Camp Encourage Kansas City
S’mores & Pours Benefit
Documentary Multimedia Film Making in Kansas City
It’s why we do what we do. It drives us and will always define us. As a photographer and a visual storyteller my job is to identify purpose and celebrate that why. When I first documented Camp Encourage all I knew was it was a camp for kids on the Autism spectrum.
They sleep in cabins, do horseback riding and zip lining. Typical camp stuff but I knew there was more. There had to be more. I could feel it the minute campers arrived. The thoughtfulness, preparation, patience, attention to detail, and care was obvious. These kids were taken care of in a way I can only describe as truly loving. As far as the organization goes I was truly impressed but I still felt there was more.
The second time I documented camp was different. I felt like I was part of the family. I knew people and people knew me, knew our team and I started to see deeper into camp.
This was not only a camp that was doing great things but more so a community. I saw a purpose that went beyond. A purpose of community that involved complete acceptance that trickled down from the campers to us the photographers. An acceptance that is infectious. Everyone that attends Camp Encourage leaves a better person. I know I did and it’s the reason our two children are now involved as peer models.
I have always felt a need to do more with my photography beyond continuing to creating meaningful stories for our amazing wedding and family clients and have been searching for what that means for quite a while. Last Friday that new purpose became clear. Creating this piece for Camp Encourage solidified that. Producing documentary multimedia work and watching my film help contribute to raising money for a greater cause was remarkably rewarding.
Conveying truth, struggle and triumph in a resonating way to make a difference. Producing work through a documentary approach and letting a story unfold as-is as opposed to a setup narrative. The great part is through the use of multimedia I, a photographer, can produce films. There is power in a photograph. Add powerful audio to that and you have the ultimate story telling platform.
What is Camp Encourage?
Camp Encourage is a Kansas City based summer camp for children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. This organization offers a unique experience encouraging independence, enhanced self-esteem, acceptance, social abilities, and connection with others.
Through an incredible staff, volunteers, and neurotypical peer models, Camp Encourage gives youth with Autism spectrum disorders the same beloved traditional summer camp experience.
This piece was produced in collaboration with my second year of teaching Camp Wirkshop. Our team embedded ourselves in the camp for the week for the purpose of producing films to be used at their annual benefit Smore’s and Pours. Originally, I had my sights set on another story when I overheard a mother say to her son, “Don’t be nervous,” and it caught my attention.
I approached the mother and asked if this was her son’s first year at Camp Encourage. She said, “No, this is his fourth time.” She immediately followed with, “It’s the safest place he can be.”
It was in that moment that I knew her son, Woodie, would be my new subject for camp. I was drawn to him, and could sense he would accomplish a lot at camp.
I studied Woodie for two and a half days. I observed him as he transformed from sitting by himself at the start of camp, to hugging campers by the end of it. While to most, this seemingly small gesture is minuscule. However, to Woodie, his family, and the rest of Camp Encourage, it’s monumental and celebrated.
Camp Encourage is all about inclusion, enhancing self esteem, and increasing social abilities. Camp Encourage is about overcoming struggle, no matter how large or small, and celebrating the growth from it.
It was an honor to document Woodie and to tell his true story of triumph.
The Documentary Approach
I was able to see Woodie’s family watch my piece on Friday evening for the first time. I watched them hold hands, smile, and tear up as they saw their son grow in such a raw way. It was amazing to see a piece like this impact a cause that has become so near and dear to my heart.
Documenting stories like Woodie’s and Camp Encourages is about showing the true narrative of life. It’s about showing real success through real stories. Stories with purpose and meaning to raise awareness for such important causes. Telling stories such as these is important and I’m excited to take on more work like this.
Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Without further adieu, I present to you Woodie.
If you know of an organization or business that can benefit from having a true storytelling experience, let’s get in touch!