I recently finished leading a workshop in Thailand, along with co-leader Kate Havercroft, for a photography workshop company called The Giving Lens. I have known its founder, Colby Brown, since 2011, and have seen this company grow to fruition during that time. However it was not until the last few weeks that I truly understood its mission.

While in Thailand, Kate and I led a team of seven photographers through a cultural and heartfelt experience that none of us will forget. The purpose of this workshop was to spend time with, teach, and encourage photography to a group of girls with an organization called COSA. This NGO (non-governmental organization) is a safe-haven for children at-risk for being involved in the human trafficking industry in Southeast Asia. As a team we brought over 20 donated point-and-shoot cameras and spent two full days with them. No words can describe how it feels to have been a part of their lives; it was a deeply humbling experience, one that I will never forget.

I used to be in the military, and there was always a high sense that I was making a difference by serving my country. I’ll admit, after choosing the career path of a photographer I have had some internal conflict about the purpose of my job, worrying that it’s too self-serving. Over the past few years my job has shifted more towards being a photo-educator, and being able to help people become inspired and passionate about photography is making me realize that what I do does make a difference in people’s lives. Sometimes, even just by the simple act of sharing a photograph online, I am able to inspire. And after spending time with the girls of COSA on my trip to Thailand I now know that my job as a photographer has no limits.

The point I’m trying to make is this: photography can make a difference. While on my trip to Thailand, we not only were able to create our own photographs to show how beautiful this amazing country is, we were also able to be a part of all of these young girls’ lives and help plant that seed of empowerment, that they too can be and do whatever they desire. We were with them for only two days, but who knows how far our impact will reach.

You don’t need to fly thousands of miles overseas to do any of this. Wherever you are, there are ways to use photography, or whatever your passion may be, for the greater good. For you this may be volunteering at a community center, or working with an organization such as Operation Photo Rescue or NILMDTS, both which are great ways to donate your time and photography skills. It only takes one person to make a difference, and there’s no reason that person cannot be you.

lavender-square-150pxNicole S. Young is a professional photographer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of several print books and eBooks, and runs her own online store for photographers, the “Nicolesy Store“.

You can read more of Nicole’s articles HERE, and view her work and website HERE.

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Join the conversation! 10 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article. I, too, have long struggled as an artist and how it can help and make a difference and your article encourages me as an artist and photographer. Thank you for what you do and for confirming art can make a difference.

  2. I was reading and then the “too self serving” line just jumped out and hit this retired soldier in the head. That is it, that is my problem. Why don’t I say, my work is good when It is, because it is too self serving. I had no problem talking smack as a soldier why is it so hard as a civilian to say, my time is valuable, what I do serves a true purpose if I choose and what I do is worth money.

  3. Thank you so much for this article! I’m going to share it, but as a mom and prior military this resonates with me. I give my time to a place called preemie prints that gives the gift of photography to families with babies in the NICU. Wonderful experience to share a love and passion with others.

  4. This sentence, “Wherever you are, there are ways to use photography, or whatever your passion may be, for the greater good.” is so inspirational. I always strive to bring out the beauty in a person or place through my photography because it is my mission for people to be able to see their true beauty or appreciate the place or event where they are in the moment. So, I have always really seen the “greater good” on an individual level… however this article has inspired me to find even more ways, on maybe a larger scale. Thank you for your inspiring thoughts!

  5. Very beautifully written.

    I share the same sentiments.

  6. Nicole –
    I get emails from you and didn’t know how or why. Now I know. This article is absolutely amazing. I am extremely familiar with Thai culture and the people. Love and caring is a big part of who they are! Thank you for your service to the children. My next trip will be to Bhutan in Southeast Asia, a country that emphasizes GNH (Gross National Happiness) over GNP (Gross National Product)! Might I add, you are making a wonderful difference by just being who you are! Keep up the good work! Thank you.


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About Nicole S. Young

Photographer, author, entrepreneur. I love photographing food and landscapes, and have written several how-to books on Photography, post-processing, and creative inspiration. You can find more about me on my blog, online store, as well as on Google+ and Twitter.




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