Thank you, Adorama TV, for this beautifully produced Spotlight Film on me, my photography, and my orphan care work with our non-profit Beautiful Together. It was truly such an honor to be profiled.
The talented Alana Casner, Director of Creative Content for Adorama TV, produced this piece. She asks about my start in photography, as well as my progression to where I am now. But much of this piece is about my focus on art and activism – and my take on the impact photography, video and social outreach can have when it comes to creating real change in the world.
This Spotlight film incorporates footage of me photographing a multitude of portraits in Ethiopia while building another portrait gallery for Kidane Mehret orphanage in Addis Ababa. I love seeing all those little faces in action. In addition to work I have done for Beautiful Together, I also care rather deeply about animal rights. I’ve been able to showcase some of that here on this blog, like the week-long sample of plant-based meal ideas I’d posted. So when the Adorama creative team asked me about other work that I would love to profile, I knew right away what that would be. I asked if they would be up for filming at an animal sanctuary, somewhere I have always wanted to shoot. They were immediately on board.
I flew to Manhattan, rented a car and we all drove about 90 minutes north to Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. We met up with a few other friends along the way, like Becky Brooks, with Animoto, Sarah Gross, head of the NYC Vegetarian Festival and Rescue Chocolate (sold at Coco Bean Cafe!) and Rachel Atcheson, the liaison for animal welfare for Bill de Blasio / the NYC Mayor’s Office. In addition to the video team, we were also joined by my whole family, since they were all quite excited about spending time with the animals. Much of the spotlight video shown in the piece was filmed while we were there, and it was truly a wonderful experience photographing such a wide variety of animals who had arrived at the sanctuary from significantly abusive and neglectful situation but were now, happily, absolutely thriving. The experience was actually so impactful that we filmed a whole separate piece while we were there, a standalone video on the sanctuary, as well as my suggestions on how to photograph subjects more creatively in restrictive conditions. That piece will be coming next.
But, for now, here is the new Spotlight – and a variety of species’ worth of gorgeous subjects.
I have been a professional photographer for fifteen years now. I absolutely love the work I do.
And it can be ridiculously frustrating to work in an industry that frequently promotes men over women on multiple fronts, including job opportunities and sometimes just through every day language, tone and nuance. Even when you excel in your field, you may be dismissed repeatedly in ways that are subtle yet still pervasive.
Nearly every working female photographer I know has dealt with setbacks, or shutdowns, similar to those I’ve experienced over the years: from automatically low expectations of your skills to assumptions of how or why you got “the job” (or who must have helped you get there) – all the way to receiving “overly friendly” overtures or outright inexcusable behavior. And if you speak up about it, you risk hearing that you are either unappreciative or whiny. Or worse.
If there can be so much discontent, why continue to pursue this work?
Because the vast majority of the time it is only you, the work, and how beautifully you can get lost in it.
Because there is always more to create and learn and produce and share.
Because I have made amazing friends who also recognize the issues and support me at every turn, including the community at Nikon USA.
Because this recent uproar is an opportunity, not just for our industry but also for our art.
Things are already changing – just not in all the ways and in every way yet. To that end, I would continue to encourage other photographers to not be complacent when experiencing, or witnessing, the infuriating sting of sexism.
Fortunately, we are in the right field. Photography is an extraordinary medium to utilize when it comes to affecting real change. Through my non-profit orphan care work with Beautiful Together, I have been able to photograph, film, and share multiple ways we can improve the lives of children without families. The return on these efforts has been amazing. To date, we’ve completed ten tangible projects and established four separate funds. All that change sprung from the simple act of taking photographs, telling a story, and asking others to care about something that isn’t fair and needs to change.
Our current project is our most ambitious one yet: Creating an Orphan Prevention Care Center, focused on empowering impoverished women in Ethiopia to dramatically change their lives, and the lives of their families, through education, vocational training, safe child care and long-term, sustainable employment. Being able to use photography to address this, even on a small scale, has been a difficult but effective endeavor. After months of planning and fundraising, we reached our fiscal goal for this effort last month after launching a portrait gallery exhibit in Manhattan, hanging over a hundred photographs I’d shot in Africa, sharing specifics about project work – and then just letting the photographs tell the story.
There are a lot more stories waiting to be told.
Let’s make sure we listen better to ALL the artists telling them.
The Beautiful Together Gallery Exhibit at the Union Square Ballroom in New York City, generously hosted by Adorama, showcased 100+ pieces printed and produced by Nations Photo Lab. All proceeds from this event AND from this online auction (live until midnight of Aug 25th: biddingowl.com/beautifultogether) go directly towards Beautiful Together‘s orphan care work. Such an incredible turnout with much heartfelt support towards improving the lives of children who wait for families.
Most photographs of this event by Buatti-Ramos Photography, our volunteer Event Photographer – and a few by Sophie and Steve Lackey.
All photographs of projects and images showcased at the gallery were shot by Tamara Lackey, all taken with Nikon D5, D810, D800 and Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8 and 105mm 1.4 lenses.
Enjoy some of Tamara’s favorite images from the event below photographed by Alexis Buatti-Ramos.
August 17th from 6-9pm – Union Square Ballroom, New York City
We’re very excited to invite you to join Nikon Ambassador Tamara Lackey on Thursday, August 17th from 6-9pm for a one night only exclusive gallery event at the Union Square Ballroom in New York City supporting the incredible work of Beautiful Together. See imagery from some of the life-changing recent projects, hear from Tamara about the inspiring work still to be done – and enjoy generous raffle prizes (list constantly updated below!) from some of the top companies in imaging. Feel free to make a tax-deductible donation, buy raffle tickets or purchase beautiful photography prints, products, and gear during the event to support Beautiful Together. And of course enjoy wine, hors d’oeuvres and good company! Please check out the Eventbrite page for more information and to RSVP to the free event.
Can’t make it to New York for the event? Check out our online auction to bid on great stuff like a Nikon Camera, store gift certificates, software and event passes! Bidding starts Wednesday, August 16th at 6am and ends Monday, August 21st at 11:59pm!
We are SO appreciative of our sponsors for this event! Special thanks to Adorama who has so graciously made this event possible by co-hosting and to Nations Photo Lab for printing all of the 100+ gallery pieces. The other amazing companies below have donated $300 or more to Beautiful Together for this event, so check them out and give them some love!
In addition, we will have a wonderful raffle at the event! These are some of the products you’ll have the chance to win in the online auction or in the raffle at the event-
100% of donations to this project go directly to support this program.
The pervasive, extreme poverty in Ethiopia is at the epicenter of far too many painful experiences: hunger, homelessness, social ostracism, illness, and even death. It is also a major factor behind the reality that millions of children are orphans in Ethiopia. Far too many parents simply cannot afford to house, clothe and feed their children. And, since they cannot ensure that they will be healthy, safe, and happy – something every parent wants for the child they love – they make the heartbreaking choice to send their babies to stay with others, or to live in an orphanage – or even to try to survive the harsh conditions on the streets.
We at Beautiful Together would like to establish an Orphan Prevention Care Center for a specific community of impoverished mothers and babies who are currently at risk for a similar fate. The goal is to not only establish a day care program but to also weave in comprehensive and radically life-changing benefits for all involved.
For the babies and toddlers:
They will receive reliable, safe and clean care at an established, well-run facility care center nearby. They will be able to count on daily nutritious meals, daily supplements, and necessary immunizations. In addition, they will receive generous affection and interactions from an involved caregiver staff, early literacy encouragement through reading and activities, and they will have plenty of inside and outside room to play, explore, socialize and learn.
This benefits the older siblings of the babies going into day care, too, as they are often tapped to mind the younger children, unfortunately missing out on schooling, an opportunity to focus on their own growth. With younger siblings well cared for, they can leave for school, focus on their own education and experience a significantly safer day to day life than the all-too-common alternative: begging on the streets.
This care center will allow the mothers to have invaluable peace of mind, as it relates to the safety of their children, while they actively work to better their lives for themselves and for their families. To that end, we will be incorporating an educational component for the mothers, most of whom have received an average of a 4th grade education. This program will include basic schooling, such as reading, writing, and math – as well as rather vital basic health and nutritional education. These skills will be a key component for them to move on to the next step of training, and it is something that every single mother interviewed is genuinely thrilled about being able to receive.
All in all, the women will spend six days of every week on a schedule that evenly builds on education, working in basic positions (carrying wood, selling vegetables, etc), and taking responsibility for several shifts in the care center. And, since these women typically work 24/7 in multiple capacities, they will have Sunday completely off, with their family, as they rest up for another week of changing their future – and their family’s future – for the better.
After three months, the next level of education will be specific vocational training. This means that women will be able to add in training for a long-term position in a variety of industries that will enable them to support their family, save for their future, and possibly even start their own business one day. A future upgrade of this program is a micro-loan opportunity for those who wish to start an entrepreneurial venture.
In addition, a key piece of this program is that a portion of what the mothers make throughout this time period will be set aside to help sustain the program long-term, not just for their future children but for all families who continue this program over time. They are investing themselves in this in every way, they are able to see their direction contributions to their family and to society, and experience the boost in self-confidence associated with that, and they are committed to sustaining it long-term.
Lastly, many of the mothers selected for this program have suffered some rather traumatic experiences in their already difficult lives, so we will also be covering biweekly therapy sessions for every woman in the program.
What have we done to date?
We have secured a clean, albeit lightly-furnished, day care center that is within walking distance of this community of women, which is important as they do not have transportation.
We have met with members of the community and reviewed a list of candidates to be part of the initial launch of the program. We have selected 12 mothers and their 13 children to start, and we have verbal commitments from all of them about investing in the program. In addition, they will all sign agreements before the first day of program launch.
We have met with the Director of the care center, and they are thrilled about the potential of this program. In addition, there is not only room to grow the care center, and to include more participants, but there is already an open room that can be converted into a dining area/training center.
We have met with vocational trainers, and they are incredibly enthusiastic about being a part of this endeavor.
We have created a plan and a schedule that allows for nearly every component of the comprehensive program.
We have detailed out a start up budget, as well as a 6-months’ coverage budget.
There are very few jobs available in Ethiopia. Since we are hiring four day care workers (small stipends to the mothers who take turns a few days a week as day care workers), one teacher, multiple vocational consultants, a part-time program manager and a part-time therapist, this program also serves as a job creation effort, too. In addition, we have connected with two separate businesses already doing fantastic, high-quality charitable-focused work with weaving, jewelry and artisan creations. They are both already on board to offer vocational training, as well as future employment of the women from our program.
This is a comprehensive program, and a great deal of planning has gone into lining everything up to be as successful as possible. We are ready to start this right away, and we plan to upgrade the program to more mothers and babies, over time, as well as offer more advanced options (immunization center, early literacy program), The overall project cost, which includes all startup costs and the first six months’ of care center payments, food, and worker fees is $16,500
Ongoing support funds for this program will be less, as the initial startup is the costliest part, and there will be fees set aside to help sustain the program long-term.
What an honor! All this month, Nikon is featuring an image of mine as the cover photo for the main Nikon Facebook Page. You can check it out here.
The Story Behind the Image
Back in 2010, I began teaching CreativeLive classes. It was the first year they launched courses, and mine was one of the first multi-day live programs. At the time, participants were hand-picked from a long list, and we had to pick from quite a number of video submissions. One of the photographers we chose was Sarah Clemence, who flew in from Dubai to join the 3-day program. Class interactions were great. New friends were made. Then, everyone headed back to their respective cities/countries.
SIX YEARS later, I went to Dubai to teach portrait workshops at Gulf Photo Plus, and Sarah was among the photographers. Again. This time, though, she had three children!
Capturing the Moment
And this shot – it was taken in the Arabian Desert, while we all shuffled through the dunes, protecting our gear from the wind and sand while practicing shooting, lighting, and posing techniques. I was demonstrating some front-lighting techniques of Sarah and her kids, and we got some fun images. But as I saw her son slipping and sliding, running up the dunes to her, it struck me that with that bright sun dropping behind them, and the expressiveness of them reaching out to each other, it would make for a fantastic silhouette. I called to him to race to her a few more times while I repositioned myself to center that strong backlight behind them, crouched lower, and tilted my lens upwards to get shot. While also eating a bit of sand*.
*Sand is vegan.
Sarah’s Family Grows Again
P.S. Another year passes and Sarah’s family now includes a baby girl! So, who knows. Perhaps we will cross paths again in a future CreativeLive session, workshop in the Middle East or a Nikon-sponsored event.
Photographed with the Nikon D4s and Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens, at f16.
Every year in May, we take a day to honor our mothers. And, if we are mothers ourselves, we enjoy the singular attention from our children.
But, there are millions of children around the world who need a mother’s love. You can spread that special kind of love to orphaned children by donating to Beautiful Together today.
How You Can Spread the Love
Choose one or more of the projects below to make an immediate difference in a child’s life. One hundred percent of all donations give kids the food, clothing, shelter, and medical care they desperately need. Most importantly, your generosity lets them know that someone cares about them.
Feeding Fund – Beautiful Together works with Life to Live to provide real meals to children in Korah, Ethiopia, where so many search mountains of trash to find something to eat.
Syria Child Fund – The war in Syria rages on in its seventh year and leaves behind thousands more motherless children. Beautiful Together works with Syrian Orphans Organization to meet immediate needs of children and to support local aid workers who care for them.
Liberation Fund – This project provides children with an advocate who can cut through red tape and paperwork to free them up to be adopted. Sometimes, an “unadoptable” kid can be free to find a family once someone can pay attention to the case and correct a simple clerical error.
Transformation Fund– Beautiful Together works with Make Your Mark in Ethiopia to help youth get off the streets by giving them an opportunity to transform their lives.
General Fund – This is the best place to set up monthly recurring donations.
These orphans are living casualties of war, poverty, and health crises. They are left behind in their countries unable to move across borders to escape poverty and despair. UNICEF says there are more than 132 million children worldwide who have only one or no parent. In the U.S., however, fewer than 4,000 kids found a forever home in 2016. So, the need is immense and you can make a real difference.
We have so much to give of ourselves. And, helping orphan children is a natural response to their unnatural circumstances.
Source: Statistics from the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State, May 2017
View of makeshift homes atop a landfill in Korah, Ethiopia
Children waiting for families to adopt and love them forever
A young boy takes a break from sifting garbage in search of food
Aerial Photography with Travis Jack and Tamara Lackey on the reDefine Show on AdoramaTV
Travis Jack left law enforcement to become a photographer who specializes in aerial photography. In this two-part series of the reDefine Show on AdoramaTV, In the first episode, I sit down with him to talk all about drones and how he got interested in this specific type of visual storytelling. In Part 2, I continue the conversation and we talk about all things you would want to know to get started in drone photography from certification to safety considerations to insurance.
Update on the Beautiful Together Korah Disaster Relief Project
After a 29-hour trip back, we have returned safely to the U.S. In summary, our trip in Ethiopia was extraordinarily productive, quite emotional, happily sweet, and deeply exhausting.
I want to thank each and every person who helped us collect donations for the Beautiful TogetherKorah Disaster Relief Center. It is beyond surreal, how substantial the damage is to this village we have spent time in again and again over the years. The collective grief is felt deeply in this community, where they have lost more than 100 family members, friends, and neighbors. Hundreds still sit in the middle of Korah, gathered in a Mourning Tent, clutching framed images of those who passed away so suddenly and so violently. Their pain is palpable, and the dignity and respect they demonstrate for those they have loved, and lost, is incredible.
And the burning acrid smell of the landslide, the utter destruction of so many homes, the loss of life, and smoke that still burns – a mix of the methane fires that erupted and the efforts to clear out dangerous debris left behind – is so strong it burned my throat in minutes. And I was wearing a protective mask to manage the fumes.
Our relief efforts are being disbursed in stages, to best ensure that all of the supplies go directly to those in great need. Handing out medical supplies, hats, scarves, mittens, and blankets directly to those in desperate need was difficult for many reasons, but we were quite grateful to have the opportunity to do it. Mattresses, more blankets, and food were all purchased and will still be distributed at the most optimal time, coinciding with the withdrawal of local support – which is expected to be very soon.
I will keep updating on the progress of these relief efforts going forward. It is truly grateful to see how many people care.