I get a global look at things through my photography business, which has web strands anchored to many countries. I see something first hand, that many do not have the personal luxury of acquiring: a broad economicÂ and cultural perspective.
This country is in the single greatest period of change and challenge since the Great Depression. So what to do, as assets dwindle and fiscal potential narrows? For the answer,Â look to the past.
About a year ago, a group of people met in my little town. There were a series of meetings actually. No official city committee was involved. No State or Federally appointed grant commissions were tapped. The consensus was, that our town was hurting, and consequently, change was being wrought that could forever alter the things that make Ventura a unique and authentic place to live.
My friend and colleague Shawn Alladio, (also a member of “Team Betty” as Donna calls her girls)Â runs another global scope company called K38 Rescue. Shawn always tells me that doing something, action of some sort, is the best answer one can give. Too many people forget that action part.
So that group did something. Each one. Individually and collectively. Even as some saw the US fiscal collapse bring the fight to survive right to their front door, they resolved to contribute. They became agents of change.
I am not talking about peanut sized problems. Some of these people lost homes, businesses, commercial holdings, marriages teetered. It is the stuff we read about occurring in that Great Depression: suffering.
It is no secret that in many ways, American Small Business is the fiscal backbone of this country. But what happens when a Government gone over large and linked to big business, looses focus and leaves Small Business in the lurch? What then?
The answer lies in your own community. Each member has assets of a sort, but more to the point each PERSON is the single most important asset that there is. People are what matters in this world of ours.
When a community comes together, it is entirely possible to fabricate a cultural and economic micro climate that can be vital, and buck National trends. My home town of Santa Barbara has always done this. It is one of the reasons I know this works. SB has always maintained a fiscal integrity separate from the rest of the US. Even now.
Many people think that it is due to the uber rich living there. That has not been my experience. As someone who ran businesses there starting at the age of 15, I learned that SB was a microclimate unto itself because of its sense of community. Santa Barbara works together.
So I had a look back at the past. There are many stories that have stood the test of time, that have brought hope. People need hope. So we tell stories. It is what journalists and photographers do. Â But the world requires action to be taken as well.Â Being stuck at home, due in part to the collapse of paper publishing, I began to organize my own resources as a writer, photographer and film maker, and turn my global focus back on to my own community. It is not unlike what one would do as a child: playing with a magnifying glass.
For the first time, my own town would become my primary focus, along with the imagery that has contributed so much to my commercial library. Hopefully things would warm up as a result of the action of my own magnifying glass in our chilly local economy.
So “This Is Ventura”, a video montage, was created to communicate what makes my town unique. It showed first as an expression of gratitude during Artwalk. It may, in title at least, become the calling card for a collective of local residents to unify a town by focusing on small business and the tenets of inter community support.
Community involvement makes for a more robust source of income for the City and allows for the advance of Art, Culture and Creativity, which in turn provide a foundation of hope. It is a strong hedge against the forces which seem to be dragging our country into the gutter.
Last week, my friend Kat Merrick, (one from that original group) via Facebook, let us know that she was planning a get together at a local Restaurant and bar. Jonathanâ€™s is located across from Mission San BuenaVentura.Â Well known local musicians, Bobby Hart, Eric Lemaire, and others, were going to perform. It would be a good time.
My girlfriend, Donna Von Hoesslin, who heads up yet another globally connected small business that is based here (Betty B) told me that she was in desperate need of images for a new line of jewelry which is designed by members of Team Betty.
So we dropped in on the party at Jâ€™s, sat in the window booth and shot the girlâ€™s designs there as Bobby and crew rocked. Typically we would do this away in some distant land, or somewhere on the coast. Definitely not associated with any particular business. (I actually have developed a penchant for Ventura night, street shoots) But deciding to both take care of Betty Bâ€™s business needs, and provide bodies, texture and a few extra dollars to the day’s till at J’s, allowed for an exponential increase of benefit for everyone involved.
Here is a video that explains in 4 minutes, the gist of Donnaâ€™s remarkable company. We did the piece for the Intuit Small Business United program. It helped Donna win a 5000 dollar grant from Intuit, which she used to help fund her Bali expedition.
On Bali last season, Hailey and Sierra Partridge, Jeanette Ortiz, Mary Osborne, and Donna, did a Betty B design trip. Each one of the girls worked with the local artisans who comprise a portion of Donnaâ€™s creative team, to produce collection pieces that exemplified themselves as ocean connected women. Each young woman then selected a cause or charity, whereby Betty B would donate a portion of the income from sales of each piece.
Donnaâ€™s company is a very active member of yet another organization, which was the brainchild of Ventura’s Chouinard family (Patagonia), which is called One Percent for the Planet. Through One Percent, Donna and other companies support David Boothâ€™s fantastic Organization, the East Bali Poverty Project, which literally is changing the face of Bali, by educating the youth on their connection to the environment via the Arts and cultural action.
So with our country on the ropes, it all starts here. With me. With you. In our own back yard.
The answer is right there in your community: your dollars are a part of your voice. Now do something. Do it for yourself. Do it for your town. But more importantly: do it. By acting locally you affect Globally, as well as Nationally. Do it.
This song from John Mellencamp is very appropriate. Our past is our future. It begins today.
So after several days of post production that Betty B shoot has 120 images in the final edit. Those images will go various places. General commercial use for Betty B, the girl’s individual projects, to my agency rep at Corbis images, and to various editorial concerns that continue to use my work. I never know where an image will find an eventual home. I am often pleasantly surprised to see a billboard, or international ad campaign base itself on my work.Â But it is especially nice to know that those moments were created here,Â in Ventura, California.
The following montage is from that Betty B shoot at Jonathanâ€™s,Â and is an example of what the group, which has taken the name of Totally Local VC, wants to do: bring us all together. Together, we win. Click on any of the images for a larger view, and to toggle through as a slide show.Â Then go patronize a local merchant, and change your world.