Phillip and Eileen Blume – Giving Back And Making It Personal!
Meet The Blumes!
After eight years and a lot of success as photographers and filmmakers, Eileen and I (“The Blumes”) have learned one thing: Nothing is as it seems. It’s true in life. And it’s doubly true if you take a look behind the scenes at any so-called “rockstar” in our industry.
At home in rural Georgia, where we ambitiously work to keep our sink cleared and laundry sorted, we’re mild-mannered parents to three little rascals. So on the road, we’re humbled at how many photographer-students approach us with the misperception that we have it “all figured out.” Yes, we have experience and a reputation (not that we fully deserve it) for smart work-life balance. But no journey worth taking is easy. It’s hard. Here’s our story, and how our choice to give back changed our lives.
I felt unstoppable in the early months after Eileen and I married, formed Blume Photography, and began to pursue our dream as full-time wedding photographers. That year quickly turned into a nightmare.
Work consumed our time and relationships, our debt grew, and stress affected our health. Then for one wonderful moment all our cares faded. We learned Eileen was pregnant—a dream come true for us. Further into the pregnancy, we lost our precious baby to miscarriage.
Suddenly our struggling business didn’t matter as much. The tragedy had reminded us that life is sacred and brief. It was time to refocus our lives on what really mattered to us. So when a friend reached out and asked us to create a short video to help children in one of the world’s most dangerous slums, Zone 18 in Guatemala City, it was an easy choice.
Taking A Leap.
We emptied our meager savings, purchased our first DSLR video camera (video wasn’t just built-in to every camera back then), and had just three days before our flight to try our hand at video for the first time. Next thing we knew, we were flying to Zone 18 “Paradise,” a sprawling urban gangland where even police stayed out.
A new dream.
We had no idea how inspiring the story of these ambitious young boys, who fight to survive in the slum but who dream of doing more with their lives, would be! We filmed Engadi, a little-known organization that was working in the neighborhoods to change the future for these boys. After we returned home and began learning to edit, our intended four-minute promotional video had transformed into a feature-length documentary film. In 2012, Lost Boys of Paradise (bit.ly/blume_lostboys) toured film festivals, churches, and universities in over 30 states. The compelling story—and not our amateur videography effort—helped the project succeed, in support of Engadi’s goal to provide safe homes and education to “lost boys.”
A Dream Realized.
The story doesn’t end with a film tour. It continues today with boys who are becoming men, ambitiously pursuing higher education and returning to improve their city’s bad situation. It continues with a screenwriter and director, Matt Chastain (much more talented than I), who saw our documentary and included parts of our story in his new script—a movie coming to theaters nationwide, which will also support the boys whom Eileen and I continue to work with in Guatemala. (Look out for it later this year! I was even honored with a cameo role in the movie.. which may have been Chastain’s one bad call.)
It continues in ways that strengthen the visibility of our own business, like the chance we got to give this TEDx Talk to talk about “everyone’s inner artists” and the power of making a “selfless selfie.”
Define Your Vision.
How about you? Think of a cause that means something personal to you! Or even more introspectively, What do you want your life to be about? We contemplated these questions for a long time and then asked, “Why can’t we make our business about the same thing?”
We still photograph and—thanks to the skills we learned from personal projects—film weddings around the world. I think we do a good job. But I attribute all our success to the fact that we finally defined a Vision for our business clearly. The clients we want to work with are able to relate to us through our Vision. Our Vision determines how we make so many important decisions for our increasing number of brands—Blume Photography as well as ComeUnity Workshops, Eve&Ever Photography, Blume Babies, a physical studio in our hometown, and more in the works. Our Vision keeps me motivated and is ultimately responsible for our official “fastest-growing business” title. More importantly, it empowers our young family to live more meaningfully. Take it from us, your dreams are absolutely attainable. But none of us gets there alone.
We’re blessed now to empower so many fellow dreamers, and we do it because we finally realize how much bigger our impact on the world is when we come together!
I think so many photographers burn out because we approach work too much as a road to fame and fortune. If everything we do is for profit and prestige, we don’t know what we’re missing! Life is bigger than that. You never see a hearse towing a U-Haul trailer, you know what I mean? For Eileen and me, it comes down to human dignity and a good God—all of which demands we live for something more meaningful. Personal projects allow us to do that. As artists, we all have a unique power to communicate and influence the world for real change. Let’s turn our cameras on those whose stories deserve to be told, and let’s change it!
Find Out More!
To learn more from the Blumes, go inside their exclusive (and free!) community for online education, ComeUnity.