After teaching my Street Photography 101 workshop in Beirut, Lebanon–I got interviewed by a magazine called NowLebanon. One of the questions that Naziha (the reporter) asked me was how in the world I raised $1100 for my plane ticket to fly to Beirut, Lebanon in only 3 days. My answer for her was (you) the community.
When Loryne Atoui (one of the project coordinators for the group Spreadminds) contacted me regarding teaching my Street Photography 101 workshop, I was first a bit bummed out because I didn’t have enough money to make it here. Before I plunged myself into even more debt, my beautiful manager Cindy (also my girlfriend) highly encouraged me to fundraise on my blog. At first I didn’t think it was possible, but her encouragement led me in writing a short blurb on my blurb asking the community for small donations of $5 via Paypal or through the purchase of my prints.
I went to sleep that night, and nearly fell out of my chair the next morning. I logged into Gmail and was shocked to see tons of notifications from Paypal saying that so many people donated to support my cause. Not only that, but I was surprised to see that most people donated not $5, but around $25! I seriously was amazed to see that within the first two days, I already raised around $300 for my trip! I was so grateful for the kindness of the community for their generosity and was excited in thinking that I might actually be going to Beirut, Lebanon to teach my street photography workshop!
The third night I was surprised to get a message from Thomas Leuthard (a Swiss street photographer), saying that he was willing to cover the rest of my trip, which was nearly $800. My jaw literally dropped to the ground when I got this message from him, and I didn’t know quite what to say. However after a few emails and a google video chat, he sent me $800 in Paypal.
Now I know you’re all thinking– oh he’s from Switzerland so he must be rich, so $800 is nothing to him. However I want to make clear that this is entirely the wrong way of understanding the issue at hand. After meeting him in Beirut, Lebanon and teaching my Street Photography 101 Workshop with him (he was my guest speaker) and shooting street photography with him, I witnessed first-handedly the kindness of his heart. He is a passionate individual who also wanted to see others (like myself) realize and achieve their dreams. Not only that, but he is a huge proponent of the idea of “Random Acts of Kindness” and to “Pay It Forward.”
So to sum it up, it was the love and generosity that I got from the community which made my Beirut, Lebanon trip possible. I have always been huge on community–creating them and also encouraging interaction and participation. Sure writing blog posts several times a week, responding to comments, managing a Facebook fan page, a Flickr page, and Twitter is tons of work–but I truly love street photography and want to spread the love of it. I have interacted with so many people from all around the world who truly appreciate what I am doing, and they wish to see me succeed and also spread my knowledge to others as well.
In conclusion, I want to once again thank everybody who has made this trip possible. Not only those who gave a monetary donation, but also to those who gave me encouragement, support, and love. Teaching street photography, shooting photos, meeting new friends, eating amazing food, seeing amazing sights in Beirut, Lebanon has been a trip of a lifetime and I hope to embark on more adventures in the future as well.
Peace and Love,
If you wish to see some great examples of street photographs during the workshop, check out Rita Kamel’s Flickr Album, which is full of amazing images.
A quick shout-out to my sponsors (sorry if I forgot to mention you!):
-Juan Carlos Olivo
-Irma Jessica Salgado
-Stephanie Chiang & Kenneth Kim