My first experience with the Nashville Rescue Mission was in the 9th grade—my church group served food to the homeless. It was a humbling experience. I think that’s the first time it hit me how blessed I was. It wasn’t until years later as I’ve photographed people and places around the world that I realized just how blessed I am.
My passion for photography came in 2003 when digital cameras had just hit the market. Prior to that, I worked in graphic design. In 2005, I decided to follow my passion and pursue photography full-time. In the midst of that, a buddy of mine called to ask me if I could fill in for him on a photo shoot at the Mission. I’ve always had a heart for service, so it was easy to say yes.
My assignment that day was to take photographs of the homeless men, women and children who lived at the Mission. That day made an indelible mark on me.
I have two kids: a 4-year-old son named Adler and a 2-year-old daughter named Eisley. My wife and I have been married for 11 years. We met in college at Middle Tennessee State University. Teaching our kids the value of giving back is extremely important to us. After all I’ve seen, I remind our kids we are very blessed. There are many people in this world who do not have a bed to sleep in, or clean clothes on their back or even food to eat.
This is why the Mission means so much to me and so much to this community. Without it, many people in our city would not have food, clothing or shelter.
Since then, I’ve been back to the Mission many times. Whether it’s to take photos or drop off donations, giving back is fulfilling and also addictive. In fact, my time taking photos at the Mission served as the inspiration behind the Help Portrait project. This project is about giving photos, not taking them. It started at the Nashville Rescue Mission and has become a worldwide movement with photographers finding people in need, taking their portrait, printing their portrait and giving them their picture.
Last year, we conducted a test-run event at the Mission and in one day more than 80 homeless men, women and children had their portraits taken, some of whom had never been photographed before.
Serving is something I think most of us have heard about all our lives. But it’s not until you actually do it that you see the value of it. Most of us are seeking fulfillment in our lives. We think it can be found in material things. I’ve discovered that it is in serving others that I find the most fulfillment in life.
It’s an honor to be able to use my gifts for something so much greater than myself.