There’s no question in our minds that the holidays at their core are an important time to spend with family and friends. It’s been shown in psychology studies that when consumers purchase things, they’re far more satisfied with purchasing experiences (i.e. skydiving, tickets to an amusement park, purchasing a guided hike, tickets to a movie, buying a vacation, dance lessons, etc) over tangible items (such as diamonds, shoes, iPhones, ties, etc). (Citation: http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/08/05/want-to-buy-happiness-purchase-an-experience/)
We’re lucky to work in the service industry of photography and constantly provide people with the service that makes them happy. People come to us to photograph them with their families, bride/ groom, friends, or by themselves. This in turn hopefully helps them enjoy and appreciate their family, friends, significant other, and self more. It’s also a good time for us to joke around with our clients and give them a fun and relaxing time. There are no cell phones allowed during photo shoots and the sessions require our clients to humbly give up control for the at least the 20 minutes to 12 hours that we shoot. The experience itself lets our clients' personalities shine from the inside out, is hopefully enjoyable in the moment, and on a deeper level helps them take pride in themselves and their lives.
We do believe that there are some tangible gifts that can be purchased that really do make a difference in lives. During the past couple months we’ve luckily been able to work with 2 companies that truly encapsulate social responsibility: A hammock company and a humane society. A hammock company that makes a difference in lives? How is that possible, you ask?
Yellow Leaf Hammocks is a company we've worked for a few times in the past year. Even more than their product of hammocks, we’re impressed by their “Do Good” philosophy. Yellow Leaf hired 110 artisan mothers in the 300 person village of Mlabri in Thailand to weave the infamous hammocks these women are known for. The tribe itself has been referred to as “The Yellow Leaf People” and has undergone extreme poverty, field labor in harsh conditions, malaria outbreaks, malnourishment, and illegal slash-and-burn agriculture.
Yellow Leaf Hammocks founder Joe Demin happened upon the Mlabri tribe and their hammocks in Southern Thailand on his vacation, thought theirs were the most comfortable hammocks he’d ever enjoyed, and wanted to help the village. Yellow Leaf provides families with the steady income and fair wages needed to support their families and keep their kids out of the workforce and in school. The hammock bags are even responsibly made using repurposed parachute fabric! Yellow Leaf at its essence hopes to break the cycle of poverty and build a brighter future by providing sustainable social change.
Plus… their hammocks are the most comfortable that we own. We have 3 of their hammocks and we really enjoy hanging them everywhere across the country and relaxing with them on camping trips. Each hammock has 150,000 interwoven loops and more than 4 miles of yarn making it strong enough to hold 330 pounds of weight. They are not paying us to say this and don’t know anything about us, but I really appreciate what they’re doing for the world. In college I (Jenny) volunteered at a “socially responsibly” company headed by Bono called EdunLIVE on Campus. I worked for free because I truly believed in their similar business plan of paying people in 4 African countries very well to grow, sew, and sell us t-shirts. We knew who made our shirts that we sold to clubs on campus and we felt good knowing that we were providing sustainable social change. Basically these businesses help families out of poverty and go along with the old mantra of “Give a (wo)man a fish and you feed h(er) for a day. Teach a (wo)man to fish and you feed (she and her family) for a lifetime.” It's so great to be paid to photograph for a socially responsible company and we couldn't be prouder of them. If you want to check out or buy one of their hammocks for a loved one or yourself, check out:
There’s another company we just worked with that we whole-heartedly support: Our local humane society. We know we’re photographers and sometimes stereotyped as “superficial,” but buying a pet isn’t about image, breed, or anything like that. It’s about saving a life. It’s about giving an orphan a new chance. These animals at the humane shelter are often either left or beaten by owners. If neither of these, then they have never had families to begin with and at the humane society are provided with warmth during cold Midwest winters in their cubbies. The workers strive to provide over 100 pets with homes and selflessly spend their days caring for and learning the personality of each animal.
Shooting with these animals reminded us of shooting with people. Sure many of the pets didn’t understand our verbal requests, but each had a very obvious personality that was very noticeable to us as we shot. There is a trust and deep connection humans and pets make when they live together. After all... we're all animals. We've been able to enjoy animal friendships a lot in the past year & a half due to 10 of Jenny's closest friends owning rescue pets both in California where we just moved from and in Ohio where we've visited twice this fall.
After a visit to the Humane Society about a week & a half ago for their yard sale/ Christmas benefit to raise funds for the animals in their care, we decided that we needed to help in more ways than just buying 6 holiday trinkets for $12. We decided that for the first time since vowing off "Free Photography" that we wanted to donate our photography services to something very worthy that could save lives of animals. We've gotten Very Picky when it comes to donating our services. We have almost 12 years combined experience in professional (paid) photography (studios, offices, and freelance) plus many degrees in it including Jason's BFA in Commercial Photography and Jenny's MFA in Fine Art Photography, so when it comes to donating our photos and services anymore, we don't take it lightly. We've donated enough work and images in our careers thus far to be guilted into anything anymore, but this was a cause we are behind. No one asked for our help, rather we saw an actual need for it.
We shot at the St. Joseph County Humane Society for 3 days and are still in the process of sorting and editing the 110 images, but for the moment we will leave you with 20 of our favorites.
Please enjoy our Holiday Humane Society Series (HHSS) and if you're interested in one of these pets and are in Chicago, South Bend (Indiana), or Southern Michigan areas, check out the humane society website and Facebook page for a more complete list of animals and our images to be posted this weekend: