Pemberton photography initiative spreads around the world 

Anastasia Chomlack's ONE for ONE Gratitude Sessions gifts essential workers photo shoots

click to enlarge Pemberton photographer Anastasia Chomlack has started a photography initiative that has expanded around the world. - Photo submitted
  • Pemberton photographer Anastasia Chomlack has started a photography initiative that has expanded around the world. Photo submitted

One night at the end of March, Anastasia Chomlack and her family leaned out of the window of their Pemberton home to join in on the nightly 7 p.m. cheers, pot banging, and applause for the community's essential workers.

She looked over at her husband, Chad, and they both welled up with tears.

It hit them: people were sacrificing time with their families to keep the community safe.

As a well-known photographer in the Sea to Sky corridor—and the talent behind the Whistler Wedding Collective—Chomlack was spending a lot of time at home with her two teenage boys thanks to self-isolation orders.

"I thought, 'I'm home getting this extra time with my family—that's one of the benefits of being a non-essential worker—spending time with my teenage boys who would not be spending this much time with me, and my friend, who's a nurse, is missing that on top of everything else,'" Chomlack says.

That's when she got an idea. Inspired by companies whose business models match one-for-one sales with donations, she came up with the ONE for ONE Gratitude Sessions.

Every time a local bought a gift certificate for a photo session, she would gift one to an essential worker (all to be redeemed after self-isolation rules have lifted).

"My goal was to give away 10," she says. "As of now, I've given away 18. I've had to cap it because, as usual, our community has come on board and been overly supportive, which is no surprise."

What was surprising though was how the initiative has organically grown and spread around the world since then.

"That's where the story starts, I think," Chomlack says.

Very quickly, a few local photographers expressed interest—including from the Whistler Wedding Collective. But then a photographer friend in Vancouver posted the idea on a Facebook group.

After that "I was getting hundreds of messages," Chomlack says. "They just kept coming. The only way to track it was to create a Facebook page ... By the weekend it will have 1,000 photographers."

Those photographers are from across North America, but also as far away as Italy, Denmark, and Colombia. While it's been impossible to record all the gifted sessions, they currently have 190 on record that will be offered to essential workers.

Quickly, she created a resource page for them to easily access and recruited Pemberton PR expert, Michelle Leroux, to help.

"For me, the gratitude session was my way to counter that scarcity and fear in the industry—can we be generous at this time?" Chomlack says. "Being generous right now is playing the long game. We have to because the game right in front of us is over."

To that end, it's no secret that photographers—particularly those who shoot weddings—are quickly seeing their incomes evaporate for the foreseeable future.

For Chomlack, helping her counterparts secure some kind of income is also fulfilling. One photographer who's a single mom reached out to her to say she sold three sessions, which meant she could pay her bills and buy food for the month.

"Yes, the initiative is generous in nature, but it also empowers us as photographers to keep our own business afloat," Chomlack said earlier in a release. "There seems to be this idea that you cannot do both. I am here and this is proof to say otherwise! People need to be resourceful and creative during this unprecedented world event. My suggestion is to add this resourcefulness with generosity and kindness. You can't lose."

While Chomlack's sessions are sold out, she's passing along interested clients to four other local photographers (who, in pre-COVID-19 life could be considered competitors): araephotography.com, darbymagill.com, saltandpinephotography.com, and stolenstill.com.

If you're a photographer who wants to find out more about participating visit anastasiaphotography.ca/whistler-family-photography.

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