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The Art of Compassion

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Nov. 25, 2008
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With a desire to make a positive change in the world, the Underwood Foundation uses the art of photography for humanitarian efforts.

This new philanthropic organization established itself in the Third Ward's P.H. Dye House in January 2008 under the direction of photographers Thom R. Feroah, Ph.D., Robb Quinn and Larry D'Attilio. The trio circles the globe to help document relief work and share the message of compassion through photographs and photographic essays. These objectives are outlined in the Underwood Foundation's mission statement: "to advance and support humanitarian principles and practices both locally and worldwide through all forms of art… Fine art photography can bridge cultural gaps and diminish perceived differences between individuals and nature. Photography can also effectively document and communicate the work of our health care, education and humanitarian partners. As a result, photography can serve to promote, advance and sustain humanitarian efforts over time."

Feroah and Quinn recently returned from Uganda, where they assisted The Aids Support Organization (TASO). TASO provides education, health care, medicine and support for people struggling through various stages of sickness, including HIV and AIDS. In remote villages the Underwood Foundation trains its volunteers to document TASO's efforts through photographic essays. As project leaders, Feroah and Quinn have aided countries in Africa, while D'Attilio discovered a complementary project in Vietnam.

The Underwood Foundation upholds this mission in an "essence" collaboration with Alverno College. After undergoing special training, professional photographers assist students in acquiring film and photographic skills to document who they are-their "essence." This project provides youth with an avenue of expression and hope.

In a related effort, the Underwood Foundation's "Doll Project" focuses on providing employment for widows and single mothers in rural Peru. Based on children's photographs from Tibet, Peruvian women create hand-knitted dolls available for purchase. These dolls heed the call of children's counselors worldwide who have asked for a larger variety of ethnic images and representations.

Within the space of a year the Underwood Foundation has transformed lives throughout the world. On its informational brochure, the foundation quotes the 14th Dalai Lama: "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive."

This premise will fuel even more projects in 2009. As Quinn explains, "This is not about the photographer, but the subjects, with respect for these people as individuals. … If we can change one person's viewpoint of the world, even in a small way, it makes a difference."

To learn more about the Underwood Foundation, visit theunderwoodfoundation.org.

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