I love meeting new people, especially women who want to make the world a better place. When I recently met Leela Orr at a local boardgames event, we chatted about our careers and were excited to learn we both were in creative fields. Leela told me about her Indiegogo campaign to help publish her photography book A Glimpse into the Beauty of Fogo Island. After exploring the Indiegogo link, I wanted to learn more about the project. Here is my interview with Leela Orr that came about as a result.
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Interview with Photographer Leila Orr
Hi Leela! Have you always been interested in photography? Please tell us a bit about this particular passion of yours.
I find photography very rewarding when I see how my photos evoke emotions as the artistic nature of the content touches the senses of the viewers. Then I know waiting hours and days for just the right light or situation was worth it.
Photography also allows me to be in the moment and to see more beauty in my surroundings and to have greater appreciation for nature.
Assisting others through photography is one of my mottos. I love learning, exploring different cultures, nature, and hiking. There’s no better way to share my passion than through photography. I’ve lived, worked and traveled in over 30 countries with a career in international community development and now photography allows me to explore from a different perspective. My most recent goal is to use all my photography as a fundraiser for various organizations.
I started photography a number of years ago. My ex-partner had purchased a lot of camera equipment and then never used it. At the same time, I thought so many wedding albums were boring “all the same posed photos” so I started taking creative wedding pictures for friends and putting them in albums for a gift. It soon became a business.
That was a risk! Weddings are only for a few hours, the photos have to turn out! I’m lucky they always did. After a couple of years, I needed more stimulation for my hobby/extra work and wanted to spend more time outdoors in my free time. Doing photography in nature is like a meditation, I am totally in the moment.
I love your comparison of photography to meditation. Now, regarding your most recent project, where exactly is Fogo Island?
Fogo Island is the largest offshore island of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is situated off the northeast coast of Newfoundland. One of it’s towns, Tilting, is known as the oldest Irish Settlement in Canada and in 2003 was designated a Registered Heritage District. It is also known as one of the country’s best-preserved collections of structures associated with the fishery and early farming in Newfoundland and Labrador.
How did the idea for publishing the book A Glimpse into the Beauty of Fogo Island come to you?
My idea to publish a pictorial book of Fogo Island with the goal of selling it to raise funds for mental health projects and heritage projects on the island started in 2015 when I was selected for the international artist-in-residence program. My placement was located in Tilting.
I soon realized the island was a feast for a photographer: the seascapes, landscapes, flora, fauna, the communities. In 2016 I returned on my own accord for 4 months to become more familiar with the communities and to continue photographing for the book.
What will the funds raised by the Indiegogo campaign go toward?
All of the funds raised on Indiegogo will go towards the publication of the book, from layout and design, to proofing, the printer’s prep costs, and the printing and binding of the book. The more I raise, the more books I can print as they are progressively less expensive the larger number you print.
When the books are sold is when profits will go towards mental wellness projects such as the Victoria Wellness Clinic and The Nature Conservancy of Canada, maintaining heritage trails and other mental wellness programs to be identified pending the amount of books sold.
Your future support of mental wellness projects is inspiring, Leela. I’m wondering, why did you choose to use Indiegogo for fundraising?
I choose Indiegogo because they allowed flexible funding meaning I can keep what I raise and put it towards the project. Another great site I just heard about is chuffed.org.
Are you close to publishing the book?
The book will be published at the beginning of July.
How exciting! What do you hope to achieve by publishing this pictorial book about Fogo Island and its people?
I think heritage is so important. It links us with our past and helps us understand our roots. My childhood town of Swan River, MB contains a “Heritage Village Museum” which first inspired me to be interested. However, on Fogo Island, much of the originality has been maintained: unspoiled nature, root cellars, heritage buildings and the generous hospitality and welcoming nature of it’s residents.
Historic trails and buildings are links to our past. When the buildings disappear and trails erode it’s like losing part of story. Photography is a recording history. If it can further be used to fundraise, that’s a plus.
Are there ways people can help with the book project, in addition to giving money?
Fundraising on Indiegogo is in effect until April 20, 2017. After that people can still contribute directly (or I may start another campaign on Indiegogo or Chuffed). If folks want to share it on social media that would be great, or send me names and contact info of folks they know who would support my campaign (if they can’t contact them directly).
I’m going to Newfoundland to promote the book and put it in stores, lots of footwork, if folks want to donate air miles that would be a plus to help with my out-of-pocket expenses.
People can order the book in advance by contributing on site or if they just want to purchase it, paying in advance via my email is another way. Encourage book shops they know to carry it too.
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Updates on the Fogo Island Book Project
Leela Orr has given me some exciting updates since the interview! Renowned artist and naturalist Robert Bateman is writing a foreword for the book. Also, Susan Bloom of Clayoquot Island Preserve, British Columbia, is encouraging an individual or company to match her committed donation of $2,500.
As Leela mentioned in her interview, the Indiegogo campaign goes until April 20, 2017. Sharing the book’s campaign link (included at the top of this post) on social media or with your connections is also helpful, as is donating Air Miles to Leela to help with her upcoming trip to Newfoundland to promote A Glimpse into the Beauty of Fogo Island. You can also email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch for Leela’s upcoming website too, which will feature her book as well as her photo cards and images for sale (birds, people, cultures, etc.). Or, if you want to have her email you when it’s up and running, be sure to contact her via email (see previous paragraph) and let her know. She also makes a wide variety of jewellery, including wax cast sterling rings and pendants, as well as carved jewellery from naturally shed antlers that she gathered from her farm when herds of elk lived in the meadows and forest.