As an art director, I get hundreds of emails per week from photographers offering their services. When I received an email from Michael Ray, I was truly touched by the images he shot for Flashes of Hope, an organization where photographers go in and do pro-bono shoots at the local Children's hospital. These shots are gifted to the children and their families. I love the part about being able to do something nice for others as a photographer. Not too many professions have the potential of doing that. It is up to each and every one of us to decide what we want to do with this gift we were given. I spoke with Michael about this project, and here is what he said...
What is your primary photography field, and how did you get involved shooting for Flashes of Hope?
I am primarily a food photographer and market myself nationally as such. But I also market myself locally as a generalist commercial photographer.
I had seen a photographer friend post some images on Facebook from his "Flashes of Hope" shoot and thought that was something I'd like to become involved with. I contacted the person in charge, here in Pittsburgh, and got on the schedule. Ever since my youngest left the nest, I've had some extra time and I've been looking for various ways to "give a little back." I'm finding that lots of well-deserving charities are hungry for some free/quality photography and very happy when I call to offer my services. A lot of what these organizations need is just boring event coverage, but occasionally a fun shoot comes up. I'm glad to do either. What's nice about doing pro-bono photography is that you have a little more freedom than usual and you can go that extra mile or maybe push the envelope a little. If you experiment and you fall short, you fall short... What are they going to do, fire you?
Were there any guidelines you had to follow, or did you just use your own style?
I could do anything I wanted. Being a guy, I really didn't read the instructions and didn't realize that the images needed to be black and white until I went to upload them. So, I had to convert them, which wasn't a really big deal. I still like most of the images in color better, but hey, what can you do... And looking back, I wouldn't have done things differently if I did know when shooting. In fact, yesterday, I shot for them again and had the same two setups going and shot things the same way. The hallway at the Children’s hospital, where I had to make my little studio, created the only limitation.
What was the interaction with the subjects like?
The kids were great! Most weren't in too much pain, but some where, and that's no fun. Part of the job is to make them feel special, AND to make them look pretty cool. Most of the kids are just kids, distracted and in a hurry to get on to the rest of the day. Other kids could barely muster up energy to smile for a few seconds. There was quite a range. One kid I shot yesterday wore his "beads of courage." Basically, it's a necklace of beads and each bead represents a procedure that he's gone through, from a chemo treatment, needle stick or whatever. This kid's necklace went around his neck about a gazillion times!
There was this other kid yesterday. He looked to be around 8 or 9. He has both downs syndrome and cancer. The smile I got of him with his family was really heartwarming. Can you imagine though, first having a kid that is down syndrome and then he gets cancer?
Does that experience carry over to the other projects you work on?
Have I taken this experience in to other photo shoots? Sure, I take it in to every waking moment... I am SOOOOOOOO lucky. I do what I love and I want to share that gift, especially with those who can put it to good use.
To view more work from Michael Ray visit:
Pittsburgh Photographer - www.michaelray.com
Food Photographer - www.foodportfolio.com
To learn more about Flashes of Hope go to:
All images were used with permission from the artist.