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Photography With a Purpose by David DesRochers

By May 11, 2015No Comments
Painted Hills Unit, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon. © David DesRochers

Painted Hills Unit, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon. © David DesRochers

Text and images by David DesRochers

When I started getting serious about photography my goal was simple. Take pictures that my friends and family would ooh and aah over. We all want people to respond positively to our work and there are a number of photo critiquing web sites that cater to this desire. Camera clubs around the world hold photo competitions and there is no shortage of major competitions such as NANPA’s Showcase and Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International. Displaying our photos on our web site or photo site like flickr is another way of putting our work in the public eye. Many of us display our work in local galleries and others try to gain recognition (and maybe a few dollars) through microstock agencies such as Dreamstime.

So, what else can we do with our photos? Anyone who studies our art knows that there are photos that helped make a difference in the world. Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl,” which appeared on the cover of National Geographic Magazine in 1985, raised awareness of the plight of Afghan refugees. In 1938, Ansel Adams created a limited-edition book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail, which played a vital role in the designation of Sequoia and Kings Canyon as national parks. The International League of Conservation Photographers uses the power of photography to help educate the world community and to further conservation goals. Sure, you may not make the cover on National Geographic, but your photos can still make a difference if you look for opportunities.

Document important issues in your hometown: Nature photography has increased my awareness of the challenges we face keeping our environment healthy. Showing the beauty of our natural world is always one of my main objectives, but sometimes showing the not-so-beautiful is just as important. As a member of my town’s environmental commission, I’ve taken several photos that document the problems in our local environment. The photo taken of the trash in our local river helped raise awareness of just how bad this problem is and has started discussions among local leaders to coordinate a region wide clean up.

© David DesRochers

© David DesRochers

USA at Shutter Speed: I was recently introduced to Judith Ravin who works at the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. Judith makes America come alive for foreign audiences through photos posted on a weekly Facebook column called “USA at Shutter Speed” (see which showcases the diversity of the United States in all its manifestations. Although many Pakistanis may view the United States through a prism of negative stereotypes, photos can help them connect, at a personal level, to the diversity of the United States. If you have photos the reflect life in American or show the beauty of our cities and landscapes and would like to contribute to this project, email Judith at to learn more. Include “USA at Shutter Speed” in your email subject line.

Share your talent for a cause: If you like sharing your knowledge of photography with others, consider offering your services to a local conservation organization and run photo workshops as a fundraiser. Several years ago, I joined my good friend Phillip Witt who began a series of photography classes. Students pay a fee for each class and all the proceeds go to New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary. Over the years, our classes have grown and we’ve added weekend photo tours. We’ve enlisted the talents of other photographers and our program is now the top fundraiser for the center.

We all like to get compliments on our photography but those compliments can’t compare to the satisfaction you can get from seeing your work make a difference.

See more of David’s work at David conducts photography workshops at New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary