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One of Gustavo's photos from his Hogs for Kids tour. ©Gustavo Fernandez

One of Gustavo's photos from his Hogs for Kids tour. ©Gustavo Fernandez

No one has more power to change the world than photographers. Yes, yes, doctors are regarded as the human deities of the world, but with few exceptions photographers are embraced with open arms everywhere they go. Because whatever your photographic discipline, and no matter where you travel, you can barter your talent as a shooter for just about anything. Including the well being of children in a far away country.

A week and a half ago photographer Gustavo Fernandez packed up his Harley Davidson to be shipped back to California from New York. He had successfully concluded his second annual “Hog for Kids” motorcycle ride across the United States in a bid to raise money for impoverished children in the Dominican Republic, where Fernandez was born.

In his first career, as a pharmaceutical rep, Gustavo frequently contributed to Children International, a Kansas City-based organization that aids needy children around the world. When he left that steady paycheck last year and plunged into a new career as a photographer, Gustavo (like most making that transition) was watching his bank account with a frugal eye. His budget wouldn’t accommodate his annual donation to his favorite charity.

Gustavo Fernandez

Gustavo Fernandez ©Michele Celentano

Unwilling to abandon the kids of the Dominican Republic, Gustavo went on a motorcycle ride to conjure a creative solution. He was sitting on the answer. He loves riding his Harley and he loves making pictures. Thus emerged Hog for Kids.

As he rode east to New York, Gustavo shot portraits of the children along the way — in exchange, the families contributed his room, board, and a $264 annual ($22 monthly) sponsorship of a child through Children International. This year’s successful trip took 28 days and received international attention. Gustavo says he is looking forward to riding again next year — provided he gets the feeling back in ass by then.

There is no other art form that is so versatile in it’s adaptability and portability for aiding others than photography. As Gustavo demonstrated, all that’s required is the will and the application. Your efforts don’t need to be as grand as a motorcycle ride across the country, but I do urge you to try and find a charitable application of your talent at least once a year. Not only is it good for your soul, it’s good for your career.

As Gustavo discovered, any experience with a camera in your hand, paid or charitable, will always make you a better shooter than you were the day before. He returned from his first Hog for Kids ride a markedly better shooter than before he left. When you place yourself in photographic situations that are unfamiliar and require you to adapt quickly, you’ll be improving by a significant factor. If those situations are charitable in nature, you have more latitude for mistakes, which will ultimately prepare you for the times when mistakes are less tolerable.

Photography is a unique profession that is a golden key to the world. Don’t keep it all for yourself.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: There are so many great examples out there of photographers bartering their time and work for good causes. What projects like this have you participated in or heard about?

Photographer Sol Neelman left a staff job at The Oregonian in 2007 after ten years as a newspaper photojournalist. Although he’s won a Pulitzer and been honored twice by POYi, Sol does not claim to be an expert at the “After Staff” transition — and that’s exactly why I wanted to share his story. Burnt out on low-paid editorial, exploring commercial and wedding, and pursuing the personal project he’s passionate about, Sol echoes the experiences of almost every photographer I talked to for this project.
©Sol Neelman

One of Sol's Redneck Games images, which ran in National Geographic. ©Sol Neelman

Miki Johnson: So tell me what you’ve been working on now.

Sol Neelman: I’ve been working on a long-term project, photographing weird sports and the culture of sports around the world. Recently, I photographed dog surfing in San Diego, pro wrestling in Mexico, the Lumberjack World Champs in Wisconsin, and bike polo in Seattle. Up next is a prison rodeo in Oklahoma.

I try to keep myself busy with fun sporting events. It’s an excuse to travel, which is one of my addictions. Along the way I’ll do some traditional sports, such as The Beijing Olympics and college football. I just went to my first Cubs game at Wrigley and photographed the fans in the bleachers. That was fun.

My goal is to get this work published in a book. Ideally it would encompass everything in sports – not just weird sports. It doesn’t need to be the Redneck Games to be good. But the Redneck Games were pretty good.

As far as work, last year I did a commission piece for a developer for whom I photographed downtown Portland for a year. They hung my photographs in the lobby and on each floor of their new building, which ironically is located right across the street from The Oregonian. I’ve also been doing work for Nike and a local bank, plus some weddings. Things are kind of hit or miss, so I try to stay busy with my own project to fill the time.

I’m still trying to figure out how to expose myself to more advertising firms. I recently signed up with Adbase and plan to contact firms that seem like a good fit. At the same time, I’m really trying hard to steer away from editorial clients, just because their rates are so low.

“When the New York Times is paying $200 day rates, you can’t make a living off that.” More »

When RESOLVE was just a fledgling, we ran two posts from Greg Gibson titled “It’s never too late to start a personal project.” Since then we’ve seen so many great personal projects, and heard about even more that are still just ideas. By highlighting our faves in this new “It’s Personal” column, we hope to encourage more photographers to turn their great idea into a great personal project.
Elliott Erwitt and Jim Marshall, from Tim Mantoani's "Behind Photographs" project. ©Tim Mantoani Photography Inc.

Elliott Erwitt and Jim Marshall, from Tim Mantoani's "Behind Photographs" project. ©Tim Mantoani Photography Inc.

Name: Tim Mantoani
San Diego
Full-time job:

Personal project name and description
Behind Photographs — I have been shooting portraits of photographers for the past 2.5 years on 20×24 Polaroid. Each photographer is holding an image they are known for. As many of these photographers, like Polaroid, fade away, I hope these images will be a way for future generation to appreciate the contribution these artists have made.

When and why did you start it?
I started shooting in Dec ’06; I always wanted to try shooting with the 20×24 Polaroid. Since it is expensive to rent, I wanted to shoot something that meant something special to me. I knew both Jim Marshall and Michael Zagaris and asked them to bring in a favorite image to hold for a portrait. It all snowballed from there.

What is your favorite image so far?
Too many great images and memories to call out a single image.

What has been the most challenging thing about the project?
Cost and time. I have really maxed myself out financially shooting this project, but it is all starting to come together now that people can see the work. Sadly, some of the participants have passed away, but it is a great feeling to know that I can help keep their legacies alive.

What has been the most rewarding thing about it?
Being able to spend some time with each of these photographers, to hear their stories and collaborate on the final image.

In your ideal world, where would this project end up?
I would love to see this project in a large venue where I can show all of the images at full size.

Do you recommend personal projects to other photographers, and why?
Every photographer has a personal project they want to shoot. JUST GO DO IT!!!! There will always be a bunch of reasons not to: money, time, risk. But at the end of the day, the images you shoot for YOU are the ones that will be your best and the most rewarding. The roller coaster is more fun than the merry-go-round.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Do you have a personal project or know of one that you’d like us to highlight on RESOLVE? Add your suggestions to the comments or email us.

Last month, liveBooks founder Michael Costuros challenged the liveBooks community to a little creativity exercise. After months of thinking and talking and worrying about money matters, we thought everyone could use a break to remind themselves why they got into photography in the first place. Michael shared his own creativity exercise on the liveBooks Community Facebook page and asked for more suggestions. Here are our favorite three. Join the discussion at the liveBooks Community page and become a fan to keep up to date with the latest from the RESOLVE blog, liveBooks free webinars, and special offers.

Jennifer Pottheiser

“One of my favorites is shooting without looking through the lens – thanks to Joanne Dugan for that one! Its a great way to shoot pets and kids and still actually see whats going on around you. I have gotten some tremendous shots this way, and it really takes the pressure off.”

Mark Wallace

“About a year ago my friend Craig was telling me how uninspired he was about his photography. He had his new 1D Mark III and was telling me that there wasn’t much to shoot. I challenged him to a friendly duel. I told him there’s always something to shoot and told him to grab his camera. We walked outside to a dreary drainage area and I proposed the challenge: 5 minutes in the pile of rocks, my iPhone vs. his fancy camera, may the best man win. Here is the complete story and results.”

Peggy Morsch

“Lately, I’ve started going through Freeman Patterson’s book: Photography and the Art of Seeing. There are MANY exercises in there to get your judge off your shoulder and just start playing with the camera like a 9-year-old again. For instance: Walk 50 steps, click, 50 steps, click. Or while I’m walking the dogs, I make multi-exposure images of anything, just to see what it looks like. My judge stays home in the kennel! It’s given me a sense of freedom to know that I don’t HAVE to produce anything.”

What is your favorite technique for blowing off a little creative steam? What do you do when you get stuck in “business mode” or just can’t seem to find a new picture? Give us your idea and a link to your website so we can see the fruits of your creative endeavors :)


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