For years I’ve done volunteer work, volunteer work as a photographer. For years I’ve read the arguments as to why this may not be a good idea, and they may be right, but for me, volunteering is the right decision in some cases.
I volunteer because it makes me happy. That simple. I love that it helps people out, whther that be people who are having a hard time, or people that could use hand, or helps the arts in it’s many forms. The volunteering I do, I believe, helps people, makes people happier, and makes the world a better place, and that makes me happy.
I ultimately am a pretty simple man, I like to be happy. If volunteering someplace, or someway, doesn’t make me happy, doesn’t give me a sense of fulfillment, then I don’t do it, and I don’t do it because it doesn’t make me happy. That’s ultimately selfish, but that’s fine with me, I can live with myself knowing that.
I do the work when I can, and when I can’t I say “no”. I say “no” to shoots whenever they conflict with something else I’d rather be doing with my day, or with work, because I need money too. That’s one of the benefits of being a volunteer, being able to say “no”, being able to set the bounds that work for you.
Now the argument against doing this, and I’ve never read it as a hard argument, but more as something to seriously consider, is that there are other people in these organizations which are making money, are earning a living helping out these organizations. Why shouldn’t the photographer, who is also providing a valuable service, get compensated?
I’ve done plenty of work for non-for-profits where I have gotten paid. I’ve loved it when I’ve had that work. I feel good, I feel like I’ve done something meaningful for the world around me and I’ve put food on my table. It’s a total win situation. It’s great, but again, why sometimes would I do essentially the same work and not get compensated?
I’m not going to say I shouldn’t get compensated, I’m not going to say any photographer, or person, shouldn’t get compensated, they should. They totally should, but sometimes that just isn’t possible for everyone. The world’s an imperfect place and there’s never enough money to go around, if there was the whole profession and basis of economics would come crashing down. At some point I have decided, and I imagine many others have decided, that other forms of compensation are worth it.
I have long since decided, that in some cases, and only some cases, that the reward of the happiness I receive volunteering is worth doing the work. I’d love to get paid, who wouldn’t? But at the end of the day, between not doing the work and doing the work and being happy for it, I choose doing the work.
I enjoy going home, feeling happy, feeling fulfilled. I’m happy with what I did. And I volunteer so I can be happy, so I can be fulfilled, so I can be the person I want to be today.
And when that calculus changes, then I’ll move on, but that ain’t today.