‘Starving artist’ makes a difference through her lens

Posted: August 16, 2014

The Winchester Star

Photo submitted by Misty HigginsWinchester photographer Misty Higgins traveled to Haiti in 2013 with Community Coalition for Haiti. Photos from the trip will be on display and for sale at an art show and fundraiser Sunday at Grace Community Church.
STAR TRAYLOR/Byrd NewspapersPhotographer Misty Higgins (left) stands with some of the photos that will be sold at her art show Sunday at Grace Community Church. At right is Misty Fields, president of In the Garden Missions, the organization benefiting from the show.
Photo courtesy of Misty HigginsHiggins spent two weeks in July in Uganda on a trip with the local nonprofit organization In the Garden Missions. Photos from the trip, along with those she took while in Nicaragua and Haiti, will be on display and for sale at an art show and fundraiser Sunday at Grace Community Church. Here, she poses with some Ugandan children.

WINCHESTER — On a recent trip to Uganda, Misty Higgins took photographs of orphans sleeping on beds made of wire and dirty, worn mattresses. When she posted the photos online, donations poured in to buy new mattresses for the children.

This Sunday, photos Higgins has taken on trips to Nicaragua, Haiti and Uganda will be on display and for sale during an art show and fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. at Grace Community Church, 2333 Roosevelt Blvd., Winchester. The show is free, open to the public and will include discussions about charity work overseas, photography and travel.

Higgins, who calls herself a starving artist, said she is living proof that you don’t need a lot of money to go abroad or to make a difference in the lives of others.

“Here’s a girl who’s pretty much penniless and has managed to do it every year,” Higgins said.

Her first trip was in 2012 when she went to Nicaragua with the Fabretto Children’s Foundation, an Alexandria-based organization that supports programs for low-income Nicaraguan children through after-school programs. Then in 2013, she took photos in Haiti with the Vienna-based Community Coalition for Haiti. She spent two weeks in Uganda this summer as a photographer with the local nonprofit volunteer organization In the Garden Missions. Higgins’ art show this weekend is titled “For the Love of Love” and will include photos from all three trips.

Proceeds and donations from the show will benefit In the Garden Missions. Earlier this year, the group paid for the installation of a freshwater well for a Ugandan school and orphanage with 650 children.

“What (the photographer) does for us is, they free us from having to (take photos) ourselves,” said Misty Fields, president of In the Garden Missions. Fields and several other members of New Hope Baptist Church started the group three years ago.

“In the beginning, it was all people who attended that church, but we decided not to affiliate with the church because people leave churches all the time,” Fields explained. “Also, we wanted to be able to move more quickly on projects than we could have if we needed to wait for church members to hold committee meetings and vote.”

Fields, a longtime friend of Higgins, also went on the organization’s July trip to Uganda. For two weeks, they worked with World Shine Ministries to help Ugandan orphans and students. Fields led music camps with Bible stories.

As Westerners with access to resources, Fields and Higgins were treated “almost like celebrities” by Ugandan villagers, Higgins said.

“It’s deplorable conditions for these little kids,” Higgins recalled. “It can be overwhelming when you see the needs in these countries and there’s a moment when you ask yourself, am I doing something that makes a difference? What you have to do is address one need at a time. If you can’t do it in small pieces, it’s so overwhelming.”

Higgins compelled people to donate money to help children in Uganda with her photos, but when she was planning her art show, she knew not everything she has photographed on her trips overseas would make for the kind of art people would want to hang in their homes.

She chose her most intimate and inspiring photos of children in Nicaragua, Haiti and Uganda to be printed and matted for the show. The prints will sell for $45.

Holding an art show is something Higgins has dreamed of since becoming a photographer. She started taking pictures while working as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer and later decided to shift her focus to photography.

She began by shooting portrait photography and weddings and started her own business, Moments by Misty. The idea of traveling to do photojournalistic work appealed to her, so she posted a comment on Facebook and was quickly recruited for a trip.

“I just put it on Facebook, and within 24 hours, I had a free trip to Nicaragua,” she said.

Representatives from some of the charity organizations Higgins and Fields have worked with will attend the art show on Sunday. The event will include activities for children. A number of door prizes will be given, and raffle tickets will be sold for a chance to win passes to Rock Harbor Golf Course.

Donations are tax deductible and will benefit In the Garden Missions’ 2015 trip to Uganda. Next year, the group will put in another well and focus on medical missions for children there, Fields said.

Since becoming a photographer, Higgins has photographed families, children, weddings, engagements and other life events for friends and clients, but she said her work overseas has been the most rewarding of all.

“I’ve always felt like this is my best work and the work I’m most proud of,” she said.

For more information, contact Higgins at misty@mhmoments.com.