggest that you too find a path of service. Regardless of how small you might think it is, it can have a tremendous impact in ways you may never even know. The return on the investment is enormous, and it may even help your business in some way.

I would love to hear from you about ways you’ve blended your creative vision and your profession. Let’s see how many of us are giving, and in so doing – receiving.

If you’re in San Francisco this week be sure to catch Chris Rainier at the Herbst Theatre on Wednesday, April 6th as he discusses his efforts to record the remaining natural wilderness and the indigenous cultures around the globe by putting these wonders to film and using the visual stories to bring about social change.

And, please check out the website from my Visitor from Tehran. Keep singing Newsha – loudly!


  1. April 16th, 2011 at 5:10 am

    Jim Mulvaney

    My wife recently died from cancer and life has come to a grinding halt. Before this she had encouraged me to return to photography. Engaging in life has become very basic. Still, when I leave the house, I try and shoot. When I can’t, I try and print. I post this work on Facebook just to stay connected and I’m trying to develope a website.
    I speak at grief meetings and other meetings and at least try to be open and honest. People remember these things for weeks and months. It is amazing to me how useful you can be in the smallest of things to others. When every breath is difficult, there is still some way to be of service.

  2. April 28th, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Dan Blanchard

    I have written in ‘giving back’ as a part of the business plan for my destination wedding photography business. My expertise is in Mexico weddings and I am developing a concept whereby I donate my time to teach a photography course and host an exchange program for school children who live in Mexico and San Francisco CA. The course will illustrate how our perspectives as photographers, individuals, and cultures are different; how they contrast and make us unique. However, if we look a little closer, we also see that at the core our common emotions and human spirit make us ‘one’. The intent of the course is to develop individual expression while teaching an appreciation for diversity.

  3. May 23rd, 2011 at 6:24 am

    Tami McBride

    Andy, it makes life a bit easier today just knowing others exist in the world that care as much as I do about the human condition.

  4. June 2nd, 2011 at 2:56 am


    beautifully said buddy.

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