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Meet Danielle Desnoyers of Retake

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Desnoyers. 

Hi Danielle, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a photographer. After attending American University in Washington, DC and receiving a degree in Photojournalism, I moved to Egypt at the age of 22 and decided to give it a go being a freelancer. I was published and learned so much about the ex-pat/freelance life over the course of a year. The rest of my twenties were a steady rotation of traveling or working abroad as a photographer, working for nonprofits learning fundraising and communication skills, and working in the hospitality industry in order to actually save money. Fast forward to January 2018, I had sold all of my belongings and my apartment in DC to move to Vietnam. I decided to go all-in with my own business and support myself while living and traveling around the world. I mostly worked with ex-pat families and captured their exciting life moments but with my background in nonprofits and documentary work, I was gravitating towards humanitarian clients as often as I could. I felt the need to do something more meaningful. So, in January 2020, I founded Retake. This would eventually become a nonprofit and is now my main focus. However, while I was in the early phases of figuring out what this organization would do, Covid hit. I was evacuated from Vietnam at the end of March 2020 to North Carolina, where I have family. While the world shut down and I had no clue what my life would now entail, I did all the behind-the-scenes work to get a nonprofit founded and up and running. My silver lining was having the time to do this. With a board of directors and my nonprofit status from the IRS secure, I am now the director of a photo-based nonprofit. Retake offers free photos and photoshoots to people who have lost their homes and belongings due to disasters such as hurricanes, fires, or earthquakes, or to people who come from war-torn or conflict areas and are now refugees, immigrants, displaced people, or asylum seekers. Our goal is to create to new keepsakes as they rebuild their lives. Over the past year, most of the recipients we have photographed and helped have been refugees around the state of North Carolina, with some of our biggest partners in Raleigh and the triangle area. I travel to Raleigh frequently to offer Retake’s free services and to connect with the refugee community that is there. And as a photographer, I also have a number of personal clients who I still photograph whenever needed. Retake’s headquarters is in Wilmington, but Raleigh is the other city I frequent the most! 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Anyone who works for themselves, freelances, builds a small business, or starts an organization on their own will tell you that there are challenges. There is no way around that. Working for yourself and relying solely on your own work ethic is tough, but the most rewarding thing if you can stick it out. Add into that a global pandemic, and there were times I couldn’t believe how different my life had become in such a short period. But I had the support of family and friends and was able to ride that wave to where I could see a light at the end of the tunnel and keep pushing forward. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Retake?
Retake is a nonprofit that is all about photography and family mementos. We create portraits and keepsakes for people who have lost everything or had to leave their belongings behind. Over years and years of traveling and working around the world, I have seen the importance of heritage and culture. As the founder and director of Retake, this is what led me to start the nonprofit. Generations pass down family photos and it can be devastating losing that connection. We want to create new photographs for families and give them new memories to cherish. After our free photoshoots, we beautifully edit the images, print them with our professional printing service, and frame the finished products. I love delivering these amazing new photographs to the families and seeing how excited they are to have them. 

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk-taking?
When you start off small and have to build your business for yourself, there’s inevitable risk. But from the beginning of my career when I decided to move to a foreign country where I wasn’t fluent in the native language, didn’t have a guaranteed job to support an income, and didn’t know anyone in the community, I took a huge risk and leap of faith. And it paid off. After that, I saw risk as a necessary thing to incorporate into life. You can do prep and research and set yourself up for success as much as possible, but you’ll still have to enter into the unknown a bit in order to push yourself and take on new challenges. I’ve lived in numerous new countries and cities, and while it’s always a little nerve-wracking, I know the risk is worth the reward. Those are the most memorable times that have led to the most unexpected developments. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Retake Inc.

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