Why Tamara Was Drawn to Family Photography: Beautiful Together
So we've been talking a great deal about photography as it relates to families and children all that sort of thing I wanted to express from my perspective when I first started photographing children and families my impression of all of that was I loved photographing kids that was so much fun and if I had to do family photography, I would but it really wasn't what I was excited about I wasn't that interested in it and what I discovered wass my family photography was good I you know, I had a good healthy practice but because I didn't bring as much joy as much excitement to it it wasn't as strong as my kids photography that was my experience of it and something happened in my personal life that had a big impact on that which is to say that when we decided to adopt our son caleb, we adopted him from ethiopia when he was nine months old we already had our three and a half year old sophie, our child biologically and we went to ethiopia and we spent a week there and we had the opportunity to ...
spend the week in the orphanage in where he was being cared for in a diesel baba ethiopia and during that week it really opened up my eyes tio get to know us holding it really opened up my eyes to seeing what it meant outside of just the words to not have a family to really understand that some people the idea of having a family and belonging to a set of people on this planet is not is you know a theory it's an idea but it's not a reality and it won't be a reality and by the time we left the orphanage in ethiopia and came home with caleb, I had this whole new appreciation for what it meant to belong two people and not just as a kid because you need guidance and care and help but as you get older and you want to celebrate the experiences in your life that matter I saw a story recently about a nineteen year old girl and some of you may have seen this guy saw passed around her face but who put an ad out on craigslist teo hira family to celebrate her nineteenth birthday with her and her her back story was that she had gone her whole life from foster home to foster home and never was adopted and by the time she was eighteen you age out of foster care and so for her nineteenth birthday she wanted to have a family birthday and so she for eight dollars an hour wanted to hire people to give her the experience of having ah family birthday party and it's funny because we know what it means to throw a party and have all the pieces and have everything perfect but then the day what is really mattering is the people that you're with the relationships that matter the most to you and leaving ethiopia, I started saying family photography and a whole new way with an incredible emphasis on the idea of belonging if I could find that belonging between people if I could help them find it with each other for what we wanted to produce for these images it what I could give back to them was the way they felt about each other that would mean ah, whole lot and that really changed everything about family photography for me too me, it went from saying, ok, I'll go and do that to like what, on honor to be able to showcase who these people are to each other? So from that perspective, it had a big impact on me as it related to family photography. It also had a huge impact on me as it related to this idea of adoption. I had always known I wanted to as a family. When steve and I met my husband here, you're about to see in a second he was adopted as well, and when we met, I told him I'd always wanted to do birth adopt birth adopt I thought that be a really cool way to girl family, but after we came back from ethiopia, we think we figured there's one hundred plus million orphans living around the world. And we already had the pleasure of knowing how quickly you can fall in love with the child that toe have a biological child. And how the child was adopted too, really know that there's no difference. If I could bottle that up and hand that two people so they could know for themselves too, I feel like that would have big shift on dh. So we proceeded then to adopt again our daughter anna lisa, who came home from ecuador at age three and a half. We lived in ecuador for a couple months, also spent time at her orphanages. Orphanage also saw that same, I think, the just sheer amount of children who do not have families and many of whom never will fast forward teo. Last summer we make a point when we travel and we get to travel. Every summer we leave and go somewhere, and we try teo fit in if we can opportunities to photograph children in care centers and orphanages just as an effort to have great photography for people who may be open to adoption to be a little really see this child, there is a wonderful organization called the heart gallery. If you guys are familiar with it, I photographed for them for the last decade. Were you photograph children who are available for adoption so people can feel that connection through a portrait on dh see if they might be open to adopting themselves while we were in ethiopia last summer? The point was to bring caleb back ten years later to show him ethiopia to show him this this beautiful country that we'd loved so much I think we're going back on our fourth time going back this summer to ethiopia, but when we came there we wanted to show him ethiopia and we went to care centers in orphanages to photograph children, and we met a little boy at one of the care centers his name was gabriel, and it was one of those things where like he was in my arms and will you find that the need for affection and the ability to express affection in various orphanages based on how they're being raised is really strong and really impact awful? And as I'm holding a barrel about two hours later in the midst of being in this orphanage, I looked at my husband I said, honey and he's like yes, like I think we're gonna adopt him and it was like we'd never necessary said whether or not we're going to go to four children, what we're going to do and it was an immediate connection it was immediate decision and we started the process to adopt gabriel last summer so we have been a year into this process and unfortunately it's not moving as fast as I would love. We're going to go back to ethiopia this summer to visit him on dh to spend time at the orphanage, but the experience we walked away from this with was we fell in love because we had this meeting because we have this connection. What if we could create an organization that helps other people have a similar experience at least virtually? And we put together an organization called beautiful together dot org's and beautiful together is in support of children waiting for families and I think that's up on dh er the entire point of beautiful together is to be able to create these introductions to people, so create video profiles two to three minute pieces of children who are in foster care, who will literally say, I just want a family to be able to make films so that people can see not only a portrait of them but get a sense of their spirit and the way they laughed and we watch those videos earlier. And, you know, you get such a quick feel for these children just in the way they hug and the way they laughed in the way they interact to be able to do that for children in foster care as well the other very big component of beautiful together dot org's is to be able teo affect real change to create specific, tangible, measurable projects that really have an effect on improving the quality of life of those children who are waiting for families and again, many of whom will never be with families if you don't know much about children who live in orphanages around the world there's a wonderful documentary called stuck there is a link on beautiful together dot or go to the documentary it does a very good job of explaining what the current situation is within her international adoption and just how many children are stuck in orphanages orphanages were always meant to be an interim a place where children wint for a while and so we figured out where they could go on for has become a full time solution for a lot of kids around the world what we would very, very much like to do with beautiful together is one of these specific tangible projects and before I jump into that I would love to introduce my husband steve lackey who is the co founder beautiful together so we can talk about that together steve, you want to jump on board? Hey um so stephen t walk up all right? So we're going to sudden got it it was pretty much that media field wouldn't you say meeting gabriel? Yeah and it's funny we spent two full days with him and we left were holland tears you and here's our tears all three of our kids were in tears, gabriel screaming as we left it was really emotional and, um okay printed in um, but what we realized when we left, there was there's, about sixty children in the orphanage where he lives and there's of course, this rules out everywhere throughout the world, but simple things like the bathroom conditions in his orphanage, you can see an image of it here. This is what the bathroom looks like. We're sixty children share it stagnant water, old, outdated equipment, things like the's air the areas we want to make a difference in. So, stephen, I cofounded beautiful together because although we've been doing so, we're going to get ugly because we've been doing so many different projects in this area, all unrelated, but in area of children waiting for families for the last ten years way of the recognition that we really wanted to consolidate it and bring it all together and make it one concentrated effort where our focus was really clear we're in support of children waiting for families, and then do you want to jump in and talk about this our first? This is our premiere project that we are going to be working on this our first kind of campaign, we're one hundred percent of the funds that we can pull together and we're gonna talk about how we already pulled a good amount together. We'll support this project. Yeah, so, you know, we have the privilege when we were meeting gabriel to be and, well, actually, that trip we were in several orphanages and and really, you know, you don't have to look too hard to find needs and areas where you can support, but it is it is overwhelming to figure out where do you start? And so when we after we left his orphanage, we we made a commitment to formalize this organism, like formalize the work we've been wanting to do with beautiful together out of work. And so we picked the project from that orphanage, and it was a real obvious one because we would take our own kids back to go to the bathroom and become across where these boys and girls of all ages are getting cleaned up, you know, every day, multiple times a day and it's just not acceptable for them, you know, they can't live in an environment that has any amount of safety from hygiene perspective for them. So and the great thing is, when you take a trip like that, you can see where you can help, and then we met people who can confirm how they like us to help from that we've got a project that we're going to go down and kick off in a few weeks, and while we're there, we'll be working on defining all the elements of the project with people on the ground, buying all the resource is in country, so that helps the local economy and crew organized. So we have people working in entry. So it's it's, you know, it's a great opportunity for us to do something that is dear to our hearts and also while we're there and this is true for every project, you know, you can kind of reserve other areas of need, and we'll be defining projects will be working on a project and then the finding projects and then through the website and our audiences will be working too enable people tto help where they might want to, because there's so many people that want to help but don't know where to start and that's that's a big part of what beautiful together will do, and steve publishes a fitness magazine, endurance magazine, and he's got a really nice endurance audience and fitness audience, which is pretty cool on dh there's, a huge photography element to beautiful together, which is the fact that so much of I think the social change that we can help effect is going to be through photography photography has always been a massive part of philanthropy it's hard to connect sometimes when it just seems like words and it's just from afar the biggest challenge we had forming beautiful together wasn't necessarily filing for the five twenty three you're getting the bylaws or getting everything knock down that we had to get knocked down, the biggest challenge was feeling like why are what well just say hi felt like, why am I even trying? I'm not even sure what were what I could d'oh, which is why we create an organization well, get it over and over again this big wave of like sure, okay, I'll file this thing, but I don't even know I'm trying because I can't do anything like that how you feel when you look at the scope of need and I'm sure I'm not alone in that that that we feel that way, but certainly I felt overwhelmed by that so that's why we decided that we want to do really specific project we want to just take this back room that's not safe that's not healthy that services sixty children who that has mold and water lines that ever ready burstyn are leaking through the walls that have not just rust but peeling back kind of metal where the kids stand to use the restroom or a shower where you have to put water in to be able to kind of create a flush that's just been sitting there for a long time all those issues that in america we would find to be very challenging tohave our children wash up and shower and get ready there we can take that and for seventy five hundred dollars we can replace the bathroom stalls toe healthier more sanitary options we could change the intern outer walls we can protect against mold put a nice clean fresh coat of paint over the whole thing after it's been renovated and cleaned up and no it didn't change the world but we change this one bathroom and that's our field of what we want to do and so at w p p ay this last year in march we've got our very first grant from range finder w p p I they gave us a grant for fifteen hundred dollars, which was a total surprise if some of you might have seen that my block I couldn't believe steve flew out to las vegas and surprised me and accepted on award with me the grant together which was kind of crazy on dh but that was beautiful because we had just gotten to the point we're like okay let's stop just wallowing in our doubts and just do something even if it doesn't do anything let's do something and that fifteen hundred dollars was just a wonderful kind of confirmation of like maybe the universe is saying that this may may do something, so we did that I am worked with fungi and fideo to create a new album line. We've talked about this lush album stop calm, I'll actually showing a few these off tomorrow and showing how we've been moving them in our studio and having really lovely success, but I wanted to create an album line that I thought was a beautiful, fine art line that was really smart for business, but the upside to me was that ten percent of all profits constantly on going this will be our biggest ongoing revenue stream. Well, at least for now we'll be we'll all be going to beautiful together directly, and we've already had three donations come in since we started the line really announced the line about a month a month and like five weeks ago on we've had three donations hit beautiful together dot order ready, which has just been super heartening. I'm just so appreciative of that, andi I have fungi, fungi, software to thank for that because he is also raising his software to be able to expedite the process so that you could design an album and minutes and have it at your door in two weeks on dh it's really high quality it's happy pricing as they call it but all the albums are started under two hundred dollars you can obviously build from there if you want to but it's in a really good I think price range for a high quality album and it's got ico and animal friendly and child friendly clearly so all the percentages going there andi I think there's a link having people together or there will be we will be doing that right okay, so those were just kind of ideas in terms of getting started but you know our again our major project is we would love teo up this back room and that's we're going to go in the so the last thing you can do is just say you know what? I actually have s o much weight I'm so busy I can't do that but I don't mind donating directly because I would love to have an impact and then you can do that directly at beautiful together dot org's as well if you're interested in helping that would be wonderful if you go to beautiful together that or you will see that we've already raised forty percent of what we need just buy everything I told you about between the range finder w p I r own donation the tricia's many sessions that she did for us and lush albums we're already forty percent of the way there which is really heartening because we leave in three weeks so go um so that that is where we are right now um okay is that good? I got you good that's great. I just really appreciate your bringing your story and just re emphasizing how it's there's so much that we can do with our photography and whether that's time or money and identifying the thing that means the most to you we have people who are in the chat rooms and are sharing their adoption stories and so eso it's and people already going to the site to look to donate so it's really, really awesome and happy that we could have you on here to talk about that uh, yes. So where the other thing is candid, that that's a perfect point like being able to focus on what matters the most to you for me forever it's been children who don't have families to me it's hard for me to imagine something that's more difficult emotionally than to goethe through this world alone. And so this is where we both feel very strongly about and this is where we're focusing our efforts. Other photographers feel very strongly about other topics that they're very, very passionate about and there's ways to follow the same model we're doing and as you can see that we're just kind of blindly chungking throughput moving forward it's not a seamless process but we're trying really hard yeah right we're on the phone with the here's, another amazing thing. This all happened, like, right when we were just really deciding whether or not to do this. We found out that duke law school selects a few nonprofits a year and does a pro bono gets up to speed legally everything you need pro bono, and they selected us. They're selected beautiful together, dot org's, and they have been so helpful. Way get questions that I think you'll say, do you have yours? This is easy for me, like, I don't know what any of those words. Me, s o that's been really amazing to us. We just got a lot of that at once. That was very heartening.