I've been shooting professionally for a little over 3 years, but in the past year and a half or so, I've really shifted my focus to social causes and humanitarian work. That's where my heart is, and as a result, that's where I feel like I can give back the most. There's something about finding that sweet spot where your passion and your heart align with a way to give back - it's fulfilling in a way that words can't even begin to describe.
When I first started shooting, I was mainly working with brands and couples, but I couldn’t shake this longing for more purpose and impact. My first humanitarian trip was to Cambodia with Collective Humanity in October 2017.
We spent the day with a community of artisan women who hand weave blankets on the most beautiful and intricate looms. I spent the first few hours getting to know the women before I pulled my camera out, but while I was shooting I just kept feeling this overwhelming sense of joy and stillness. It's difficult to explain, but let's just say I've never felt so myself. In that moment, I knew this was the kind of photography work I wanted to do.
My hope is that my images and the words I use to explain or describe them can capture the reality of the struggles people face, without simplifying the complexity of the issues. I want my images to find the balance between reality and the hope, joy, and empowerment that results from people and organizations fighting for something good.
With this type of work, I'm exposed to a lot of disheartening things in the world. And the more you travel, the more aware you are of the tiny space you occupy in this world. It can be overwhelming to be exposed to such extreme poverty, and it's often very difficult to come home after a trip and figure out how to process everything you've seen and learned. Often I come home with heavy burdens on my heart, but all the while the world just keeps on spinning, focusing on things like the Super Bowl or the latest episode of some Netflix show.
It can be hard to find peace in that mindset, but I think that's the point -- that's where change happens. We grow the most through things that make us feel uncomfortable or that make us ask more questions.
Technology and social media advances give nonprofits and social impact brands the unique opportunity to go deeper in the way they connect their donors and supporters to the people they work with, particularly when it comes to international work. I believe that compelling imagery has the power to encourage and to move people to support causes they believe in. It can shed light on the reality of circumstances and struggles on the opposite side of the world, but it can also illustrate the change, hope, and empowerment that can come from nonprofit and humanitarian work.
Collective Humanity is a nonprofit organization empowering marginalized communities around the world to rise above poverty through the creation of dignified economic opportunities and holistic community support programs. They to break cycles of poverty by partnering with female artisans in Cambodia to create demand for their products and help them generate sustainable, consistent, and dignified sources of income. All profits from their sales are invested into community empowerment programs for our artisans and their families.
Elaine is passionate about working with nonprofits, NGOs, and social impact businesses and brands. Her hope is that her work and the stories she tells will inspire people to love harder, travel deeper, give back, and lead more intentional lives.