Over the years I have met fellow photographers, artists, publishers and media executives and I often sense their nostalgia for the old days when many people could make a decent living from photography and find support and funding for their art projects. I often hear: “Nobody cares about photography anymore.” There is no question that it’s difficult to fund any project, let alone a photographic one. But when I shared this concern I found I was proved wrong!
I have always believed in people. After my health problems and the subsequent kidney transplant my wife and I encountered so much kindness and generosity even from people we had never met before. I would like to share some stories which are hard to believe. Today let me tell you two of them.
When I was in the intensive care unit fighting for my life for almost six months I was connected to life-saving equipment, unable to move, talk or interact with the outside world. I had to rely on people around me to guess what I needed and take care of me. It was a horrifying and humbling experience. Then, Valentine’s Day arrived. Early in the day one of the cleaning ladies approached my bed, put a Valentine’s card by my bed and said, “Olaf, I see how much your wife loves you and fights for you every day and night. I know you cannot buy her anything, you even cannot say I love you. I bought you a Valentine’s card so you can give it to her.” Surprised, incredibly touched but unable to communicate my gratitude, I shed a Thank You tear. After all, it wasn’t about the card, it was about the woman – a stranger who in this remarkable gesture gave me hope and faith in humankind. It was one of those defining moments when you feel life is worth living.
Recently I started working on a new photography project, which will be officially launched next month. It is a highly personal and hugely important undertaking which will have its own website, movie documentary and book. In short, it is going to be about people who are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant, have already received a transplant or were affected by the organ transplantation. I have shared my thoughts about this project with a few people over the years and some of those people were my clients, a couple I met on one of my workshops. This remarkable couple, well into their eighties, started their journey in photography not long ago. Their zest for learning and their curiosity about life dazzled me. In no time, we became good friends.
One Saturday I was sitting with my wife resting after an intense week, when the telephone rang. I picked up the phone and it was one of the couple. Although we had talked over the phone from time to time, the timing of this call seemed unusual. We started with some family updates, random photographic thoughts – nothing out of the ordinary. Then, this ordinary call turned into one of the most extraordinary telephone conversations I have ever had. My friend said, “Olaf, I was thinking about your photography and your Renatus Project and as I am not young anymore, I would like to ask you a favour.”
“Of course,“ I replied, eager to hear what I could do for this great man. What I heard next stopped me in my tracks.
“Olaf, I would like to fund the medium-format GFX camera with a lens to support you and your new project.” Before I could compose myself to say anything he continued, “I really feel that through your eyes I could contribute and participate in this wonderful project. Please do it for me and allow me to help you in this way.”
Last week I received my medium-format system from Fujifilm Canada (thank you Mark, Helen, Cathy and the entire team for your support as well).
I have to admit I have been wondering whether to write this post at all. Would I be able to share this remarkable story with you without sounding as though I was blowing my own trumpet? I let go those thoughts because I realized these are the stories that need to be told especially today when you hear a never-ending stream of depressing news, as if there were not noble people among us.
Another reason why I wanted to share this story was because this couple is not rich by any means. And they asked to remain anonymous. While of course I cannot share their names, let this piece be a loud and roaring THANK YOU! Let it be a reminder that yes, there are wonderful, kind and generous people out there. Of course, this stunning photographic gear is a tremendous help for this one-in-a-lifetime project – but what is even more important is that you gave me and others faith in human kindness and a renewed zeal to wake up every day and keep working hard, creating strong new visuals. This is priceless.
Stay tuned for a major announcement of a brand-new project!
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