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Sunday , 20 August 2017
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Young photographers with special needs challenge whole society to beat their record

Breaking Point exhibition, a 3-day long charitable event reached hearts of almost 60 million people.

Interactive exposition is part of a holistic campaign for FotoCh, a Russian charity organisation that allows teen-orphans and children with special needs to master photography together and on equal grounds with their ordinary peers.

Lack of life experience and marketable skills often lead orphans and children with special needs to unfortunate events in life. Practical limitations aren’t the only barrier for such people. Psychological burdens, placed by public opinion, cause nearly the same, if not higher, damage. In Russian society, it’s customary to refer to such children as “disabled” and treat them with caution, which ultimately leads to isolation and unnecessary barriers between able- bodied and minded people and handicapped ones. Such people are in dire need of creative, psychological, social and cultural rehabilitation, in order to achieve success in life.

Utmost goal of ‘Breaking Point’ campaign is to alter the attitude towards people with special needs and to prove, that there are no “limited” opportunities, to inspire people with various disabilities and healthy ones alike to push their abilities to the Breaking Point in pursuit of success.

Breath-taking project ‘Breaking Point’ consists of several phases and elements, including making of a short documentary, press event and an exhibition for general public. Most important element is also the most daring: nine pupils of FotoCh participated in two extreme photo expeditions to remote regions of Russia off-season. First being a sub-tropical canyon in Caucasus mountains in late autumn. Second expedition was to frozen Lake Baikal and took place in March. Both destinations are highly demanding and nearly impossible to conquer even for strong healthy adults.

Armed with sheer willpower and determination, teens with special needs climbed the mountains, followed narrow rocky trails and roamed vast glacier valley in Eastern Siberia. By nearly reaching the Breaking Point of human abilities, they set an example for all of us and proved, that we set limits in our heads. In reality, each of us has unlimited opportunities leading towards unlimited possibilities.

‘During brainstorming sessions, we unanimously decided, that it should be something difficult even for an ordinary person’, says one of the authors of original idea and movie director Maxim Kolishev. ‘Our teenagers are extraordinary people with super powers and inexhaustible talent. Hence best way to reveal their creativity is a photo expedition to hard-to-reach places’.

Concepts of “breaking point” and living on the edge formed the basis of exhibition’s creative idea. Despite being a charitable event, the exposition didn’t broadcast any messages of guilt and pity, which are considered tools of trade in the NGO industry. It didn’t spell out the inspirational context either. Instead “mute” exposition engaged visitors into experiencing the same trials as photographers had. At first glance, it was one more photo and media exhibition among dozens happening in Moscow simultaneously. However, guests soon noticed, that 3D installations aren’t there to just demonstrate the scenery better. Thanks to self-explanatory design, they invited people to try and take same quality photographs, while being subjected to unfamiliar physical limitations. Four interactive showpieces imitated various special needs, such as constant tremor or paralysed limbs.

Hours before opening exhibition for public organisers held a press event, to which they invited journalists, TV channels, bloggers and government officials. Latter allowed to directly advertise FotoCh with organisations capable of providing support. Thanks to that cunning move, the exhibition will be extended and moved to the most popular park in Moscow, Gorky Park. Starting June, 15.

Premiere of a short movie about the expeditions took place during the opening ceremony of the Breaking Point exhibition. Documentary features bird view panoramas of conquered landscapes, stories by participants and messages from celebrities, who supported the campaign: famous actors, film critics and photographers. It has relaxing atmosphere about it, which helps in broadcasting the idea of unlimited opportunities and mental strength.

Campaign was carried out by Russian marketing agency e:mg in association with PR agency DPG Russia and thanks to support of National Geographic Russia, Mitsubishi Motors, Rosa Khutor Resort and others.

‘When I mentioned, that we are going to take teenagers with special needs to a difficult photo expedition, people told, that it’s impossible and whoever came up with the idea is crazy’, says Anton Melnikov, one of the authors of original idea and Partner at e:mg group: Creative & Strategy. ‘However kids from FotoCh made it possible. They overcame fears and difficulties alike. Their determination and creative talent shaped the campaign along the way, giving us ambition to make it as grand as possible’.

Spectacular and inspiring nature of Breaking Point campaign allowed to achieve great results. With exactly $0 spent on media promotion, event lead to almost 500 publications with grand PR-value of $1,428,570. Mentioning of FotoCh in media increased by 1976% and generated 415,107,774 media impressions. Total audience count approached 60 million people. Thanks to input from empathetic bloggers, campaign’s hashtag reached active audience of almost 900 thousand people within a week.

Yet the most important result is how 9 teenagers proved to themselves and the whole world, that they are people with EXTRAabilities and that willpower is the greatest superpower of all. By personal example they inspired all of us to get off the couch, work towards our dreams, and push our abilities to the Breaking Point.

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