Industry News » Rehabilitation Through Photography
For over 70 years, the non-profit organization Rehabilitation through Photography (RTP) has implemented a range of photography programs, providing training, direction and equipment to underserved communities throughout the New York area. By providing a creative platform to the physically and emotionally challenged, the elderly, at-risk youth, homeless and visually-impaired populations, RTP inspires and enables individuals to channel their energy in open and expressive ways. This process reinforces independence, self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment that rekindles an enthusiasm about life.
In September 1941, New York City photographer Josephine Herrick taught the first course in Defense Photography under the auspices of the War Service Photography (WSP) Division of the American Women’s Voluntary Services. In those early years, WSP received assistance from the Camera Club of New York, and Herrick organized a group of fellow volunteers to take snapshots of overseas-bound servicemen and sent the photos home to their families with an attached personal note. This was their heartfelt attempt to keep families united and raise spirits, and Herrick started receiving moving letters from the families with thankful expressions.
This powerful sentiment was widely recognized and Herrick was invited to visit veteran hospitals by a rehabilitation pioneer, Dr. Howard Rusk. As wounded soldiers returned home for indefinite hospital stays, his idea was to teach photography as a unique form of therapy. In 1942, volunteers were commissioned by the U.S. military to teach photography skills to veterans at over 50 locations around the country. Portable darkrooms were even designed so that bed-bound patients could partake in the photography sessions by learning to develop and print the photos they had taken. The teaching and nurturing of veterans continued after the war and in 1946, incorporated as an independent organization named Volunteer Service Photographers (VSP). Josephine Herrick served as VSP’s Executive Director and guiding force.
Over the next several decades VSP continued its work in veterans’ hospitals during the Korean War and Vietnam War. Herrick’s volunteer and grassroots efforts became so positive that requests started pouring in from facilities serving terminally ill and emotionally-challenged individuals. During this time, VSP expanded its focus to cover civilian hospitals, nursing facilities and other organizations.
Rehabilitation Through Photography
In 1982, the organization was renamed Rehabilitation Through Photography (RTP), reflecting the new mission, as RTP’s focus has further expanded to encompass senior citizen facilities, youth organizations, centers for the emotionally and physically challenged, homeless shelters, substance abuse programs and other disadvantaged groups. To this day, RTP continues to expand and opens its doors to the ever-changing demands of those with special needs.
Sponsored and supported by such mainstream photographic industry corporations as Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Kodak, Sygma, Pentax, Sandisk, Tiffen, Tamron, and Olympus, RTP works with more than 20 organizations, supporting nearly 1,000 participants from ages 8 to 80 in various photography programs throughout New York City. RTP recently announced a new partnership with The cARTwheel Initiative which is traveling to Sri Lanka to visit three Happiness Centers in the former warzone of Vavuniya and will conduct over 10 workshops in art starting in December.
This begins RTP’s foray into international causes, allowing other populations to explore the world of photography and enabling them to to reach beyond their current situation, creatively interact with the world and get a true sense of accomplishment, capturing the beauty and vitality of the world with a camera.
Organizations with programs supported by RTP include:
So, in the spirit of the holiday season, the next time you have some unused equipment or find some free time, why not contact RTP to see if you can help out in your own special way. Share your photographic passion and help others learn to create and capture their artistic visions.
On that note I'd like to share another example of holiday volunteerism. Every year my friend Barbara asks her kids, Jonah and Dakota, to perform community service in lieu of a gift. It's a great way to give back as a family and to support organizations that are near and dear to your hearts.
Follow the light…f-stop fitzgerald