by Amy Lynne Hayes
It started with a concept of connection: your joy is my joy, your suffering is my suffering. It’s an underlying belief behind conservation, and one of the driving forces that led Miami-based photographer KT Merry to launch Render Loyalty, selling fine photographic artwork in support of threatened species. “I read a quote about what wolves do on a daily basis. One of them was render loyalty, and that always stuck with me. I feel as strongly about endangered species as I do about friends and family,” she explains.
It was the morning of April 17, 2015 when an image of a male northern white rhino and his dedicated protectors scrolled across her computer screen. This particular rhino was reported to be the last of his kind, and this image a poignant statement on global human impact on all animals. “I always had in mind that I would eventually take photos of elephants in Africa, and endangered species,” Merry recalls. “It lit a fire under me to start making it happen.” Merry already had a well established career as a destination wedding photographer, so it was a natural progression for her to apply her talents to a cause for change.
Render Loyalty grew out of a desire to create a direct path between photographing and actually supporting endangered animals. Merry and her husband and business partner, Chad Keffer, took the initiative to travel to Africa, where they partnered with two select organizations at the forefront of the conservation efforts in Kenya. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust focuses on the needs of orphaned elephants, while the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy supports more than 70 mammal species, including rhinos, zebras, elephants, lions and giraffes.
During their travels, Merry was able to gain firsthand insight into both organizations. “We were there from dawn until dusk, and saw everything they are doing,” she says. She now shares snippets of their day-to-day operations on the Render Loyalty blog. Telling the stories behind the scenes is imperative, she believes, as it helps people trust their efforts and in turn be more willing to support their causes. And since not everyone is able to pack up their lives to volunteer in person, purchasing one of her photographs provides an opportunity to pledge financial support in return for a truly special piece of art.
Since their launch in December 2016, Render Loyalty has donated $15,000 to the conservation efforts of its partner organizations. This is of course a promising start, and one Merry is committed to increasing as her project gains more awareness. The one thing she wants to make sure to prevent is this issue slipping through the cracks, and becoming a side thought, especially since animals do not have a voice of their own. “The larger government roles aren’t going to be able to fix this problem, it’s up to us to make whatever contribution we can,” Merry says, whether that be something as simple as a share on social media, or a financial pledge through purchasing a photograph.
Both of her Lewa series and DSWT series are available in different sized limited edition prints, with 20 percent of retail donated to the respective organization. Framed first editions are also for purchase, with 60 percent of retail donated. All are hand signed by KT Merry. Though she currently works exclusively with the two organizations in Kenya, she has a vision to expand to other continents and include other species in the future. And showing and selling her photography in person is helping her achieve that mission. She had a successful show of the Lewa series in New York City in November, and was included in an Earth Day exhibition at the Miami Beach Edition hotel in April. Her next scheduled appearance will be in November in Los Angeles to benefit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, with 100 percent of retail going directly to support the organization.
Merry has chosen a powerful medium to communicate her conservation message. “Art is a great connector of invoking emotion, and inviting people who might not get to see these animals in person into their world,” she says. And through the combined efforts of upstanding organizations, conservationists like Merry, and the support of the global community, these animals will still be with us for many years to come.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AMY LYNNE HAYES
Amy Lynne Hayes is a freelance writer and designer based in Fort Lauderdale. She spent nearly eight years living overseas – in London, Paris, and Melbourne, Australia – before returning to her home state of Florida. She now uses her words to share others’ stories, and taps into her design background through her travel lifestyle brand and online boutique, The Global Creator.