Darien resident selling photos for Japan relief
Christine Smith doesn't have any connection to Japan. She doesn't have family there, she doesn't have friends from the area and, because she's a college student, she doesn't even have enough money to donate to charitable organizations. However, what Smith does have is a sensitivity to people who are in trouble and an idea to sell photos to raise money to help the people of Japan.
The crisis in Japan has grabbed the national spotlight as the country struggles to bring leaking reactors under control and rebuild an area devastated by an earthquake and a tsunami. Although the events unfolding overseas are thousands of miles away, Smith decided she couldn't just watch as people dug through the rubble of what used to be their homes as they searched for missing family members and any possessions. She couldn't stand the thought of people who needed food and water but didn't have the means to acquire it after their livelihoods vanished under a wall of water.
"When I first heard about what happened in Japan I thought to myself `what a terrible catastrophe'," Smith said. "I became increasingly devastated as I watched what was going on over there. I'm a very sensitive person but because I'm a college student, I not in a financial situation where I can give my own money."
Smith is a junior in college but she decided to take this year off to pursue an internship with an up-and-coming company, 495 Communications, that produces travel magazines. One of Smith's responsibilities with the company is to monitor travel-related news which has kept her attention fixated on Japan. The idea to sell photos and then donate the proceeds to the Red Cross came to Smith last week when she was sitting with her mom and watching the news.
"I told my mom that I wished I could do something," Smith said. "She told me to start thinking of ways to raise money and that's when I thought of selling my photos."
Smith has managed to turn her idea into a reality in a short amount of time after she contacted the local Red Cross office in town. Getting a fund raising event sponsored by the Red Cross isn't as simple as telling the organization you're going to be raising money for the organization. However, it also isn't so difficult that Smith was discouraged by the process. Smith said she is currently in the process of signing a number of contracts that essentially promise all of the money she raises will be going to the Red Cross.
"I guess they have had some problems in the past where people used the organization to raise money for themselves," Smith said.
The decision to raise money for the Red Cross was easy for Smith who said she chose that particular organization because of the name recognition.
"Most people know what the Red Cross does, so I'm hoping they'll be more likely to donate. If I chose a less known organization people might be a little more wary," Smith said.
Smith has honed her photography skills from the age of eight when she received her first Canon Rebel camera.
"It's actually pretty funny because when I got my first camera my best friend and I would use it to spy on people," Smith said.
The spy angle is no longer as enticing to Smith since her primary focus with photography is to capture landscapes and horses.
"I started going to parks because I was into landscapes and it was at that time that I realized my photos weren't so bad," Smith said. "I'm not good at painting or drawing, so this is my creative outlet."
Some of Smith's favorite landscape shots came from her time spent at St. Lawrence University.
"That area is so beautiful," Smith said.
During her stint at St. Lawrence, Smith helped train hunting dogs and became the official photographer for the shelter where the dogs were trained. She also decided to enter one of her photos into an amateur photo contest.
"I entered the contest with a horse photo," Smith, who is an avid horseback rider, said. "I really didn't think I would do that well but I ended up being named a finalist among 3,200 other applicants."
Despite her success in the photography world, Smith has no interest in selling her work for personal profit.
"There are web sites where you can sell your photos but I'm not interested in making money," Smith said. "I just don't feel right selling the photos unless it's for charity."
This weekend, Smith will be setting up a booth outside William Pitt Sotheby's International Real Estate offices to sell her photos. The photos will start at $10 and cost a maximum of $25 and come in a variety of sizes, Smith said.
"I'm really hoping people will show up and feel generous," Smith said. "Darien is such a great community and we're really a bunch of great people."
Smith's photos will be available to purchase from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 26, and Sunday, March 27. Smith will also accept any donations people wish to make to aid the relief efforts in Japan.