The Photographer and The Common Good

Brian Wedge Photography

“Be the change you want to see in this world.”  -Gandhi

Gandhi said and did many wonderful things, but those words specifically have inspired with me for years and years since I first read them.  Though we’re far from perfect, my wife Malia and I have tried hard to build an environmentally and socially responsible company.  We often chat with clients who are surprised to hear the lengths that we’ve gone to stick to our core values… and to support those non profits who are promoting positive change in this world.

At the repeated request of more than a few of our clients and our colleagues, we thought we would share a bit about what we’ve been up to… why we’re actively supporting certain organizations… maybe even inspire a few folks to join us… and to remind everyone out there who is doing good in cyberland that you’re not alone, and you don’t have to be perfect to make a difference.  These “tough times” are hitting charitable organizations harder than any other sector of the economy, so they need our help!

Brian Wedge Photography

Here’s our most recent attempts to be that change we wish to see… with our time, with our money, our expertise and with our actions.

Last year we donated over 10% of our profits to charities and non-profits.  Some call that tithing, others call it corporate responsibility, we just call it contributing to the common good.  We have committed in writing through a group called 1% For The Planet to make that same level of contribution every year.  They review our end of year tax documents, and they independently hold us accountable to our agreement.  The third party system of authentication is very important to us… we want folks to know that we’re committed to improving the world we live in, and not just exploiting a cause because it’s fashionable.

We operate our business out of a sustainably built (LEED Design) boathouse studio that’s a passive solar, super-insulated, reclaimed/recycled material based space, that is a joy to work out of and to meet clients at.  We’re very proud of the end result because of it’s low impact on the environment, it’s beauty and the fact that we built it ourselves with the help of our friend Bevan Harris.

We also donate over two weeks of professional photography services to non-profits who would otherwise be unable to afford such a  high level of creative investment.  It’s been an absolute joy to get to know these local, national and international non profits… and to “tell their story” in ways that help them further their mission.

Brian Wedge Photography, Brian Wedge Photography, Brian Wedge Photography

Everyone always wants to know… where specifically did all that money go??  Who is benefitting and why?  Here’s the short answer for the past 12 months:

The Lance Armstrong Foundation:  Most folks know by now that our family has endured the hell that is cancer for the past three years as my sister, Lea, was diagnosed with leukemia.  Our support has ZERO to do with Lance Armstrong as an individual or as a celebrity (though I ran the Boston Marathon on his team, and he did seem like a nice guy)… it has EVERYTHING to do with the aggressive actions of the non profit to motivate/support research for survivors in their time of need.  We think cancer sucks, it infuriates us that it devastates so many people’s lives and we believe that there is power if we unite to destroy it.  We believe that cancer should be eradicated across the board… so we don’t fund individual types of cancer research nor age groups of cancer… though we have a special hatred reserved for breast cancer which took my aunt’s life, and leukemia which my sister battled with a bone marrow transplant and knocked back into whatever hole it emerged from.  My anger towards cancer is another reminder that I’m not Gandhi, but when channelled that frustration has been very helpful as we raised over $11,000 in 2008 alone.

The Surfrider Foundation:  I grew up near once-filthy Boston Harbor… so I’ll first say that many of our coastlines are cleaner now than they’ve been in a long time.  But we live on the edge of the ocean, our studio is on the ocean, we play and harvest food from the ocean… and the Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches for all people, through conservation, activism, research and education.

Brian Wedge Photography

The View From Our Boathouse Studio…

Cancer Community Center of Maine:  This is a great organization that was available to us when we dealt with cancer.  The Cancer Community Center provides a warm and friendly place where adults living with cancer, their families and friends can come together in a comfortable, caring setting to build social and emotional support as a complement to their regular medical care. 

The Jane Goodall Institute:  I grew up in a household of strong women who broke through social barriers and did things that they “weren’t supposed to do.” For example, my sister and wife were ridiculed as the first girls that played boys baseball in their respective hometowns, my mom was a weirdo in the 1960’s who consistently did things that were typically reserved only for men.  They did things before their time, and so did Jane Goodall.  Besides inspiring girls to live their dreams, the Jane Goodall Institute “advances the power of individuals to take informed and compassionate action to improve the environment for all living things”… how can you argue with a mission statement like that?

The United Way:  The United Way funds so many different community based organizations it’s amazing.  My direct connection: I learned to sail at a Boy’s and Girl’s Club in Boston.  The experience changed my life forever.

The Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics:  We’ve been around the world to some incredibly special places, and can’t help but notice that we are sometimes loving our environment to death.  Low impact wilderness travel is an essential skill that is often forgotten or ignored as we tromp through the our favorite backcountry spot.  The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is an educational, nonprofit organization dedicated to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors by all people, worldwide.

Brian Wedge Photography

Red Rocks, Nevada

The Access Fund:  The Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps U.S. climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment.  They’ve done wonders for climbers over many years in spite of a relatively tiny budget and staff.  

Pro Peninsula: Pro Peninsula strengthens individual and community efforts to protect the natural environment throughout the Baja California, Mexico Peninsula.  One of the world’s last truly wild places, the Baja California peninsula is a unique yet threatened environment. Strong environmental organizations are needed to promote social awareness and participation in order to counter the relentless threats to the region’s environment, while at the same time promoting sustainable development alternatives.

The Kokua Hawai’i Foundation: Kokua in Hawaiian means “help,” and the Kokua Foundation supports environmental education in the schools and communities of Hawai’i.  My wife, Malia, was born and raised on Oahu… and it’s still our home away from home.  The Kokua foundation’s mission is to provide students with experiences that will enhance their appreciation for and understanding of their environment so they will be lifelong stewards of the earth.

Brian Wedge Photography

“Our hometown beach”  Lanikai, Hawai’i.

Though we continue to assist other organizations like the Nature Conservancy, National Public Radio, The Portland Museum of Art and The American Lung Association in smaller ways, the organizations above have been the focus of our major efforts in the past year.  Thanks to everyone who has harassed us for so long to share the extent of our involvement… we hope it helps, and we appreciate the support of numerous clients who encourage our efforts.

We’re all in this together, we’ve been inspired by other 1% For The Planet Companies who have made certifiable commitments.  Our hope is that others out there might read this and be inspired to act in a way that contributes to the greater good.  The downturn in our economy means that our efforts are even more important, and we have a unique opportunity to step up and support the causes we believe in.

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  • February 9, 2009 - 5:13 pm

    Jason Schlosser - Yes indeed! Keep it up.ReplyCancel

  • February 9, 2009 - 7:10 pm

    Bill - Nice work! Livestrong has truly been inspirational in my life and my fight with cancer.ReplyCancel

  • February 10, 2009 - 1:04 am

    brianwedge - Thanks you guys… we’ll keep going!ReplyCancel

  • February 10, 2009 - 8:44 pm

    Melanie Carr - Thanks for writing this, for illustrating it with beautiful photos, and especially for doing what you do.ReplyCancel

  • February 16, 2009 - 9:25 pm

    Jen Talmadge - I am proud to be your friend AND customer : )
    Dave and I want to give 10% to the common good too, so you are inspiring us!
    THANKS!ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2009 - 7:27 am

    brianwedge - Jen!! You guys are the best! That’s so cool that you’re doing that. And SO impressive because you’re still finishing up school. Congrats!

    Oh… and we need to get together sooner rather than later to hear about your world travels!!ReplyCancel

  • March 22, 2010 - 11:28 pm

    rosie - Wow Brian, these photos and your writing make me take a deep breath in and truly appreciate the current moment. Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself and work. It brightens my day and keeps life in perspective.
    -RosieReplyCancel

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