Ripple Effect Images: Telling the Stories of Families and Climate Change

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ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF RIPPLE EFFECT IMAGES

Kathy Swayze has loved photography since high school and has found inspiration in the work of Annie Griffiths, one of the first women to ever shoot for National Geographic. To Swayze, some of the photojournalist’s most moving images have featured women and girls across the developing world.

Kathy Swayze has loved photography since high school and has found inspiration in the work of Annie Griffiths, one of the first women to ever shoot for National Geographic. To Swayze, some of the photojournalist’s most moving images have featured women and girls across the developing world.

By coincidence, kismet, or happenstance—whatever you want to call it—Swayze and the legendary photographer found each other and have since been working together to rally for families living in regions hard hit by climate change.

Griffiths has shot for dozens of historical projects for the National Geographic Society and has covered environmental issues, as well. Several years ago she collaborated with novelist Barbara Kingsolver on a book about North America’s remaining pristine wilderness.

Griffiths also dedicates a part of every year to photographing the work of aid groups. In 2009 she founded the non-profit Ripple Effect Images. It’s a collective of photojournalists who document efforts by organizations that help under-developed communities deal with climate change.

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Swayze, who has fundraised for more than 200 organizations during her career, attended a conference at which the photographer spoke several years ago. Afterward the two women started talking and immediately discovered their professional and personal interests aligned: In addition to fundraising, Swayze has spent the last 15 years helping non-profits tell their stories through her company, Impact Communications, but through writing rather than images.

Though in her teenage years, she thought she was “going to grow up and be a photographer.”

“When I met Annie and found out she was trying to help get these women’s and girls’ stories out to the world so they could attract more resources—and she was coming at this from the angle of a journalist—I just thought we were meant to be together as fellow storytellers,” she says.

They also talked about fundraising, which Griffiths said was one of the hardest parts of running Ripple Effect Images. Last year she appointed the professional fundraiser to the organization’s board.

In the meantime Swayze’s 50th birthday was approaching, and she wanted to honor the occasion in an inventive way. So she launched a Rally for Ripple Effect Images.

“I decided I was going to use my birthday as the platform,” she explains. “I knew that if I did that, friends and family would come through [with gifts], because it was a big occasion.

“In fundraising, we always try to think of a hook. Because I was turning 50, I thought, ‘I’d like to get 50 people to give $50.’ And that really caught on.”

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Establishing her 50th birthday also allowed Swayze to give her donors status reports and let them know how many more contributions she needed to hit her target of $2,500. She credits those email updates with generating most of the gifts.

“I think the biggest driver to my Rally was that I sent emails with links to the [Rally] platform,” she says. “The first time I sent one, I got a slew of gifts. The next time, I got more gifts.”

Swayze also showcased the heartrending images created by Griffiths and her team to encourage donations by putting up a Ripple Effects video on her Rally page.

“The video was really, really powerful. When I posted my updates, I included the video link. It’s a little bit long but it’s totally worth it to watch it. A lot of people commented to me how they were really inspired by it.”

Swayze has raised more than $2,600. She has specified that she wants the contributions to go toward wherever the non-profit needs the most help.

You can find rich, striking photos by the Ripple Effect Images team here and Swayze’s Rally page here.

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