Would you ever travel without a camera?
Step outside of travel, just for a minute: How many photographs do you have of yourself? In family albums, collecting dust in the closet; strewn across the internet, whether on Facebook, Photobucket, Flickr, or one of the countless other photo resources? Some of you proudly call yourselves Shutterbugs. If so, you already have two things in common with Carolyn Lane, founder and president of Dog Meets World, Inc.: a love of travel and of taking photographs.
Dog Meets World has a heart as big as its dream: photographing children across the world, in their own environments, and giving to them printed copies. Dog Meets World seeks to make photo-diplomats of travelers, enabling them—you!—to connect to the people and cultures they visit. To do something so simple, and in the process, make a lifelong impact. All one needs is a camera, a portable printer, and a tiny stuffed dog called Foto.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE DOG?
What I liked the most, while I was looking at the pictures, was how every child had a unique way to hold the dog to express their pride.-Jacky Dorleans Principal, Cite Soleil School, Haiti
Simply put: Foto serves as an icebreaker. An unknown foreigner pointing her camera is indubitably not the most comfortable experience for a child, especially if that child has never had his or her picture taken. Foto, unexpected and adorable, helps to put the child (or adult!) at ease. But, to understand where and how Foto’s importance began, and with him Dog Meets World, one has to track back a few years.
The beginning was unexpectedly simple. Carolyn Lane thought it would be fun to take her dog Foto along when she traveled, and did so by having a little stuffed replica made. She attached him to her backpack, posed him near statues, museums, churches. People young and old got a kick out of “little Foto”, and she made a natural progression to taking their pictures with the dog. Carolyn often encountered incredible solemnity when photographing these people: most, if not all of them had never had their pictures taken, certainly did not own a picture of themselves, and thus, this occasion was momentous—too serious for a smile.
Another easy jump followed: she could give to them pictures of themselves. In this day, with the technology available to us, it would be a cinch. With that revelation, Dog Meets World was born. “Little Foto” does not merely break ice, but as the project’s mascot, unifies. Every photograph has Foto; ambassador and prop, his presence marks the picture as a part of Dog Meets World.
TAKE AND GIVE PHOTOGRAPHY
You will never know just how important that photo will be long after it is taken and given. -Delores Barr Weaver – owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars
In Carolyn’s words: “A picture makes anybody a ‘somebody.’” Affirmation is the goal, an unexpected form of aid for the impoverished. Initially, one might look at this endeavor and wonder, how is this valuable charity? Dog Meets World acknowledges that on Mavlow’s hierarchy of needs, its service contributes to a less essential need, falling within “esteem” or “self-actualization”. However, Dog Meets World has proved that the needs of a human being are not exclusive—those who want for the most basic of physiological needs (food, shelter), also hunger for higher levels of sustenance. It may be difficult for a reader in a developed country to grasp how affirming it is for children and adults to hold and gaze upon photographs of themselves. Food, water, blankets: these donations are of incomparable importance, but how often are charities able to so directly, so personally emphasize and celebrate the human dignity of their subjects?
On the Dog Meets World website, one can find countless stories from those who have participated (it’s easy—you can, too!). A child who received his photo sat apart and stared at it for well over thirty minutes, utterly absorbed. An older man heard of the taking and giving of photographs and stood in line with the children. Photo diplomacy has incredible, largely untapped potential as a communication tool between the developed and undeveloped worlds. One does not simply snap a picture and walk away; one gives back, and a dialogue of mutual recognition opens.
BECOME A PHODOGRAPHER!
Dog Meets World is a wonderful way for travelers of all sort to be engaged with people in the countries they are visiting. There is no better or easier way to make immediate friends in a country…” -Lou Mazzatenta, formerly of National Geographic
Getting involved has never been quite this easy. Donations, of course, are always welcome—only $30 earns you your very own Foto, a stuffed pup that comes with the satisfaction of knowing your money went to good use, and you needn’t even leave your seat. That, however, is not the best part.
Do you travel? For whatever reason: business, student trips, tourism, volunteerism; it doesn’t matter! If you will be visiting the developing world, or places of poverty in the developed world, and judge that in those areas there is little to no personal photography, then you qualify. The equipment to become a phodographer is not free: you will need to purchase Foto as well as a portable printer. The total cost runs between $150-$250. If traveling with a group, split the cost! Once signed as a phodographer, Dog Meets World will assist in brainstorming as to where and how to participate at your destination, but some ideas are given in the F.A.Q.: stop randomly, plan trips to schools, or ask at the hotel regarding need in the area.
In short, there are three basic steps to becoming a phodographer:
2.Purchase Needed Equipment (printer, paper, battery)
3.Review Phodographer Agreement (generosity & safety code)
Let’s add a fourth: 4. Travel! Profit! Learn more about it on the participation page. Think about it—escape the same old tour and the same old sights; open the door to something with lifelong significance. All it takes is a little stuffed dog.