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Photographs that help: Art Prize 2010 Terri Vruggink

/Terri Vruggink

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People all across the world take pictures in order to capture moments they do not want to forget. Weddings, births, graduations, birthdays and holidays, people usually want to capture the good times. Happiness. But what about sadness? Despair? Loneliness? Who would want to photograph these experiences? Terri Vruggink.

Vruggink does not simply take pictures to make money. She feels a personal responsibility to use her work to help express the needs of the world. Terri's ArtPrize entry is a collection of pictures of the desolation in Haiti after the earthquake. “They’re not easy to look at or cheerful, but [they have] a good meaning,” she explains. She took the pictures hoping viewers would be emotionally drawn to the photographs and leave with a desire to help. 

Haiti was hit by a powerful earth quake in January 2010. It's estimated that three million people were affected by the earthquake and 230,000 of those people died.  Others were injured or left without homes. Countries all across the world reacted by giving money or sending the Red Cross to aid the survivors. However, Haiti is no where near healed. It will take years to put it back together. Through her work, Terri hopes onlookers who can help will be inspired to do so.

Terri Vruggink is a self taught photographer. With only one photography class in high school, she began her photography career by taking pictures of her children. Noting talent in her work, people around her started asking her to take pictures of their kids and it was from that her photography business was born. She takes pictures of families and also seniors in need of senior pictures.

She also makes sure there is more behind her business. She believes in using one's natural abilities to help the world. “If I was a doctor I would be over there helping in that way,” she explains. “It's my job to help." Her "help" as a photographer is to capture the desolation that is heavily prevalent in third world countries.

About once a year, she travels to document the need that is present around the world. Specifically, she takes pictures for non profit organizations so they can use those photographs to inspire people to help. Partnered with the non profit organization Mission Possible, Terri went to Haiti right in the aftermath of the earth quake to capture some of the photos that she entered in art prize.

She selected nine of these photos to display on 16x20 canvas wraps. The photographs illustrate a mix of people, people fleeing the city and its crumbling buildings. This fit Fountain Street Church’s art prize theme of “human shelter.” She feels the display really conveys a good balance of need and hope, which is what she goes for.

Where does Terri get her desire to use her talent to help the world? There was no specific defining moment that made her decide. “I was an orphan and a teenage single mom, so I had a good grasp of people in tough situations. It comes naturally to me,” she explains. “ I feel like there is a lot of need in the world and we as Americans can help financially but that only works if we are emotionally connected, which is where I come in.”


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I enjoyed your article Ashley. Just for clarification though, I was already in Haiti taking photos for the mission when the earthquake struck. I am happy to have lived through it but saddened for those that were not as fortunate.Ter