Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Andrew Babcock - ROC Wheels

I met Andrew Babcock last Thursday for my first portrait in my new series. Although I've tossed around a few ideas for a title of this series, none have stuck. As with all my projects, I believe this one will become more narrowly focused as it progresses. For now, I'm simply seeking people in Bozeman, MT who are doing cool or interesting things that make a difference.

Andrew is the Executive Director of ROC Wheels in Bozeman, MT. Prior to the suggestion from a friend to photograph someone at ROC Wheels for my project, I had not heard of the organization. After checking out their website, I got really excited about the work they're doing. They not only assemble and provide wheelchairs for children (or very small adults) in developing countries, they also include educating the public and the recipients in their mission. The pediatric wheelchairs are specifically designed to be durable in the countries they serve. By providing the Bozeman community with the opportunity to volunteer as wheelchair assemblers, ROC Wheels educates the volunteers and also gives them a sense of ownership in the process of helping others by providing mobility.

ROC Wheels was started by Wayne and Lee Ann Hanson who began with the idea of Kid Kart and prototypes of jogging strollers. Kid Kart grew quickly due to demand from parents and therapists to best serve the needs of their children. The company was then sold to Sunrise Medical where Wayne worked in R&D. Eventually, he would found ROC Wheels with the focus of designing & distributing pediatric wheelchairs for children in developing countries.

Andrew, who when asked what his job responsibilities are smiled and said "everything", earned a business degree at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. After graduating, he moved to Montana and spent time as a self-professed "ski and fishing bum" and enjoying outdoor life in this beautiful state. He eventually felt a gnawing desire to do something more with his life...something that would allow him to help people and in his own words, "get back to using my brain". After searching for the right position, he settled in as Executive Director at ROC Wheels six years ago. Andrew does everything from working with volunteer groups to visiting the current manufacturing facility in Morocco (and later this year, the facility in Iraq), to working with their established networks in the developing countries they serve. According to Andrew, coordinating a wheelchair distribution can take 8-12 months. A team of 6-20 volunteers (and very rarely more than two staff people) spend 8-14 days traveling to remote areas to custom fit 20-40 people each day. The actual amount of mobility products distributed during this trip can range from 100-400, depending on the need in the area and the available funding.

©2011, Leslie McDaniel

©2011, Leslie McDaniel
The two portraits above obviously have a very different feel to them. In the top one, I wanted to express Andrew's passion for his work and for helping people. Therefore, I directed the light onto his face with a 10° grid over the strobe. I'm still deciding if I like the resulting effect and shadows. For the second image, I wanted to create a a confident feel with Andrew's stance and the camera angle. I chose to use a 60" umbrella on this photograph in order to light more of the background. Working in a warehouse type setting where some of the wheelchair assembly occurs did have its challenges but I'm fairly happy with these photographs.

After photographing Andrew on Thursday last week, I came across a little card on Saturday that said "Make your career matter." That's exactly what I'm trying to do and it's what brought Andrew into this type of work. 

How do you make your career matter?

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