Maker Monday: 'Photos for Freedom' Brings Freedom with Photos

Michelle Lillywhite and Paloma Ramsey—photographers, entrepreneurs, partners with displaced Iraqi women

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. The nuances of the eye. The posture of the body. The tenor of the smile, or lack of it. We herald who we are and what we are about without even opening our mouths to speak. 

As professional photographers, Michelle Lillywhite (left) and Paloma Ramsey (right), are capturing moments in time as well as casting light over what may generally live in shadow. They are doing it beautifully and with purpose.

When Michelle read about the plight of Iraqi refugees via Ann Voskamp’s blog, she says, “Hearing about all that ISIS was doing, I felt absolutely helpless and so saddened by the situation. I wanted to help but did not know of any tangible ways to give.” 

In another part of San Diego, California, Paloma, was feeling equally convicted by the same post. 

“I was literally in a puddle of my own tears. I’m a sensitive person, but I’m not often completely overtaken by the weight of a particular issue. But reading about mothers who barely made it out alive, children who were taken and forced into such a horrible reality, and then looking around at my comfortable apartment in a safe area where my struggles are so light in just crashed down like a million pounds. I instantly felt so lucky, and for what reason? Why was I safe when so many others are not? How could I ever have a hard time praising God for His goodness when my grief seemed so small now? And what in the world could I do to make any difference?

Photos for Freedom logo, designed by Sarah Govea.

Sometimes the means are right next to us as these professional artists found out. 

“Then it clicked. I could use my talents, and do what I would be doing anyways, and donate the money to Preemptive Love Coalition. I could use my talents to help an Iraqi refugee woman use her own; I could use the freedom I have to be a female entrepreneur to give an Iraqi woman the same freedom,” says Paloma.

Mini photo shoots seemed the best way to raise awareness and funds, said Michelle. In fact, she has seen other photographers fund raise successfully this way. It is more affordable and flexible, allowing you to manage multiple shoots in one day. 

“When I first felt called to step out with my passion,” says Michelle, “I texted Paloma and told her my heart was feeling burdened but I wanted a friend to step out with and pray with. We knew that we wanted a logo for it since social media is so powerful. My friend Sarah Govea (who is an amazing graphic designer) designed the Photos for Freedom logo for us. We also had a talented florist (Faith Blooms) plus a super sweet makeup artist (Make Me Up Summer) on the team in case our clients wanted to have some little extras.” 

Portraits by Paloma Lisa Photography.

Michelle and Paloma made three small business loans for Iraqi women their goal for the project and began advertising across social media platforms. Many people posted and re-posted the Photos for Freedom logo, taking the name and mission of PLC across the internet. 

From their web presence and word of mouth, the women were able to book two photo shoots and garner more donations. At first the low number of sessions was disappointing, “but I know that what matters most is that my heart was moved to act, and hopefully others were inspired to do what they can as well,” says Paloma. 

Michelle shares Paloma’s perspective. “We started out with the goal of empowering three women to start their own businesses, but were only able to raise the funds for one. I felt that even though we were only able to meet part of our goal, that God would multiply our efforts through awareness and challenging others in our communities to make a difference in their own ways.

Michelle Lillywhite of Lillywhite Photography not only makes beautiful portraits, but she is also giving displaced Iraqi women the chance to start their own businesses.

Michelle Lillywhite of Lillywhite Photography makes beautiful portraits while she gives displaced Iraqi women the chance to start businesses of their own.

Even though their goal was not realized, the experience of sharing their skills in a tangible, world-changing way is continuing to call them forward. They hope to book five more shoots between now and winter, with the goal of granting one more woman a small business loan. 

“I think that sometimes people feel a cause is so monumental, that there isn't anything they could possibly do to help. I loved breaking down that stigma in my own heart and hope that others are empowered to know they can make a difference. Every step of faith is so worth it. Pick some people in your community, and rally together to help,” says Michelle.

Through the Photos for Freedom project, Paloma and Michelle are capturing the beauty of love not only in their clients but also the way that, that love is wrapping its arms around the world.  It is a masterpiece that is breathtaking. 

Without love, nothing else matters. No trust can be built, no change can happen, no help can be offered, no relief can be found...without love. Love is the catalyst for any and all good,” reflects Paloma

Seeing each other’s faces in photographs and recognizing in them ourselves promotes freedom for all people. 

Paloma and Michelle your art is worth more than a thousand words. Thank you.

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Maker Monday: 'Photos for Freedom' Brings Freedom with Photos
Maker Monday: 'Photos for Freedom' Brings Freedom with Photos
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