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Compassionate Eye Foundation goes country

September 10, 2012

A winding country road near Fort Langley ends in a farm that could have come out of a Martha Stewart magazine. Quaint older farmhouse for the younger generation, newer farmhouse for the first, now older generation, original old log cabin, proverbial red barn and a few cows grazing at the edge of the shade. Framed to the north by blue-gray mountains. Everywhere you turn, you are compelled to take a picture. And I took lots! Check out the photos on the side of the page and Flickr to see more.

The clouds shown in the photo above parted, the sun came out and thirty plus people descended on this quiet oasis of farmland on September 6th for a photo shoot. The sweltering heat didn’t daunt the enthusiasm of the “creatives” which included top-quality photographers, videographers, make-up artists, wardrobe stylists, art director, food stylist and others. A stream of models, ranging from about age six or so up to a grandfatherly sort, fished, canoed, ate, kibitzed, gardened and played, all the while managing to look unwilted in the heat, although the occasional glisten of sweat on a brow or a dark patch on a T-shirt betrayed a little vulnerability.

The purpose behind this photo feast was the annual coming together of photographers at locations around the world to shoot lifestyle photos on behalf of Compassionate Eye (CEF). CEF is the brainchild of Robert Kent, a visionary Vancouver photographer who realized the power of people using professional skills to effect change. The CEF photos are delivered to Getty Images which pays the royalties from the licensing of the images to CEF. CEF then works with partners in the field to help disadvantaged people in Guatemala, Cambodia, Africa and India. The assistance focuses on education, provision of basic health services and sustainability: “creating a partnership that provides the tools and learning to become independent”. Its work is centred on “the belief that it is better to get a hand up than a hand out.

Labour and materials involved in the shoot were donated or provided for nominal amounts. The generosity of the people involved is to be celebrated because it has empowered CEF, in a short seven years, to raise approximately $1 million without significant financial donations or government funding. CEF is also incredibly stingy, a good thing, as it has managed to do its good works with extremely low administrative expenses. As I like to acknowledge in this blog not only the good works of charities but also the charitable businesses who support them, I am going to feature many of the generous businesses, creatives and models who worked on this shoot.

Steven Errico was the talented photographer, and videographer Jon Hunwick (“Ginger” for a reason that day with his red hair, pale skin and freckles) was assisted by Patrick Henry, all of whom, with unfailing good humour, captured action shots in the hot fields. Even I played a role by standing on one end of the video contraption to help steady it during one shoot. Jessica Beisler coaxed laughter and easy banter from the family-for-a-day for her photos in the amazingly gorgeous farmhouse. The ever-smiling Mauricio Orozco  took portrait shots and shared with me his journey to becoming a Canadian citizen one year ago. “It was the best experience ever,” he told me. “You learn so much, you truly become part of the country,” and added, “everyone – even Canadians – should go through it.”

Amy Jones was the producer who managed to arrange a stellar day and ran the show like clockwork. Art director, Fiona Watson, oversaw the artistic side of things. Kim Bejar, a recent Winnipeg transplant, Sam Macleod, a recent grad, and Ashley Jephcott managed the extensive wardrobe while Amy Diedrich and Skye Markham made all the fabulous models look even better with their make-up and hair, and as the day went on patted damp foreheads dry. Ashley Bratkin planted the instant garden – look for it in the photos. Craig Bullen cheerfully transported people, food and canoes around the farm in his bio-diesel truck.

Katie Lysakowski, the food stylist and caterer who prepared the food for the “farm to table” shoot, carelessly left salmon beside me in the truck and it took all my willpower not to sneak a piece. While the salmon was clearly not “farm grown”, the other items certainly were. Just in case you like me would have liked to sample this feast, here is the menu. Read it and weep with me: grilled sockeye salmon with roasted whole cherry tomatoes, charred lemon & dill flowers; heirloom tomatoes & fleur de sel; simple rainbow baby carrots; roasted kabocha squash with balsamic vinegar, shaved pecorino & pumpkin seeds; roasted cauliflower florets, wine soaked raisins, creme fraiche curry dressing & mint leaves; soft, whipped sweet potatoes; shaved, raw, summer vegetable salad; a big beautiful Glorious Organic Greens salad; and for dessert: a summer stone fruit & berry tart.

Byron Smith, his family, and their friendly Airedale “Tanuki” (see pics), graciously turned over their wonderful farm property for the day. Byron Smith is a well-known commercial photographer in his own right, but on the 6th was acting just as host. Byron’s parents signed the deal to purchase the farm the same day that Apollo 11 landed on the moon and it truly is like stepping into another world. Like others at the shoot, Byron was attracted to CEF by Robert Kent’s vision, the idea of giving of yourself and what you do best to help others. Everyone on the shoot has given something of themselves and the benefits of which will be multiplied many times through the royalties gained from the photos. As Byron stated, “when you donate just money, you have no attachment to it. Here you really feel like you are making a difference.”

Byron worked in Italy for ten years and his experiences showed him that a collective force is better than individuals working in competition. As he says, “you can move big stones with many people” and he is hoping that the farm can offer that collective experience.  Also a visionary, Byron’s goal for the family farm is to turn it into an artistic hub. Plans for workshops, creative facilities and gear, studios, and a natural amphitheatre are in the works. If you want to see an example of Byron’s stunning photography, his photo is at the beginning of the blog.

It was a great day in one of the most beautiful settings the Lower Mainland can offer, surrounded many creative and committed individuals in support of a fabulous cause. I encourage you to learn more about Compassionate Eye Foundation and what they do by reading their blog, visiting their website or by visiting them on Twitter or on Facebook.

Tomorrow, read about the gorgeous models who worked on the shoot.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2012 8:55 pm

    Yes! Indeed a nice photo…Keep it up! :)

  2. September 12, 2012 5:10 pm

    Great article Patricia, you captured our day perfectly. And yes Skylers photo on the second article could go up on Getty, really nice!

    • September 12, 2012 7:15 pm

      What a nice comment to receive. Thank you so much! I would be honoured to have a photo go up on Getty.

  3. September 10, 2012 4:49 pm

    You shoot like a pro Patricia! Great article… and great pics!

  4. March 14, 2013 6:16 pm

    Thanks for contributing some behind-the-scenes context to the Compassionate Eye photo shoot. It was an amazing day surrounded by a multitude of creative people all focussed on helping others!

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