By Xavia Malcolm, American Red Cross in Greater NY
Red Cross volunteer Kevin Suttlehan’s photographs are so striking they often seem to leap off the websites on which they appear. His images are evocative and need very few or no words to immerse the viewer in the moment.
Kevin’s passion for photography began about 40 years ago while attending high school and college and he has perfected his art over the years. However, his profession as a prosecutor and later as a consultant in the financial industry consumed most of his time. When corporate life slowed down and he retired, Kevin seized the opportunity to take a deeper dive into photography.
“I decided to do something that I really love and use it to give back to my community. So, I began to do photography work for charities and nonprofit organizations,” he explained. This decision eventually led to him becoming a volunteer with the American Red Cross in 2018.
Today, Kevin continues to make an impact by documenting moments that people may not otherwise experience. His images leave an impression on hearts and minds.
Kevin hopes his photos will make a difference. “As a photographer, I try to avoid using the adage, a picture is worth a thousand words. It is a little cliché but true,” he laughed. “A really good picture can say it all without the intimate details of a story. It can be powerful and inspire change.”
When asked about his method for capturing a magnetic photo, he gladly shared his process, “It really begins with being observant of your environment and connecting with the events that are taking place around you. I am always looking for nonverbal interactions between our volunteers and clients in anticipation of genuine exchanges such as a hug or hands reaching out. I pay attention to eye contact and simple gestures that can tell the whole story.”
Kevin is also very mindful of the privacy of those helped by the Red Cross. He stresses that it is always important to ask permission before taking a picture. This not only builds trust but also upholds the Red Cross’ policies to protect those impacted by disasters and be sensitive to what they are experiencing.
Among Kevin’s many experiences with the Red Cross capturing the organization’s mission in action, some of his most meaningful have been on deployments to emergencies far from home. In late 2021 and then in the summer of 2022, he traveled to Kentucky, first in the western part of the state following one of the worst tornadoes to ever strike the region, and later to eastern Kentucky where communities were impacted by flash floods. Kevin recalls Red Cross volunteers working around the clock to ensure people received the shelter, meals, supplies, and emotional support they needed.
“One of the privileges of volunteering for the Red Cross is being afforded access to unique life events and witnessing human kindness firsthand,” he said. “I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of this organization’s mission, but I feel most fortunate being one of the people to capture its essence and share it with the world.”