Written by Scott Van Osdol
Social media has the power to change lives. I know this from personal experience. Renowned photo rep Heather Elder recently challenged photographers to use #GivingPhotography hashtags to raise donations for hurricane victims. The #GivingPhotography campaign lets photographers use their creative superpowers for the good – to help people recover from the recent hurricanes, floods, and fires.
In July, I got to spend two days photographing Splashway, a family-owned waterpark an hour west of Houston, Texas. I worked with Houston-based film production company Swagger Media to photograph stills that would be used on their website, social media, and eventually in their branded promotions and campaigns. My goal in this project was to break into the family dynamic and capture visitors enjoying all the attractions the park has to offer.
Splashway’s brand is “We Are Family, ” and it’s true – many of the families have been coming for years. They set up camp in trailers, play board games in the cabins, and roast marshmallows over campfires. It’s the kind of camping I remember from childhood – it’s magical. I had a great time shooting there. It felt like family – like I was the crazy uncle with a camera.
One month later, Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas Gulf Coast, threatening some of these families. Luckily, Splashway was on the dry side of the hurricane and only flooded a bit. They opened the cabins and campgrounds to people fleeing the Houston flooding. With help from friends, they fed and sheltered hundreds of people. When they reopened a week later, they donated all proceeds from Labor Day Weekend to the Rebuild Texas Fund to help flood victims. This is the kind of client we’d all love to have – good people, taking care of their own, as you can see in the Facebook post below.
With #GivingPhotography, Heather Elder has created a space where photographers can give back to their communities. I like this idea. It’s simple: use social media and the #GivingPhotography hashtag to offer original, signed prints to our friends, co-workers, and clients in exchange for their donations to help rebuild devastated communities in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and now, California. Photo services @wonderfulmachine, @aphotoeditor, @theworkbookphoto, @lebookconnect, and @atedgephotographers have all responded, pushing the message out to their communities.
Even my agency client, Swagger Media, was flooded in the hurricane. So they get how important this is. I plan to work again with their Producer, Kyle Murphy, and Creative Director, Rob Andrew, this time to tell Splashway’s story on social media by using #GivingPhotography alongside photos from the shoot.
I know just how powerful fundraising through social media can be. Last year, I produced the ADDY Award-winning campaign “Every Other Day,” which tells the story of a working cowboy who gets out of bed every other morning at 2:20 AM to drive 180 miles for kidney dialysis. This keeps him alive. We launched a GoFundMe campaign on December 13th with a single post to 500 Facebook friends. It went viral. By 5:18 that evening, we met our $20,000 goal. Within weeks, we raised more than $80,000.
The film “Every Other Day” was shot pro-bono by The Noble Lab, and the social campaign that promoted it allowed cowboy Rode Lewis to move his family out of a decrepit old bunkhouse and build a brand-new house where he will soon begin daily home dialysis. He’ll do his treatments before going to bed. He’ll be able to get up early and work every day. He’ll live long enough to see his daughters grow up, and get to play with his grandchildren. It’s a life-changer. #GivingPhotography has that power too.
Read more from Heather Elder on how you can start your own #GivingPhotography campaign on her blog Notes From A Rep’s Journal. Then put your creative superpowers to work for the good!
See more of Scott at vanosdol.com.