As a journalist, I have interviewed many fascinating people. People who have exciting careers, who do interesting things, who are unique in some way. But rarely do I meet someone who makes me really stop and consider what’s important in the world. Marc Abrahms is one of those people.
He has the means to live a life of leisure. But instead, he gives – of his time, his money, and himself – to others who really need it. That sounds like a cliché, but it’s the truth.
This could really be two separate stories – one about Abrahms the photographer and one about Abrahms the philanthropist. But it’s really about passion, which is evident in everything Abrahms does – in his photography and in his enthusiasm for the causes he supports. “I like to help people, and I like to bring laughter and joy to everything I do. As you look at my photographs, you feel that I feel,” Abrahms said.
He truly sees the beauty in life. Beauty in people, animals, food, in everyday living as well as exotic locations. I was mesmerized by the images on his “Reasons for Seeing” DVD. He told me that he looked through a million images to make the DVD. “The illusion is that it’s easy,” Abrahms said of his photography. “But for it to be successful, someone has to say, ‘Oh my God!’”
Abrahms has traveled throughout the world as a photographer, and his images are on display in public and private collections in at least 20 different countries as well as in the permanent collections of National Geographic and the Library of Congress. His subjects are varied – wild animals in Africa, country landscapes, flowers, tomatoes, his Bassett hounds Slush and Moses – but all share a unique passion and quality of light. Every single one tells a story.
The newest images were taken at a carnival in Argentina that Abrahms attended several weeks ago. He traveled 26 hours by plane and then drove five and a half hours north of Buenos Aires. “The show started at 10:30 p.m., and I was the first to leave at 2:30 a.m.,” he told me. Abrahms said that the subjects were amazing – dancers in feather headdresses that weighed as much as they did. “It was truly an affirmation of life,” he said.
Abrahms is a former insurance company executive who sold his business in 2001. He doesn’t like to use the word “retired.” He has always been a photographer as well as a philanthropist, and said that he has never given away less than 10 percent of his money or his time. He is a major benefactor to many organizations, including (on Abrahms Boulevard – named in his honor), Hartford Hospital, George Washington University, and many other non-profits.
One local organization which is lucky enough to be the recipient of Abrahms’ generosity is House of Bread – an urban ministry which includes a soup kitchen in Hartford. Abrahms told me that he initially went there about a year ago, to see firsthand the work that the organization was doing. “When you directly see the need, it’s a compelling story,” he said. “It had to be 5 degrees and there was a large man standing on line with a young boy, and they were sharing the one glove that they had between them. The man told me that it was the only food they would get that day. He had dignity, class, and grace, and I thought that this shouldn’t be. I thought I could do something to help, but it wouldn’t be giving food out of a can. It had to be what I would eat myself,” Abrahms recalled.
Together with a small group of volunteers, Abrahms now produces in excess of 400 pounds of food at least twice a month for House of Bread. “How do you feed 1,250 of your closest friends?” Abrahms asked. Everything is made from scratch with fresh ingredients. Each batch of “Marc’s Marvelous Meat Sauce” includes 85 pounds of 90 percent lean ground beef, 16 enormous cans of crushed tomatoes, and 65 pounds of onions, as well as multiple bunches of fresh dill, parsley, oregano, thyme, and basil. When the sauce is almost done, Abrahms adds 15 pounds of parmesan cheese. He actually had his mother taste and approve the first batch. Abrahms also serves a signature rice dish, cooked in fresh chicken broth that he makes from scratch, too.
Abrahms’ photographs will be the subject of a one-man show at Center Framing & Art on April 8. “I only do this once every two years,” said owner Lori Chozick, “but there’s just something about him. He surpassed all of the criteria I need to justify a one-man show.”
The show at Center Framing & Art is a benefit for House of Bread. “I have funded every cent of this so far, but I want to involve investors so I can do more,” said Abrahms. The profits will help him do that. “You can’t make a hungry child wait until the economy improves,” Abrahms said.
Abrahms is grateful for Chozick’s assistance, calling her a “23 on a scale of 1 to10 for how much she does to make the world a better place for so many people.” Chozick would probably give Abrahms the same rating. “He’s a wonderful man – so full of compassion and kindness. It amazes me what he can give back to the community,” she said.
Abrahms said, “The greatest winner is not the person receiving the food – it’s me. It’s an exciting thing to do, where you can see the need and the importance. I support many good things, but when you see this, you feel good about what you are doing and want to do more.”
Abrahms feels fortunate to have the health and the ability to do what he does. “I owe the world everything. This is important and it’s what I want to do, but there’s always so much more to do.”