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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 board games 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 her Indiegogo page, I wanted to learn more about the project. So I reached out to Leela Orr. What follows is the interview that came as a result.
Hi Leela, thanks for being here! Your photos are beautiful. Why are you so passionate about photography?
I find photography very rewarding. Especially 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 a greater appreciation for nature.
Assisting others through photography is one of my motto’s. I love learning, exploring different cultures, nature, and hiking. There’s no better way to share my passion than through photography.
How Did This Love of Photography Start?
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, let talk more about your latest 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 its 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 to create a photo book about 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. That was 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 Indiegogo funds will go to publishing 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 health 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 number of books sold.
Your future support of mental health projects is inspiring, Leela. I’m wondering, why did you choose to use Indiegogo for fundraising?
I choose Indiegogo because they allow flexible funding. That means 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 publish 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 its residents.
Historic trails and buildings are links to our past. When the buildings disappear and trails erode it’s like losing part of the story. Photography is recording history. If it can further be used for fundraising, that’s a bonus.
Find out how to get professional-looking photos with your smartphone in this guide.
Are there ways people can help with the book project, in addition to giving money?
Fundraising on Indiegogo goes 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 anyone 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, another option is to pay via my email. Encourage book shops they know to carry it too.
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, encourages an individual or company to match her $2,500 donation.
As Leela mentioned in her interview, the Indiegogo campaign goes on 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. It will feature her Fogo Island book, as well as photo cards and images of birds, people, cultures, and more. She also makes a wide variety of jewelry, including wax cast sterling rings and pendants.