Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Zave Smith

The Unphotographed
by Zave Smith, 1 Oct 2010

Exuberant and poignant, philosophical and passionate, Zave Smith's photographs capture the tangible pleasures and tactile experiences of life in close-up. Raised and trained in the Midwest, now working out of Philadelphia and New York, Zave has a special feeling for personality that suffuses his work.


Go to any school play or sit on the sidelines of Saturday morning soccer and you will see more cameras and camcorders then the White House Press Room. These snapshots are destined to fill family albums, spill out of kitchen drawers and decorate the entryways of homes across America.

Families who are fighting for their kids lives do not have the energy to bring cameras to the hospital and record Sara lying in bed. Flashes of Hope is a newer organization based in Canton, Ohio, whose mission is to go into the cancer wards of children's hospitals and create photographs of these young patients. These portraits are then given "gratis" to the children's families. After all, at the end of the day, kids with cancer are just kids. They are beautiful, cute, and full of hope and promise. These are the kids whose faces have the power to remind us why we are all here.

The Unphotographed

RainTree Children and Family Services is a social service organization based in New Orleans. They help arrange foster care, adoption services, after school programming and provide a group home for teenage girls who need a safe harbor. In this time of government cutbacks, trying to keep an organization like RainTree going is a huge challenge. In post Katrina New Orleans, this challenge has become a Herculean task.

Through the offices of my friend, Richard Cardona and the Create-A-Thon I found myself spending a recent Sunday afternoon at RainTree. I was there to create a cover for a brochure. Since you cannot photograph foster kids for promotional brochures I had a couple of cute, "employee" kids to model for us. After the shoot, which was watched very closely by the six teenage girls who currently live at RainTree the director told me how foster kids seldom have pictures of themselves.

The Unphotographed

Just like with "Flashes of Hope", I decided spend the rest of the day creating portraits of these unphotographed girls. These images were made not to "sell" but to share. And like the portraits from Flashes of Hope, these pictures will fill an empty spot on the kid's bedroom walls. For at the end of the day, foster kids are also just kids with all the energy and hope of tomorrow.

While I get a huge kick out of creating photography for advertising and I love seeing my images spread across the pages of magazines. And believe me I love the checks that I received for doing this work. There is a special joy in photographing the Unphotographed. Models know how to flash for the camera and create smiles that sell a million items. But capturing a smile emerging from the shy faces of those we seldom see is a challenge and a real pleasure.

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