Happy Friday, homies! Today, we continue our #FollowFriday series with a spunky lady that is making the world a better and funnier place, one click at a time.
Sandra, owner of SandraChile, is a wedding photographer based in Pittsburgh that specializes in alternative, fun couples who like to do things a little differently.
We had the chance to talk to her about the joy of out-of-the-box (and green!) photos, her experience growing up in Chile, and how she uses her business to give back. This is what she had to say…
How did you get started as a photographer? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I always liked pictures, but when you grow up in a developing country, like I did, being a photographer is not “a thing”.
I went to college for visual communication and when I came to live in the US, photography became a language to explain my friends back home about my new life; pumpkin pies, bonfires, or the concept of a white christmas (all things that we don’t have down there) took a different meaning through my pictures.
Little by little, I became close friends with photography and I developed a business out of it. I suddenly realized that wedding parties and love stories where my favorite. And can you blame me? Partying to celebrate love is always the best!
Tell me more about how you keep your business green and sustainable!
My business has a giant emphasis on ethics and sustainability because I genuinely care about others and the planet.
Photography is not a very green practice on its own. First, consider all the chemicals that come together to coat a picture, album, or photo book, and their residual effects. Then we add the deforestation that takes place to create the paper and packaging: Boxes, tissue papers, paper bags, ribbons, plastic… the list goes on and on! Do you follow me? The impact just one person can have is massive.
Most people don’t know this, but the industry of photographic products can be so toxic that workers can end up with severe skin burns. This issue gets magnified when photographic labs are outsourced to developing countries where safety and sustainability are not a priority.
This is why I am proud to be one of the few photographers in the country who offers exclusively vegetarian and sustainably-sourced products.
When it comes to prints, I have handpicked labs who are environmentally friendly and use plant based inks sourced from locally harvested soybeans. In addition, I do not sell any mass-produced items. Instead, I prefer items made in countries where labor laws are in place to protect workers. In fact, most of the the items I sell are proudly made in the USA, prioritizing collaboration with small business.
What inspired you to be a charitable vendor?
Part of it has to do with the fact that I didn’t have a good upbringing. Not only did I grow up in a poor country that was recently coming out of a dictatorship, with an unstable socio-economical situation, but I also didn’t have a loving and supportive family by my side.
I ended up homeless at the age of 16. I am where I am today mostly because of the compassionate people God put along my life journey.
Growing up like this made me realize that every second can be used to make a difference in someone’s life, and I have chosen to make that difference particularly using my business.
What do you do to give back? What type of charities do you support?
As part of the ethical standards I advocate for, my business donates a percentage of every wedding fee to Too Young To Wed, an organization started by a photographer that creates awareness about forced child marriage. That way, whenever someone books my services, they immediately become participant of this tremendous cause.
If someone cancels a wedding, instead of just walking away, I arrange for a charity photoshoot to take place that day. I ask the couple to send me to any charity organization near where the wedding would have taken place to take pictures for free. So while other vendors take that day as an opportunity to make more money, I make sure we fill that day with happiness.
Lastly, I put together goodie bags that I give away to every homeless person I meet. The bags contain basic travel-sized toiletries, water, and a meal that doesn’t need cooked. The funny thing is that usually I distribute the most bags whenever I’m on my way to shoot a wedding!
What are your favorite wedding photos to shoot?
My favorite wedding pictures are the ones that show raw, real emotions, particularly of people having fun. I strive to capture laughs, funny dances, drunk moments, and all of those awkward situations that other photographers avoid. That is my jam! I believe life is made of stories built around those moments, and as a photographer, nothing makes me happier than the thought of people gathering to enjoy and laugh at a picture I took.
Know a wedding vendor that’s going above and beyond to help others? Leave us a comment and we might feature them next time!