The following segment aired on “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime Television. Joining the show was Lew Lautin to discuss his photography project geared toward raising awareness for the homeless.
The Balancing Act Host 1: Hi there, good morning, everybody. I’m Danielle Knox, it’s Friday, January 13, 2012, coming up on the show this morning, a story of giving in the simplest way. We’ll show you how a photographer’s amazing pictures of the homeless is changing lives and communities. Also ahead this morning, dry eye: a look at the symptoms and remedies with a doctor and a patient who suffers from this often overlooked disease. Also, they’re back—our friends from SeaWorld are here! Get ready to see some exotic animals and, of course, those two adorable penguins who can’t travel without each other, Pete and Penny are here in the house this morning. We talked about the photographer who is giving his time to the homeless and that inspired The Balancing Act’s daily question today: “Have you ever volunteered with a charity organization?” We would love to hear from you on this one so you can vote by calling us at 855-3balanc, that’s 855-322-5262. Press one for yes and two for no, stay right where you are, “The Balancing Act” starts right now.
The Balancing Act: Host 2: Well, he has a passion for people and a skill for photography. Combine the two and you get a wonderful undertaking by my next guest to take on a new project that not only helps the community but is impacting lives of just so many people in such a positive way. I am so happy to welcome to the show this morning, photographer, Lew Lautin. Good morning to you, Lew, good to see you.
Lautin: Good morning, thanks for having me here.
The Balancing Act: I love what you’re doing because I think what happens is many people will drive or walk past the homeless and see them but not really see them and so, talk about what you’re doing in your community and where the idea for this came from.
Lautin: I got a call around two and a half years ago from Marti Foreman who’s the executive director of lifenet4families and she asked if I would shoot a video for their twenty-fifth anniversary and I said “Sure,” and I went down to the lifenet4families center and I immediately fell in love with the people there in a very unusual situation. They’re homeless, they’re near homeless, they live on the streets and they go there for a meal or a shower or some help or some tutoring or some financial help. After I spoke to Marti about doing the video, I said, “Can I bring my cameras back and can I bring my studio lights in?” I started going every week bringing my camera and these big studio lights and sitting down with the clients there and I started taking pictures of them and then the following week I’d bring them back copies.
The Balancing Act: Aww, how do you make a project like this a success and really make a difference in their lives because, you know, they feel like, “Oh, here I am, I’m homeless, nobody cares.” How do you insure that somebody cares?
Lautin: I think there are two aspects of that. The first is when I go back the next week and I bring them copies, I’ve handed pictures to people and they say I’m going to send this to my mother.
The Balancing Act: They say that to you, they’re going to send, ohhh?
Lautin: Yes, “she hasn’t seen a picture of me for two or three years.” And the other aspect of it is to sit down with somebody who’s homeless or near homeless, big studio lights, make them feel like a CEO, make them feel somebody, like they’re important ,and spend fifteen or twenty minutes with them, engaging them in dialogue, if they wish. Some don’t wish to engage in dialogue. Make them feel important; make them feel like somebody cares, ten or fifteen minutes.
The Balancing Act: Oh, that just touches my heart and when you take these pictures, what happens to them afterwards. I know that you give them to them and they send them to their friends and family and then, is there something else that you do with the pictures, as well?
Lautin: Yes, I also volunteer at Boca Helping Hand to take pictures there of their clients and when you walk into Boca Helping Hands, there are big portraits around fifteen/twenty people I’ve taken pictures of and for lifenet4families. Whenever they have a big event, I provide blown up pictures for them and it shows the community that these are real people, these are people who are suffering, and these are people who need help. A lot of these people were donating to places like lifenet and Boca Helping Hands a year or two or three ago and, unfortunately, they’re not in a position today to help and they need some help.
The Balancing Act: Absolutely and I think with the economy and the recession and everything that’s going on, that is such a true statement. When you talk about the response that your photography receives, not just for maybe other people who see it but also from the homeless that you’re taking pictures of, what do you think this does to them, kind of emotionally?
Lautin: I think it’s a whole gamut of emotions. Some of them feel sad seeing pictures of themselves in the situation they’re at, some of them feel elated, and some of them feel very good about how they look. So it’s a whole gamut of emotions that’s out there, just like the homeless population or the near homeless population, but they are a people; they’re our neighbors, our brothers, our sisters.
The Balancing Act: I think that is the resonating point. They are people, and you, as a person, have accomplished so much as a photographer. I know you’ve worked a lot with the fine art photography. Your work has sold for really high prices. I mean, you’ve accomplished a lot in your career. How does this project differ?
Lautin: This project differs on the emotional gut level. You’re sitting down with people who need help; you’re sitting down with people who don’t get respect, people just walk by them and ignore them. If I can touch one person and make them feel important, make them feel loved, wow!
The Balancing Act: Yeah, you know, I was telling you that I encountered a homeless man the other day and had given him money and didn’t know his back history or his story but everybody has a story, right, everybody has a history?
Lautin: I just did a composite of six homeless heads with the constitution of the United States behind them and that was just shown at ArtServe and the last person on the right died six months ago and I’ll get a call from lifenet: do I have a picture of somebody.
The Balancing Act: Oh, my goodness.
Lautin: For a memorial.
The Balancing Act: Let me ask you this with just about thirty seconds here left: what do you want your photography to do, what is the take away, what would you like viewers who are watching to take away?
Lautin: I would like viewers to go to their phone right now, figure out how they can help, how they can help people who need help desperately, how they can volunteer—whether it’s at a soup kitchen, whether it’s volunteering at a hospital, whether it’s mentoring, whether it’s Women in Distress or Meals on Wheels, Trash to Treasure—help. You have the ability to do something, you have the ability to make a difference in somebody’s life, it’s never too late.
The Balancing Act: It’s never too late and also, I think what people tend to think is somebody else is going to do it.
Lautin: You do it; you do it today. Pick up the phone and do it.
The Balancing Act: Absolutely, Lew Lautin, great interview, thank you so much for coming by this morning.
Lautin: Thank you so much for having me.
The Balancing Act: And if you’d like more information in terms of how to make a difference in your own community, simply pick up the camera and make someone’s day special, and for more information on Lew or to see his work, be sure to check out his website. It’s lewlautinphotographer.com.
The Balancing Act is the only morning show in America produced by women specifically for women. Every morning, The Balancing Act on Lifetime hosts Danielle Knox and Kristy Villa tackle the issues that face today’s woman. Popular show segments include live weather updates with Mark Mancuso, surprise celebrity visitors, and news about the latest trends affecting your life, home, career and family. The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television airs daily on Lifetime at 7 a.m. ET/PT. For more information, visit The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television’s website at www.thebalancingact.com.