Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Norris.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Katie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
True story: on our honeymoon, my husband and I decided that we would both pursue entrepreneurship. We dreamed of taking the road less traveled and starting our own businesses, even if that meant leaving secure jobs and completely changing our lives. We come from entrepreneurial families and the drive to pursue a calling is literally in our blood.
Ten years later, I can say that the decision we made has been the most rewarding and challenging journey of my life, and I’m grateful for all the experiences that led me to where I am today. My husband built a business in infusion healthcare and I left a wonderful job as an interior designer to pursue my own professional photography business, which then led me to found Fotolanthropy.
At the beginning and even in the midst of it all, I did not know what was in store for my life, but I have learned that if you follow your calling you will find the path you were made for. My path is to celebrate stories of hope.
Early on, I had a vision and yearning to start a nonprofit like Fotolanthropy, but I needed the courage to make it happen. The courage came when I received a desperate phone call that changed my life. A mother I didn’t know was calling to see if I could urgently photograph her infant son. He had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was about to start treatment.
It was a truly life-altering experience and one that made me understand just how much people need and cling to hope even in the hardest of situations. I decided then to literally merge my photography expertise with my passion for philanthropy, and I founded Fotolanthropy to celebrate stories of hope and the most resilient of people.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Entrepreneurship has stretched me to the core and challenged every part of me. At the same time, it has been the most thrilling journey. When it’s your dream and you believe wholeheartedly in the mission, you will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
When Fotolanthropy first began to take shape, there was so much early learning about organizational infrastructure and fundraising. Many people don’t realize that Fotolanthropy is a nonprofit. We started the organization in 2008 when the economy was fragile. It was a delicate time to raise money and so we got creative.
We thoughtfully created a product line called Fotostrap to help sustain our work. Fotostrap is known for its unconventional leather camera straps and ten percent of every purchase is donated to Fotolanthropy. Our camera straps have grown to become one of our largest donor sources although we still greatly depend on the contributions of generous donors.”
Another challenge I’ve battled personally is fear. When we decided to produce our first feature documentary, “Travis: A Soldier’s Story,” I remember thinking, “How will we pull this off?” I’d never produced a film of that magnitude before and there I was just going for it on a feature-length film about a war hero.
Self-doubt is a terrible thing and it has definitely affected me, but I’m so glad I kept learning and kept going because I know what I would have missed out on. Much of what has inspired me to push through has come from the very families Fotolanthropy documents. These are people who have lived well despite their circumstances. I drew and continue to draw so much strength from them, and want to give my all to bring their stories to life.
Fotolanthropy – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Fotolanthropy is a 501(c)(3) organization that celebrates stories of hope through photography and film. We document the experiences of people who have modeled extreme resilience, helping to raise awareness of a myriad of situations. We’ve told the stories of veterans, adoptive families and those who have battled and defied the odds of rare illness and injuries.
The common thread that all our Fotolanthropy films have is hope. No matter the hardship, disease or issue, the families our films feature kept their eyes fixed on the future and the good. I think there is such a need for content like this right now, and our work resonates with audiences because these are true stories of real-life heroes.
Since our founding, we’ve produced 20 films including our inaugural documentary, “Travis: A Soldier’s Story” about quadruple amputee SSG Travis Mills. I could never have dreamed a more rewarding experience. Travis sacrificed so much for our nation and we got to share his journey of the fight he fought to reclaim his life. We debuted the film here in Dallas at a sold-out premiere and then went on to screen it around the country, including the U.S. Capitol. The documentary is now on Netflix and inspired Travis’ “New York Times” bestselling book, “Tough as They Come.”
In addition to telling these breathtaking stories, part of our Fotolanthropy philosophy is to be a blessing to the individuals and families we document. Photo and film sessions are a part of our production process, and we gift our families with a beautiful album of pictures. These are especially treasured by families whose stories involve loss or perhaps the eventual loss of a loved one. Furthermore, we are about relationships. Our sessions are not one-time events. Families trust in us and we get the privilege of sharing their intimate stories.
Many of our films chronicle Dallas locals and it’s been neat to watch the community rally around them. In 2015, we premiered “The Luckiest Man” about John Paine, a Dallas businessman who was diagnosed with ALS. The way he chose to live intentionally and lean into his faith despite his disease is so encouraging. He’s such an inspiration.
One of the most unique things we do (and also one of my favorites) is hold screenings for our feature-length documentaries. We’ve hosted three sold-out “red carpet” premieres here in Dallas and these special events honor our Fotolanthropy recipients and allow our community to share an evening of inspiring entertainment.
Currently, Fotolanthropy is in production and raising funds for its next feature-length documentary, “7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story.” Chris is an exceptional young man who suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury during a 2010 college football game. He was given just a 3 percent chance to regain feeling below his neck but refused to give up.
Years later, video of Chris walking with his fiancé on his college graduation stage went viral. He had retrained his body, mind, and spirit, and worked so hard to achieve that moment. We’ll be sharing his journey and also at Chris’ April 2018 wedding, where he plans to walk 7 yards down the aisle with his bride…get your kleenex ready!
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
At the Dallas premiere of Fotolanthropy’s first feature documentary – “Travis: A Soldier’s Story” – SSG Travis Mills received a roaring standing ovation. It was a truly poignant experience to look around that theater and see over 500 guests on their feet honoring and celebrating a hero and an exceptional human.
I was standing next to my husband and observed the crowd tearfully giving Travis a standing ovation and I remember thinking, The time, sacrifice, hussle, and work all became worth it in that moment.
- $2500 Donation – Gifts a Portrait Session and Album to a Fotolanthropy Family
- $7000 Donation – Gifts a Short film for a Fotolanthropy Family
- $85 – Fotostrap Camera Strap, shop at www.fotostrap.com 10% of proceeds is donated to Fotolanthropy
- Website: www.fotolanthropy.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/fotolanthropy
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/fotolanthropy
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/fotolanthropy
- Other: www.7yardsfilm.com