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Using photography to help others
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Why waste a click?

Why waste a click? | Photo-Volunteering |

If you are a serious photographer, amateur or professional, you know that a good picture can sometimes impact the viewers. Yet, if you look around at your fellow-photographers, you can't miss how much of their effort is invested in trying to generate admiration via photography clubs, forums, competitions and so-called "exhibitions" which are fully financed by the photographer and contribute mostly to our ego.

Everyone has of course the right to dream about being an Artist and to push her or his dreams forward in the media, however in my view, based on eight years' practice and dozens of social projects, at least some of our Photography time & skills can also HELP THE UNPREVELDEGED to get more attention and care, be involved and possibly even change their own future thanks to the unique power of photography - our photography - to communicate, explain, influence, involve and motivate relevant audiences.

Photo-Volunteering will not "only" make someone else's future a little better, it will definitely make YOU a better and happier photographer! You'll learn the value of understanding and personal communications with your object - before turning to communicate with your pictures' viewers.

What I really like to scoop here is examples of PHOTOGRAPHY NON-PAID PROJECTS that are aimed to help needy individuals, groups or communities.

Please share a few pictures but more importantly - please tell us about your social projects' objectives, implementation and conclusions, in order to help others to use your adapt ideas all over the globe.

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Photo-Volunteering at “Shorashim Group”

Photo-Volunteering at “Shorashim Group” | Photo-Volunteering |

“Kind hearts are the gardens, Kind thoughts are the roots, Kind words are the flowers, and KIND DEEDS are the fruits” – this well-known quote by Henry W.Longfellow, the acclaimed 19th century American poet, surely does not speak of the roots of a family tree, rather of the roots of one's SOUL.


After eight good years of experience as a volunteering photographer, I can say that to me, the quintessential kind heart resulting in kind deeds is the “Shorashim Group” (“Shorashim” is the Hebrew word for ‘roots’). It is a small and special NGO, responsible for making Passover and Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) the holidays that they should be - for over a thousand needy families a year in Israel.

It is also the home of more than a thousand volunteers, among whom are several photographers.


No office space, vehicles or warehouses. No TV or radio commercials. No public relations or celebrities on duty. Nothing but a few frantically devoted individuals surrounding Tami, the CEO, in herself a crossbred between a sports car and a mobile relay station, packaged in a slender figure and a huge heart…

The “Shorashim Group” comes to life twice a year, in what is almost a covert operation. It emerges into the social arena through an electronic flood of E-mails and posted messages, engaging more and more volunteers. The task is focused:

to package huge food parcels, ship and deliver them IN PERSON to elderly people, holocaust survivors and families in need in southern Tel-Aviv.


Good people donate money; a few companies provide food, transportation and employees’ time, and a few VOLUNTEERING PHOTOGRAPHERS join the effort by non-stop clicking their cameras for almost two days every year.

Unlike in some other NGOs, the people of “Shorashim Group” understand and appreciate the benefits of a good picture. Thus, throughout the year they make good and extensive use of the pictures they get: in Facebook and other social networks, when meeting with potential supporters, season’s greetings, thank-you certificates and more.


Therefore, when I asked for some particular OBJECTIVES for my photographs this year, I was not stunned by the detailed and well-defined reply:

- Make the volunteers happy and allow them to share their experiences with others

- Encourage the companies who donate money, food and transportation

- Reflect the uniqueness of “Shorashim Group” actions and atmosphere

 Making the volunteers happy is mostly a matter of numbers – tons of pictures from both days, trying to capture each and every one of the 1,500 volunteers, and plenty of technicalities; correct settings and measurements in changing light-conditions from industrial blue projectors (or tiny light-bulbs in some places...) inside to burning sunlight and shining windshield outside. My Nikon's (D700) ISO 6400 and my lenses' f/2.8 were certainly of great help, the Circular Polarizer was a saver plus of course, like always, I do all measurements and settings manually.


I have to admit that shooting for companies dressing up their employees in huge logos and silly slogans is my least favorite mission; however the rational part of my brain does understand the need in that. I’m also not a big fan of shooting dusty or partly missing logos on companies’ vehicles (inIsrael, many employees have company cars) but of course I did take the pictures here too…

These pictures are not in the article, but they have been already put to “work” for Shorashim, and that’s what counts!


To decorate this article I chose an unusual picture of a man on a bike (!), who appeared from nowhere and was waiting in line with all the cars for taking deliveries. I watched him load a 30-40 Kg (~80 Pounds) food package, plus flowers, on his bike. He worked hard to gain his balance, and then pedaled away, sweaty yet successful and smiling, to personally deliver the package to a family in need. Can there be a better manifestation of social justice??



This article was first published in photography magazine on Oct. 2011. The article there is in Hebrew but with many more pictures:



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Making Hay

Making Hay | Photo-Volunteering |
Giora Pinhasi's insight:

It was barely 6:00am when I stepped out of my car and made my way to the stable. The parking lot was still deserted, the office still locked for the night, and even the horses, peeking over their distant stalls, seemed sleepy. The sun has not come up, yet its light already started pushing the darkness away, spreading warm colors around. In the brisk morning breeze I could feel the light gently caressing the nape of my neck A few more minutes and all this will be gone. I hasten my steps, my finger ready to click. I have got to start shooting… right here right now!


The horse farm is part of “The Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel”, located inTelMond (a town in theSharonregion in centralIsrael). This is an extraordinary NPO (non-profit organization) that provides animal assisted therapy to populations with special physical and emotional needs. The NPO also uses therapy dogs.

It has been over a year since I started volunteering for photographing the activities on the farm for various purposes. This time, the goal is creating an “ID” for each horse. The ID would include a good “portrait” photo and some information on the origin of the horse, its areas of strength, and likes and dislikes…

Ideally, the short and concise information on the ID would help making the horse-rider fit easier, and at the same time assist with marketing and communication for fundraising, sponsorships and volunteering. However, as you are about to see, in volunteering photographing one can only be sure of his or her starting point; where things are going from there is a matter of the photographer’s perspective, imagination and initiative.


As I am taking pictures and getting closer to the stable and to the amazing “models”, I notice a few young people who keep popping in and out of my frame. Later I learn that they are here since 5:00am – breaking down huge stacks of hay into smaller ones, and washing it well before feeding it to the horses. Straw filled wheelbarrows are rolled and emptied by some, while others distribute fresh bedding in the stalls. Meanwhile, someone already stroked the horses, hugged them, and took them outside one-by-one to the open yard. There I see the horses walking slowly, eating dew covered green grass, and getting ready for another day of precise, measured steps in the sandy arena, carrying admiring riders on their backs.


This was not my first shooting day at the farm, yet this time something was out of the ordinary. Every few minutes a blunt sound went off. It lasted a few seconds each time and had two tones: a sound of gust bursting followed by a brief pause and a long “pssssss” sound, like the opening of a soda can.

Delightfully, I go on shooting my new friends, looking for unfamiliar spots and pieces of equipment. And as the sound continues I head for the direction it is coming from. Suddenly I see it – a heavy gas fired forge. It is hung on a metal arm, sticking out from a small van parked right in the middle of the farm…


It is not yet 7:00am and already a peculiar sound entails a surprise for me: a robust blacksmith, just like in the old days, attaching new horseshoes to the horses’ hooves! He starts off with a thorough “pedicure”, after which he fits every horseshoe to its hoof, and heats all four horseshoes in the forge until softened (initiating the flame was the beginning of the peculiar sound…). The horseshoes are still ablaze as they are picked up, one by one, with long tongs and attached to the hooves (hence the psssss sound...). And then, for a few seconds, a cloud of white, dense smoke swallows everything.


Time moves fast. The light outside is no longer interesting. The memory card stores over two hundred photos. My work here is pretty much done, though the day of the instructors, volunteers and horses is just starting.Oliver, the first patient, is brought to the edge of the ramp, sitting in a handicapped chair. Staff members are holding Punk – first horse in the arena today – lovingly yet firmly.Olivergrabs the saddle, summons all his muscle power, and hop… within a second he is transformed into a powerful, proud and happy rider. Punk seems to be no less happy.

Stretched arms surround them; watchful eyes follow them. Would this be the picture worth a thousand words? I wonder, because this very moment is really what it is all about –Oliveron the horse, moving ahead with the reins in his hands, full of confidence and wrapped with love and professionalism. The only thing missing is the sunset…

One more click or two for a farewell, until next time, please  do not go too far, unless you take your camera with you to volunteer and help someone around you. Good luck!



Special thanks to NILLIP for translating the article from Hebrew!

Originally published in "MegaPixel" photography website, where many more pictures can be seen:


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Photo-Volunteering at "Yahad Bagalil"

Photo-Volunteering at "Yahad Bagalil" | Photo-Volunteering |

The story of Reut and Matan is a love story between two adults who suffered head injuries. When she was a child, Reut was suffocated with a basketball net she played with, and Matan was injured during a complicated surgery, while trying to treat meningitis. Reut and Matan are just two out of dozens of other people with different degrees of mental and physical disabilities, who call Yahad Bagalil their home. Yahad ("Together" in Hebrew) Bagalil located in the periphery of northern Israel is unique in furnishing training, employment, free time activities, accommodation, and above all, lots of love.

My Photo-Volunteering takes me there (150Km/95Miles away) about once a year, from time to time I also take pictures during donation events, hoping and pushing this NGO to use my pictures more widely and effectively i.e. focused at their preferred target audience and not just in a calendar, Facebook or web gallery. Photo-Volunteering in a mental disabilities institute is on one hand very difficult and demanding, not always easy (but possible!) to get permission to shoot and advertise yet on the other hand, this is one of the most rewarding opportunities for any photographer; You get to really understand a challenge which in many places is still hidden, you get to know the individuals there by name and most of them start to recognize you too, and even a "simple" question like "when will you come again?" make you very emotional.

Our contribution in such a place can be done in many ways including:

- Generating a smile, using the camera as a communication and concentration tool

- Documenting different activities and making personal slide-shows; the guys there really like to see themselves again and again "on TV"

- Encouragement pictures for volunteers, donators, artists who perform there etc.

- "Visual Dictionary" photographs of simple objects (Table, glass, car, garden...) to help those who can't speak and instead - point at a picture to express themselves

- General PR uses like Facebook, website, newsletters etc.

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