Compassionate Eye Foundation: A partnership for change
“How great would it be if the proceeds from the sale of a stock photograph helped educate a child in a developing country?”
Here, photographer and founder of Compassionate Eye Foundation, Robert Kent, shares how this question sparked a great partnership for change and celebrates a significant milestone for the foundation:
I will never forget the day that I had the idea to start Compassionate Eye Foundation (CEF). After visiting Africa, Asia and Central America, I was struck by the poverty I had seen and wanted to make a difference. I had, on some level, taken for granted the excessive abundance of my North American lifestyle and knew it was time to make a change. I was motivated to take action, but unsure how a stock photographer could make a positive difference in the lives of others around the world.
Briefly, I considered a complete career shift, but my photography is such a part of me. For me, a photograph is the universal language for the planet — it speaks beyond cultures and religions. So I started to dream and dream big. I imagined a world where part of the profits from intellectual copyrights from stock photography, software, Hollywood movies, books and video games would go to foundations and institutes around the world to do good things for humanity.
The idea of using the power of imagery to create positive change in the world was all I could eat, sleep and breathe. I mustered up the courage to form CEF and build the first CEF school in Guatemala with my own money and then to reach out to 10 photographers and ask them to participate in a one-day photo shoot and donate their copyright to CEF. Then I approached Getty Images with the idea, the concept being that on one day each year, I and many others would shoot a series of images, those images would be submitted to Getty Images and a portion of the royalties from their sale would go to fund the Foundation’s mission of expanding basic health services, education opportunities and tools for sustainable economic development in communities in developing countries around the world.
The idea of starting a foundation rooted in photography and intellectual copyright that would exist into perpetuity excited me. At the time, our advertising and photography worlds had very little to no industry-specific philanthropic infrastructure. We wanted to create an industry leader and a model for other creative and intellectual copyright industries to get inspired and to even join us.
Also, at the time, there was an excess of photographers wanting to learn and enter into the stock photography world with very limited opportunities. I feared that our young photographers would not have the same learning opportunities that I had received. I saw the Foundation as an opportunity for young photographers to volunteer for CEF under more senior photographers and to have our craft handed down. I was so grateful for the doors that had opened for me and wanted to ensure they remained open for future generations.
Thankfully, Getty Images became an enthusiastic partner of CEF. Six years later, CEF and Getty Images are a world leader in re-purposing their business model and having the sales of photographic intellectual copyright re-directed into making a positive difference in the developing world.
We now have several shoots each year, held in cities around the world, including London,Vancouver and Los Angeles. The royalties from the photos from these shoots has allowed CEF to have a greater impact. From the first school in Guatemala, CEF now has projects in eight different countries including a floating health clinic in Cambodia and a peer literacy program for students in Sierra Leone.
This year we were delighted to celebrate our $1 million milestone. It has been an amazing journey and many lives have been touched along the way. I am forever grateful to Getty Images for believing in my dream, to all of our photographers and crews around the world, to our CEF board of directors, numerous volunteers and to our partners on the ground for making a difference in so many lives in such positive ways.
But we have much to do and the opportunities are great. As we look ahead, the success of our mission depends on the community we build. It is this community of like-minded people with a passion for change, resources and the energy to make a difference that will see our vision through. Please join us.
“It takes a village to raise a child.” ~ African Proverb
Editor’s Note: To view the wonderful collection of images available on gettyimages.com whose proceeds benefit Compassionate Eye Foundation and learn how you can help further the foundation’s mission, please click here.
Slide show images include:
Image 1: Photographer and Founder of Compassionate Eye Foundation on a photo shoot in Los Angeles, 2011 (Photo by Isaías Alonso, Courtesy of Compassionate Eye Foundation)
Images 2 and 3: Students studying at a school in Sierra Leone funded by CEF (Photos courtesy of Compassionate Eye Foundation)
Image 4: Children in Sierra Leone celebrating the opening of a new school funded by Compassionate Eye Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Compassionate Eye Foundation)