Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to connect with one of our Studio photographers that had shot a campaign for a 500px Studio client. The campaign itself was to promote positivity and growth amongst the youth in Sandyhook, Connecticut, however, the message behind the campaign is far reaching.
Scarlett Lewis is the mother of 6 year old Jesse Lewis, who lost his life in the Sandy Hook tragedy. She created the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, working with youth groups to teach compassion and to choose love. Her program is a free, educational curriculum that has reached over 500 classrooms, 50 States, 45 Countries and counting!
This program promotes courage, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion within schools and is being recognized as an essential part of growth in todays youth groups. In 2016, Scarlett launched her GoFundMe campaign to raise money for continued research and development of this program and has raised over $20, 000.
We reached out to Roger Sieber, a local photographer in Sandy Hook to capture Scarlett's campaign photos and he left us wanting more! We contacted him after the shoot had been completed to learn about the guy behind the camera.
Roger Sieber, a 26 year-old filmmaker & photographer from Sandy Hook, CT, was first introduced to film photography in school during a 35mm darkroom class. Through a series of random opportunities and luck he was able to turn his interest into a career, working in both video and photography. While he loves surrounding himself with nature and the great outdoors, he is most passionate about his work when he is photographing people, saying that;
"I love candid portraits, so in an ideal scenario I would spend the rest of my career photographing people in lifestyle settings through a documentary-style approach. I'm a bit obsessed with natural light and composition, so as long as I can exercise one or both of those things I'm usually pretty stoked to be shooting. I'm also extremely inspired by the work of Dan Tom, Jaime Hawkesworth, and Colin Dogson among many others."
For everyone the Studio team, it was easy to see Roger's attention to detail in his photos. The portraits he took of Scarlett were expertly composed, using natural light that helped to create a dynamic series. We asked him to tell us about what he loved about working on this assignment and with Scarlett and helping tell her story:
For me, this was the exact type of assignment I could spend the rest of my life doing. Being able to document a subject in their daily life in a relaxed environment was a dream come true and I ended up walking away with a batch of images that I've never been more proud of. Scarlett was such a pleasure to be around and one of the nicest people I've ever met. After wrapping up the shoot, she took me out on her boat for sunset and offered to have me over for dinner afterwards, a true testament to the kind of person she is. A few minutes after meeting her at the school on Day 1, she was instantly bombarded with hugs and autograph requests from all the students she works with on their last day of school. You would have thought Barack Obama had just walked into the room because it was something I've never seen before, the love they have for her is overwhelmingly genuine and refreshing to witness. After spending so much quality time with her at the farm and her beautiful home I feel like I walked away from this experience with a great friendship. I'll never forget the conversations I had with Scarlett, and feel honored to have spent the time getting to know her.
Since I grew up in Sandy Hook (down the street from Scarlett's house none-the-less), and was a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School, this story was extremely personal to me and I couldn't be more appreciative that it ended up in my hands. Still not sure how that coincidentally happened, but there's this saying "never look a gift-horse in the mouth" so I'm trying not to look into it too much. I look forward to seeing Scarlett succeed with the incredibly important work she's doing in memory of her son Jesse.
I loved my experience with 500px Studio. The whole team wasted no time getting me everything I needed in order to facilitate the production. Scheduling was flexible, my contacts were amazingly helpful, and I felt like I had a solid team working behind-the-scenes to help me focus on my creative role as the photographer. That aspect is ideal for creative professionals and doesn't happen often enough, so needless to say I finished the experience feeling very appreciative. At the end of the project, the upload page was easy to use and simple enough to navigate after a long day of edits. If there's one thing that might have made the process better it would have been for a little bit more time after the shoot to work on my edits. Since we were shooting for 2 full days, I had tons of final images that all needed a lot of hands-on time in post, so at points I felt like it was a mad dash to the finish and I didn't have a chance to do a proper second-pass on the colours. Having one more day to look at the final batch after my eyes adjusted and make any tweaks etc. would have been great, but not entirely necessary. That was likely a single instance dependent on the client's specific turnaround time. Also, the budget for this particular assignment did seem quite low based on what I've experienced in the past, so I'm hoping that other assignments with larger budgets might be able to offer a bit more pay to the photographers. Regardless, I would absolutely recommend 500px Studio to my colleagues/friends and wouldn't hesitate to do more assignments in the future.
To see more by Roger Sieber, you can find him on instagram at @rogersieber or his website www.rogersieber.com.
To learn more about Scarlett, her GoFundMe Campaign and how you can help, click here