The Right to Smile
It's important for me to use my creative skills in the service of a cause that matters to me.
In 2007, I was approached by a small charity to raise awareness around children's rights in China and Cambodia. They wanted me to be their spokesperson. I felt honored but I thought that pictures would speak much more than any words could. I happened to be going to China and I loved photography. I used to take pictures of my little cousins with an old camera. So I upgraded and bought my first digital camera. l learned how to use it during the trip and came back with a series of photographs ready to be exhibited. This was the fastest transition ever from amateur to pro lol! - except the organization was too small, and I had little knowledge of all the HOW TOs. Galleries were booked up years in advance and there were a lot of other technical challenges but, when the passion is there, and you still have some naïveté, magic happens. Long story short, in 2 months, we knocked on so many doors, and gained some generous partners and sponsors who (the French Bank: Société Générale, Voyages-SNCF, MarkImage, The Bound...) joined forces with us and helped us make it happen.
On Nov. 18th, the universal children's day, in the heart of luxurious Paris, we launched my first exhibition! It was even mentioned in Elle and Metro newspaper. It was supposed to last 10 days, but the positive feedback received encouraged the Bound's owners to extend it to a month. We didn’t raise funds, since we didn’t know how but, we raised awareness and we spread SMILES. That was magical. That was a success!
They would play in the streets, sometimes barefoot, but the smiles they radiated, that freedom of being happy regardless of their living conditions is an invaluable life lesson they gave me each time.
What struck me the most in this adventure is the children. I crossed paths with each of them for just a couple of minutes, in a street of China, Algeria, and even here in the US. They would play in the streets, sometimes barefoot, but the smiles they radiated, that freedom of being happy regardless of their living conditions, and sharing it with me for a split second, allows that moment to enter the eternity of a photograph. Which is an invaluable gift and life lesson they gave me each time.
I am continuing to develop this project, and every time I travel is an opportunity to extend my collection of photographs of children of the world. Ultimately, I hope to have another exhibition and release a book, possibly under the title “The Right to Smile”, to raise awareness (and hopefully funds this time) for underprivileged children, because every child has “The Right to Smile”.