Growing up on a tree-lined Minnesota street called Lynn Avenue, my neighborhood buds included a sweet little boy – blond as could be with a heart of gold – named Tom Griggs (I stole this pic from his FB page – too cute!).
My mom still talks about the time he left a May basket on our doorstep back in kindergarten because she thought it was so sweet. And as I write this, I’m suddenly recalling Tom was the very first boy I danced with – at somebody’s Bar Mitzvah party in junior high. Wow. I can see myself in that very moment – swaying to an 80s tune in a dimly-lit hotel party room. I remember feeling relieved that he was an old and kind-hearted friend, which allowed me to have that first boy-girl dance free of sweaty palms and nervous giggles.
I think we all knew on some level – even back then – that Tom was destined to make a difference. It was pretty obvious he had that special something – a flickering spark inside – that would guide him to take the road less traveled and do good along the way. It’s no surprise that little guy in the Spider-Man shirt has traveled the world, received awards and accolades for his art and photography, lives in Colombia (a far cry from Lynn Avenue!) and has found a way to help other artists prepare for their great life adventures.
Last week, Tom launched a brilliant site called Fototazo. Its mission is to highlight and raise funds for young, emerging photographers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. As a photography teacher at the university in Medellin, Colombia, Tom sees firsthand how a lack of proper equipment holds his students back from reaching their full potential. He says a combination of incredibly low wages and importation taxes on camera equipment make a photography career an impossible dream for many.
But rather than just shake his head and shrug his shoulders, Tom’s doing something about it with the launch of Fototazo. When I asked him why, he wrote, “Personally, the site combines a passion for photography with the belief that I need to be doing something for the world beyond myself.” Awesome.
His first microgrant recipient will be 24-year-old Oscar Ulloa, who took the photos above with a compact point-and-shoot digital camera. He clearly has an eye – imagine what he could do with the right camera! Right now, you can donate any amount to help Oscar reach his $650 microgrant goal. What a great and easy way to support another’s creative dreams!
Tom hopes these microgrants will give new voice to a community of artists who haven’t yet had a chance to tell us their stories and share their views through the lens of a camera. “We will learn more about the world,” Tom says, “and have our vision broadened by the work of those we support as photographers through the site.”
I’m so happy I can do my small part to help an old friend and spread the word about Fototazo. I know many of you readers are artists, photographers, writers and daydream believers…so I hope you’ll all check it out and pass it along to others!