No matter what we do, what we do matters.
Meet Gina. Gina is the owner of Life Lens and Love, a family and portrait photography business in Downers Grove, IL. Gina is also a Clinical Therapist with an expertise in eating disorders, body image, anxiety and depression, in Naperville, IL. Gina created The One of a Million Project this year to shine a light on talented people in her community who do good through their everyday jobs.
I am Gina’s husband. I have been able to get a behind-the-scenes look at the work my wife has put into showcasing the many talented people around us. I am proud of my wife for giving “The Ones” the recognition they deserve. For the last interview of the series, I convinced her to let me interview her about the inspiration for the project.
B: You have written that the inspiration for the project stemmed from trying to break from all the negativity in the world, mostly resulting from the political environment. How much light did you get out of this project and from all the people you talked to?
G: I got a tremendous amount of light and energy from doing this project. I feel like every time I sat down and talked with someone, I left those conversations feeling a lot of “warm fuzzies”. I just felt such great energy in hearing what people are up to in the world.
B: Are we all just valuing the wrong stuff or what?
G: I don’t know if it’s that we are all valuing the wrong stuff, although I think that for some people there could be a component to that. For example, how much more time do we spend on social media rather than face to face, or how much time do we all, myself included, get caught up thinking about all of the things we don’t have rather than the things we do have? It seems like there are all of these crazy things happening in the world, but I think that’s always been the case, probably since the beginning of time. It’s just louder now and its more in our faces now. I think that for whatever reason we are collectively taking a step backwards now before we take a couple more leaps forward.
B: What drew you to the people you interviewed?
G: I think all people in all jobs are interesting and have something they contribute to our society. A lot of the people I interviewed I already knew personally and had gotten something wonderful out of being involved with them in some way, and I wanted to shine a spotlight on that. Other people I found out about just by being curious about something that I heard going on in our community and then wanting to share it. So there really wasn’t a specific genre or type of person I was looking to profile. It just happened very organically and naturally as to who the next interview candidate was for me.
B: What led you to question, and why were you so curious to talk to people at all?
G: I think by nature I am a curious person about people. I’m actually a licensed clinical social worker, and all of that background has me endlessly curious about people and their stories and what drives them to do what they do. I’ve always been that way. I’ve always been fascinated by people and what motivates them and what makes them tick. Being both a therapist and a photographer is just a combination of me being so invested in people’s stories.
B: Ok, so what in your mind makes the people tick that you interviewed?
G: I think most people are motivated by a sense of wanting to do something for other people. I think that was a running theme throughout the project. It wasn’t just someone offering up a service for the sake of it just being their job. There was an undercurrent of people being motivated by wanting to contribute to something greater than themselves in the world. Whether it was someone contributing to educating kids, putting something beautiful out in to the world, or sharing information with the world. Everybody was motivated in some way to be a part of something bigger.
B: What were your key takeaways from the interviews? Also, what were your key takeaways from just undertaking this project at all?
G: I think the key takeaway was that we all have a part to play and that we are all making a difference. I think so many people do things in service to others, even though they themselves can often lose sight of it. I feel like a big part of why I wanted to do this project was because we are all unsung heroes in our own ways. No matter what role or profession, people are offering up parts of themselves in some way for other people.
B: To what extent do you think the people you interviewed ‘get their due’? Do they care? Surely people have egos and a need to be recognized at least to some degree, right?
G: I don’t think it’s anything that most people think about regularly when doing their jobs. What I found over time was that everyone I interviewed was extremely appreciative of having a moment to be in the sun and to have their family and friends see them in that light and acknowledge what they do in the world. When that validation comes, it’s always like a little gift, right?
B: There really is so much crap that needs to change going on in the world. How much did all of the current politics in the world impact this project?
G: There’s a million things wrong in the world, but in spite of all that there are good things happening in the world too. The news horrifies me, and our divisiveness in this nation scares me. All of these things trouble me deeply, but I feel like what came out of the project is that in spite of all of that, there are so many amazing people in this world.
I don’t know the political leanings of the people I interviewed. I don’t know the specifics of their belief systems. I don’t know how much we actually would agree on in terms of what’s happening nationally, politically, or globally. But I do know that I very much respect what they are doing in the world, and I think that the world needs what they are doing. I think that the heart of this project was to strip away everything that’s wrong with the world and just take a minute to focus on what is right.
B: What surprised you the most across all 29 interviews?
G: I didn’t really have too many expectations for it other than it was just something I wanted to do. I got a lot of inspiration seeing it be well received by friends and family, and to get comments from people reaching out and telling me how much they loved reading the interviews was really special. At the end of the day, I always just do things because I feel compelled to do them. I don’t put a lot of expectations on them and I don’t put a lot of emphasis on the output, and so to see how positive it all was and to see how positive I felt in doing it was just really cool.
B: I agree, that must be a good feeling. So how has your view of our community changed and what thoughts do you want to leave people with regarding our community?
G: I’ve always felt that Downers Grove is an amazing community and I’ve always felt really lucky to have landed here. We’ve always been so grateful to have our little tribe within the neighborhood. It’s also been fun to just see how interconnected Downers Grove is and how everybody roots for each other. In spite of what is happening in the country and in the world around us, here is this little village is made up of all of these people doing their part in creating something good and meaningful for the people that live here.
B: I think you have accomplished your goal of highlighting the unique and interesting things people are doing through their everyday jobs. But on a personal level, what is next for you?
G: I love being a family photographer. I cherish what I get to do in helping people document their family’s memories and their kids growing up, so I am excited to continue to do that.
One of the next things that is going to happen for me in 2019 is getting back into my clinical therapy practice working with eating disorders, self-injury, body-image, and mood disorders, which is something that’s always been a big part of who I am. Over the last several years, I’ve taken a break from that work, and so I really look forward to professionally throwing my hat back in that ring.
I think that no matter what your profession or your career is, it’s important to always have something cooking up that you do just because it speaks to your soul or makes you feel a sense of joy. I have some ideas of personal projects that I’d like to do in 2019 but they are still simmering. Professionally my life will be very full so we will see how that all plays out.
B: One last thing...anything else you want to say or comment on about the project?
G: I would just like to root for people if they feel pulled to do something outside of their comfort zone. We can all say we don’t have time for something, that we are we just are too busy, or that we don’t feel we can put ourselves out there in some way. We can get caught up in wondering who will care about our idea or project. I think it’s just important to take little leaps, whether it’s a creative leap, a project, or something bigger and more personal that you’ve always wanted to do for yourself because it will get you out of bed in the morning. I think it’s far too easy when we are on the hamster wheel of life to set aside those little things that actually are going to fill our cup and to put things out into the world that reflect who we are and what we are really passionate about. I think that when we do that, it’s inspiring for all of us.
For the complete 30 interview series on The One of a Million Project, visit oneofamillionproject.com For more information about Gina’s photography work, visit lifelensandlove.com. To find out more about Gina’s clinical work, visit ginagrahamlcsw.com