Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration our Feature Girl Warrior, award winning accredited Master photographer, Frances Litman, a passionate crusader for the environment, an international speaker, community connector, and founder and managing director of the Creatively United for the Planet Society. Frances also teaches photography, leads international photo tours with travel agencies; and her work is regularly accepted into adjudicated art shows. She was the Special Sections Editor at the Times-Colonist where she had a 15-year career, mostly in the newsroom, resigning as the Special Sections Editor in 1994 to pursue her growing photography business full-time. In her 24-year professional photography career, Frances has seen the world through both wide angle and telephoto lenses and everything in between, resulting in her awakening to the big picture need for environmental protection through community connection.
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
I came into this world as an orphan and spent most of my youth in foster care with inadequate financial and emotional support, however, I didn’t let my circumstances define me. My determination and an attitude of gratitude have helped me in everything I do.
I worked for the Times-Colonist at night, completed a post-secondary education by day, and built a thriving writing, photography and marketing business on the side. I was the Special Sections Editor when I left the Times-Colonist 16 years later and was replaced by a department of three people.
For two decades, I was one of Vancouver Island’s most awarded photographers and bought my first house at age 30. I’ve travelled the world as a photographer, photo educator and contest adjudicator, travel host and have overcome major obstacles that have never stopped me from pursuing my passions.
You founded Creatively United for the Planet in 2010. What inspired you to start this non-profit collective and why?
I have captured the world through many different lenses, from a close up/macro perspective to telephoto and every focal length in between. Having done this for so many years I really began to piece together an appreciation for the bigger picture.
As an artist, I’m a lover of beauty. Although I tend to photograph people, the natural world is where I find boundless beauty. When I became aware of how little of our environment is protected and how social justice issues are often directly related to land/water and resource issues, I became seriously concerned.
My own backyard taught me to appreciate the variety of species that exist in one tree alone and having seen city after city, I really came to realize how special our natural environment is and how we need to care for it and not take it for granted.
I could see that those organizations doing the hero work in saving our trees, water, salmon, lifestyle and democracy needed more support so I decided to create one of the first Earth Day/Week long arts and cultural celebrations to bring attention to these groups and issues that face us all but few people seemed to be aware of.
Share some of the society’s accomplishments and highlights since 2010.
More than 10,000 people have attended Creatively United for the Planet events since 2012. In 2012, I was awarded a CRD EcoStar Community Leadership Award, was a finalist twice for a Leadership Victoria Community Leadership Award (2013, 2015) and won it this year on behalf of Creatively United.
I led projects that also resulted in Creatively United publishing two books in the past three years – one that documents a project we created with Rockheights Middle School called Stepping Into Nature (available in the public library), and the other is an educational cartoon colour book called Higher Ground that creatively explores the importance of happy and healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature.
I also set up a collaborative partnership with the Robert Bateman Centre on two projects, an educational map showcasing Nature In the Heart of the City and the other an exhibition of artwork using discarded beach plastics and various castoffs that helped launch a young Saltspring Island artist.
This year, my vision for a free online community portal that celebrates and showcases Vancouver Island grassroots leadership, resources and community events was launched. Thisisleadership.org is a hub of community goodness to keep conversations going and growing that start at our many festivals and allows them to continue year-round.
Was running as a Federal Candidate for the Green Party of Canada in 2015 the natural/logical next step for you?
I never had any aspirations to be a politician. However, I was asked to run by several people who I admire and respect greatly for their integrity and vision who knew I was passionate to see environmental and social justice issues be brought to the forefront and saw this as a way to catalyze those conversations and give people something to vote for.
After reading the Green Party platform, I was honoured to be asked to be a candidate. It was a contested candidacy, which meant I had to win the support of the party and its members first. It was nerve wracking from the moment I said yes. I had to learn a lot of information exceptionally quickly and deal with new situations every day.
What did you learn from that experience?
This was “warrior training” at its best. It was my version of climbing Mount Everest.
The 2015 federal election was the longest in Canadian history and I gave it my all every day, seven days a week for nine solid months. It was truly grueling, yet exhilarating.
It taught me how much I was capable of doing as I had to overcome new fears every day.
I was completely out of my comfort zone. I was comfortable being behind the camera not in front of it. My private life was no longer private and my well-established career was put on hold. It was a big gamble. I had to learn how the political system worked, plus digest 176-pages of Green Party policy immediately and be prepared to talk about it on a moment’s notice. It certainly gave me an appreciation for how much more knowledgeable and involved we need to be to ensure we don’t loose everything to apathy and how much work Elizabeth May does for Canada and our community.
What has been the biggest challenge running your photography business?
Initially it was managing the success I created. I was working seven days a week constantly for more than 15 years and loving every minute of it but not taking enough time off to enjoy other things. Since the advent of digital photography, it’s been extremely challenging to have people value professional photography like they used to when it was a learned craft that blended art and science. Fortunately, those 15 years of working seven days a week paid off as I don’t have to work as hard now and can invest my free time into pursuing my other interests and passions.
What obstacles have you overcome and walls have you broken down?
I’ve learned to let go of perfection, say no to things I don’t really want to do and surrender to the moment more. I’m much happier as a result. I also used to feel really lonely because of my lack of family but have come to realize the world is my family and my destiny is completely my own. I have a really rich, delicious and much more expansive life now.
How do you keep your creative juices flowing?
Easy, they are always flowing. Controlling my creative urges is the hardest as I always have new ideas and things I want to try. I’m never bored! Two of the best things I now do for myself is to spend more time in nature and meditate.
In May you hosted the Niche Women’s Tour in Iceland. What was that like?
Amazing, I love working with Cathy Scott and Colleen Johnson at Departures Travel/Niche. They know how to package amazing trips for women who want to just show up, see and do fabulous things and let someone else take care of the details.
Iceland is one of the most naturally beautiful countries I’ve ever seen and experienced. It’s a photographer’s dream.
Over the years, you’ve taken some risks and courageously put yourself out there. Looking back on the journey, what would you tell your younger Girl Warrior?
Don’t waste time on worrying. Put your energy where your passion is and trust it will all work out. And… ask for help if you need it.
What would you say to the next generation of Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
You can do anything you set your mind to, it may take lots of work but stay true to what you want and you will achieve it. Don’t let negative people or self-talk get in your way. Remain true to yourself, don’t do things to try and please everyone else. If something isn’t working, move on. You are beautiful just as you are. Be aware of all the ways we are conditioned to operate from a place of not being good enough, to be fearful, etc. It’s not necessary to be like everyone else or follow trends. Set them instead. And last but not least, be grateful for everything, including the hard lessons, as everything is a learning experience.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s)?
Girls and women who stand up for social justice, equality, human and environmental rights and lead by example. There are so many, but one of them is Marlene Lewis, who I do writing, marketing and media work for to help raise awareness of her passion to end dyslexia so that people can live to their highest potential. Marlene is truly remarkable as she could retire, but instead she is donating her time and energy to share new information about brain science and methods to end dyslexia, as well as she is a volunteer facilitator with Landmark Education and helps people transform their lives, plus she recently became a co-owner in a 69-acre farm where she has planted hundreds of trees to help offset global warming.
I’m working on creating a series of interviews in partnership with Shaw TV on local grassroots leaders in our community – mostly the unsung heroes who are doing incredible things not many people know about, but should. As well, I’m creating an arts-based educational program for middle to high school students and launching a series of fun play shops for adults to bring out their creative genie.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to be delivering inspiring and information talks and fun workshops and sharing the millions of images in my collection in impactful ways.
What message would you put on a t-shirt?
If It’s Going to Be, It’s Up to Me
You can learn more about Frances @ http://franceslitman.com/
Connect with her on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/franceslitman/?ppe=1
On Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/frances.litman
And Twitter @ https://twitter.com/franceslitman