Photos For Life: The World’s First Charity Photo Bank

This novel idea from Poland, where all proceeds from image sales help cancer patients, is a true life changer. Guest post by Jain Lemos.

Bicycle trip. Photographer Pawel Fabjanski. Photo Hero Emilia Oltarzewska
Bicycle trip. Photographer Pawel Fabjanski. Photo Hero Emilia Oltarzewska

All the models are cancer patients and survivors. They are photographed going about life in a normal, positive and dynamic fashion. All licensing income generated from Photos for Life stock sales are helping to further finance therapy for cancer patients. This is the helpful and innovative concept from The Rak’n’Roll Win Your Life Foundation, a new player in oncological discourse. Based in Warsaw, Poland, the charity is brave, irreverent and so much more than a mere financial transactional facility between donors and patients.

Jan Cieslar and Rafal Rys from Isobar Poland worked with Rak’n’Roll to turn the idea of a charity photo bank into reality. They insist the venture is not only about the money being raised for cancer patients. “Thanks to Photos for Life, millions of people with cancer and their families will see a more hopeful image of this terrible illness,” explains Cieslar.

Some reports claim that more than 60 percent of cancer patients recover from their illness. That’s an encouraging statistic. Photos For Life believes their efforts can help to change the way society views people battling with cancer. Their desire is to renovate how cancer patients are portrayed in the media. “Working so close with the models challenged our own superstitions that we weren’t aware of before the project,” says Cieslar. “Many of us still think of cancer as a death sentence. People don’t want to get too close to cancer patients and don’t know how to behave around them,” she asserts. “We, as a media industry, are also responsible for this misconception, because by displaying only the most shocking images we cover only a part of the truth.”

To create the lifestyle shots available online, dozens of photo shoots were organized all over Poland in 2014 with photographers volunteering from the cooperative Shoot Me Production Agency. “We tried to cover the most popular categories in stock photography but we also insisted on showing people in truthful situations—nothing is fake or contrived,” Cieslar confirms. For example, two of the models seen in athletic situations are real life competitors: Szymon Styrczula is an active sportsmen and Agnieszka Goscielewicz is a long distance runner.

Pictures in Photos for Life are available to buyers under the same rules as found with other stock photography databases and can be used in any commercial projects. There are several reasonably-priced license packages for buyers to choose from. The simplest is a non-commercial license for private use or three-month social media use for $7.50. Also available are various packs of bundled rights: Internet, advertising, display, product packaging and books and editorial usage. All proceeds are to support Rak’n’Roll.

After Adweek and Adage published stories about Photos for Life, the site recorded many transactions from the United States, Australia and Canada. They are working on selling the photos to socially responsible corporate clients including Ikea, who used Photos for Life images in their store displays as room decorations. Men’s Health magazine also purchased images. “How fantastic that a magazine which sets the standard in staying fit and sexy is not afraid to promote people struggling with cancer,” exclaims Cieslar.

The ultimate goal is to help cancer patients finance the therapy they need. To further the campaign’s ideals and publicity, publishers are asked to run a special notice to accompany the photos they license from Photos For Life with a statement that reads, “The model in this photo won their fight with cancer.” The models—referred to by the organizers as photo heroes—also donate their time voluntarily and do not receive any remuneration.

The photo bank will be adding new photos continually and the platform is designed to be continued for years. “The idea has captured the hearts of photographers from all over the world who want to do photo shoots for us, so we are sure that we will upload plenty of new material in the coming months,” adds Cieslar. The project remains open for those who want to help and new photo sessions are currently underway.

Photos for Life is a heartfelt endeavor and a sincere collaboration of the photographers from the ShootMe Production Agency, Isobar Poland (they came up with the idea and created the website) and Flash Press Media who is providing the technical operations and payment process management. “This is the world’s only photo stock agency where happiness is real,” says Cieslar.

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