"Seva's efforts create hope and happiness worldwide for so many people in difficult conditions. I've always been amazed and cheered by their good works and I've been very happy to help them in their fundraising efforts."
Singer / Songwriter
“We've always admired Seva's focus on serving indigenous people in the U.S. and around the world. Seva knows how to work with communities in ways that truly benefit those in need. We are honored to be involved with their mission and look forward to contributing to their efforts for years to come."
Tea Leaf Green
“I congratulate Seva Foundation for the magnificent work they continue to do."
Legendary Folk Singer
“Seva has given so much help to so many thousands of people for so many years — such a wonderful example of love in action.”
Singer / Songwriter
"For 30 years Seva has made an extraordinary contribution to the world — not only through their
international programs, but here in some of the most impoverished communities in North America, on Native American reservations. Thank you Seva."
Singer / Songwriter
"Seva takes the impulse towards generosity and turns it into compassionate action that helps people in real need. I honor my friends and relations by giving to Seva in their name — the entire world benefits. I hope you'll join me."
Actor / Writer
"Compassion and caring for people in need - that's simply a moral necessity. But it's not
always easy to do. Seva makes it easy. They know how to put your donations to work in ways that truly benefit people."
Singer / Humanitarian Activist
"When we met the folks at Seva, we knew we were among kindred spirits, joining to bring people together in service to others. Whether preventing blindness in Nepal, assisting native peoples in Guatemala and Mexico, or helping our own Native Americans, Seva has been there to help alleviate suffering and improve people's lives. Long may they rock!"
The Grateful Dead
Portraits of Joy: The Art of Jon Kaplan
Photographer's work grounded in spirit of compassion
Jon Kaplan has been a Seva supporter for over ten years, donating many of the photographs used throughout our website and publications. Most notably, Jon's work graces our Gifts of Service catalog covers and gift cards.
Jon started taking pictures at age six and hasn't stopped since. His other love is travel, a passion which has taken him to 60 countries around the world. We caught up with Jon long enough to ask him about his work.
Q: Which came first, your interest in photography or travel?.
Jon: They're intertwined, they both developed together. At 14, I went to France for the summer. I wandered all over Paris and Versailles on a little moped, carrying a Pentax camera. In my twenties, I traveled around the world, including trips to Asia where I started shooting in a pretty similar style to what I do now.
Q: Do you do other types of photography, or do you focus exclusively on portraits?
Jon: I’m primarily attracted to making portraits of people, especially the children and very old people. The kids are so cute, and they're also symbols of hope for the future. The old people have something very special about them — their wisdom and their peacefulness. Somehow the pictures convey the satisfaction they've found in their lives, even with all the hardships they experience.
Q: Your work always seems to capture the wholeness and beauty of the people you meet. The photos express joy, rather than hardship. That's your intent, isn't it?
Jon: Right. The message in my photography is about cultures, about humanity, about the richness of people's lives — regardless of how much money they have, or what religion they are, or what color skin they have. When someone sees one of my photographs, the first thing I want them to notice is "What a great human being!" or "What a beautiful child!" rather than "Wow, that person is so poor!" You have to reach people with that sense of humanity first.
Q: Looking at the photos, we always wonder how you get people to open up in front of the lens the way you seem to do?
Jon: I just interact with them. I tell jokes, clown around, make noises. You can’t tell someone to smile. If you tell them to smile, then it’s a fake smile. But you can do something that makes them smile. If you do something silly and then they smile, it’s a real smile. It just takes a willingness to spend time with them.
Q: Did you start out thinking of your photography work as a form or service, or did that develop along the way?
Jon: I think it was a natural growth resulting from spending time with the people in these communities and then wanting to give something back. Working with Seva, I've found a way to do that. I’m honored and proud to be associated with Seva and to be a visual spokesperson, in a way, for Seva's work. I can’t imagine any other organization that I can feel that good about. It’s been delightful for me.