Social Good Photography, Inc.
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[International Volunteer Day] The Front Steps Project × Social Good Photography, Inc.

Today (December 5th) is International Volunteer Day set forth by the United Nations. The theme for this year’s International Volunteer Day is “Together We Can Through Volunteering.”

The UN states that “this year’s campaign will thank volunteers worldwide and also shed light on the difficulties and needs of volunteers during the pandemic. Showing the impact of volunteers in their communities during this crisis, we will reach to all corners of the globe with the message of Together We Can Through Volunteering.”

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Photo: Shiho Yuruki (Hiroshima, 2018)

At Social Good Photography, Inc. (SGP), we’ve always recognized the value of volunteerism, even before our company was born. SGP can trace its roots to 2018, when SGP’s founder Shiho Yuruki visited some of the areas of Hiroshima Prefecture that were affected by the 2018 Japan Floods. This was where the Borasha PROJECT began. Shiho volunteered in the disaster relief efforts, and learned about why so many selfless individuals visited these areas hoping to give back to communities in need. She also saw first hand that many more volunteers were needed to build back these communities.

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Photo: Shiho Yuruki (Hiroshima, 2018)

Shiho was able to volunteer her skills as a photographer to help in getting out more information about these disaster stricken areas that the media no longer reported on, and this was how the Borasha PROJECT began.

At SGP, we wanted to create a business that would be able to provide pro bono photo shoots in a sustainable way. We wanted to be ready to offer help when it was needed. That’s how we came up with our ‘20-for-1 pro bonobusiness model. For every 20 photo shoots SGP conducts, we provide one pro bono photo shoot through the Borasha PROJECT.

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As of Nov 2020 (from Social Good Photography Inc.’s website)

Before we thought of our ‘20-for-1 pro bono’ business model, before our company even began, in the midst of the pandemic, we thought about how we could give back to society.

Spring 2020.
The novel corona virus was spreading rapidly, and the world as we knew it was changing before our eyes.
Was there something the Borasha PROJECT could do to help?
What were others around the world doing in this uncertain time?

The Front Steps Project: How Communities Found Connection During the COVID-19 Crisis

That’s when we learned about The Front Steps Project.
This incredible project began in Massachusetts, USA and reached many places around the world. Photos of families staying home were taken by photographers from a safe distance. People would receive great family photos, and in return they would donate what they could to a certain charity or organization.

We discovered this incredible movement just as we were trying to think of what we could do to spread positivity in Japan during such a dark time. We reached out to Kristen Collins and Cara Soulia of The Front Steps Project (TFSP) on April 7th, the day that Japan’s state of emergency was declared. We wanted to know if we could start our own TFSP in Japan.

In the end, we came to the conclusion that it would be difficult to emulate TFSP in Japan, and began a different photography project that we called #OnlinePhotographer. (We provided free virtual photo shoots hoping to help spread a little positivity to those staying home, and photographers received tips to help supplement their income.)

The US and Japan are different countries with different cultures, and so we ended up doing our project in a different way. However, we kept in touch with Cara and Kristen and they always provided us with warm advice that gave us courage to continuing moving forward.

In commemoration of International Volunteer Day, we reached out to Kristen and Cara who agreed to let us interview them. They shared their incredible journey with us through a zoom call.

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Screen Shots from our Zoom Call (Dec 2020)

TFSP began in Massachusetts, USA where they saw their first cases of the virus in March. That was when everything stopped. Schools closed and people were told not to return to work. That was when Kristen, who has a background in PR and Marketing reached out to her friend and colleague Cara. Kristen had the idea to take photos of families to document the historically significant event taking place before our eyes.

The Front Steps Project: How Communities Found Connection During the COVID-19 Crisis

At the time, Kristen and Cara’s careers took a huge hit from the pandemic. However, they both agreed strongly that they would conduct these photo shoots free of charge. They in return raised money for their local non profit, the Needham Community Council.

The Front Steps Project: How Communities Found Connection During the COVID-19 Crisis

Cara began by taking photos of some of her friends and their families. She posted these photos, which went viral, and within a week CNN wrote an article about their project. They received messages from hundreds of photographers who wanted to take part in this project, and from there, the project took off around the world. Cara and Kristen are still contacting all of the participating photographers and collecting data, but more than 700 photographers worked together to raise $3,350,000. Each photographer was able to customize their TFSP by choosing which organization or charity they wanted to support. Each TFSP had its own special touch.

The Front Steps Project: How Communities Found Connection During the COVID-19 Crisis

According to Kristen and Cara, TFSP will come to an end in the near future. They recently published a book titled The Front Steps Project: How Communities Found Connection During the COVID-19 Crisis to celebrate the incredible efforts of all of the photographers that dedicated their time and passion to this project.

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The Front Steps Project: How Communities Found Connection During the COVID-19 Crisis

Through our conversation with Kristen and Cara, we were reminded of the power and potential that photography holds. It taught us that with the right project and passionate photographers willing to dedicate their time, anything is possible. One of our goals at SGP is to create a ‘Photographer Network,’ and TFSP was an incredible example of a successful way to achieve this goal.

Our vision is to connect with photographers around the country and around the world who want to give back. That way, if a natural disaster should take place, or when someone is in need, a photographer close by can be there to conduct a pro bono photo shoot. It may not be the answer to the problem, but Social Good Photography hopes to be able to support those in need through our network. Speaking with Cara and Kristen inspired us to keep working towards this goal.

At SGP, our vision is; “Photography for a Better Tomorrow.” We would like to stay true to these words as we continue to grow as a company.

The pandemic may have changed volunteerism as we know it. But if passionate people come together to work towards a common goal, anything is possible.

While the pandemic continues to affect us and there is still much uncertainty, it is important to remember that ‘together we can through volunteering.’ We hope to play our small part in realizing this vision.

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Photo: Shiho Yuruki (Hiroshima, 2018)

Social Good Photography, Inc. is a company based in Tokyo, Japan. Our vision is to create a better tomorrow through the power of photography.

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