TAMPA, Fl. — A Florida photographer duo decided they wanted to do more than just watch what is happening in Ukraine, so they decided to capture history and make a difference.
Dave Miller and Meagan Gumpert started Maven Photo + Film in Jan. 2020. What started a wedding and event photography business has now done a complete 180 with their working now taking them to Poland and Ukraine.
“It is a way for us to give back," Miller said. "We are able to kind of use the skills that we have for good to help people actually kind of see what is going on from our eyes kind of a local perspective.”
To make this documentation happen, the pair teamed up with the non-profit organization Crossroads Alliance and Ministries. The organization's President Steve Ewing has helped with aid relief efforts for more than 20 years across the state and county, but this was their first time in Europe.
“The biggest thing for Steve was seeing where the money would go directly," Miller said. "Make sure there was no corruption involved. He wanted to make sure that it was the most efficient way to use the donations."
The team first traveled to Poland and did not know what to expect. The only thing they could expect was what they saw in the news with videos of mass graves, bombed buildings, and families who were scrambling to escape.
Miller and Gumpert said what they found or didn’t find in Poland, for that matter, was a surprise.
“We’re getting there and a lot of the beds are empty," Gumpert said. "People have already come in and then moved on."
Both in Warsaw and Chelm, Poland, the duo said they saw some families but it was not to the extent they were anticipating.
“We learned that Warsaw and some of the bigger cities fortunately already had systems in place to kind of handle the people who were coming in," Gumpert said.
One could say it was a sliver of light in the depths of despair but they soon found that in Ukraine.
While at a train station in Ukraine the sirens went off. They got in their van to seek shelter and found that only a window separated them from the desperation of others.
“Women start like banging on the door of this van you know kind of yelling at us in Ukrainian like they want a ride," Gumpert said. "They want our van. They don’t care where we’re going. They don’t care who we are. They just want to get out of there. That level of desperation was just hard."
Desperation and hope are as far separated as they are connected in the fight. Miller and Gumpert witnessed humanity in the humility and hope others will too.
“Even when the war ends there is still going to be a lot of rebuilding," Gumpert said. "This won’t be done in two weeks."
The two plan to travel again with Crossroads Alliance and Ministry in the near future to help with more aid efforts. To learn more about the non-profit organization and how to help, visit their website.