Minnie Piccardo on the power of photography, a heartwarming founder story, and a top piece of advice for budding photographers.
Photography has a unique power to tell stories, to give us an insight into the complex goings on of different environments and situations. Put simply, it helps us to understand the world around us and, as Minnie puts it so nicely, "realise we are all part of a bigger picture."
Minnie is the Creative Director of Australian photography startup, Urth. They make photography tools that have a positive impact on the environment. A passionate environmentalist, she discusses the power of photography to raise awareness about issues such as climate change. We also get some great advice for budding photographers and a (rather romantic) founder story. Enjoy.
Hi Minnie, welcome to A Good Community! Tell us about yourself, where did you grow up?
Hey guys! Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure to be a part of this. I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I graduated from a graphic design and visual communications degree. I’ve always been interested in creative thinking and design, and in making the world a better place.
From a young age I have been passionate about protecting the environment. I remember being 12 years old and telling people off for throwing their rubbish or cigarette butts on the streets. Now I work as the Creative Director of Urth to help make creative tools that have a positive impact on the planet.
Image cred: Elisabetta Zavoli for Urth Magazine
Can you tell us the story behind Urth, we believe there was a van involved?
It all started in the back of a van in Latin America, where I met Christian and Chris. They were exploring the world, photographing, living their best life. It was there when Gobe – now Urth – was born.
At that point, it was actually more of a concept, a bit of an idea: to sell photography accessories that do good. They knew there was something in taking photos and connecting with our environment that just made sense.
Me joining them was a bit of a love story: Christian and I met in the Galapagos for one day and never stopped being in touch. Throughout that year Christian continued to visit Buenos Aires and everything developed from there. As I was a graphic design student at the time, I helped them out in my spare time with their branding, packaging, website, social media, etc.
When the boys came back to Australia after 2 years in Latin America, I came back with them and that’s when the business really started to take shape. We were working day in and day out from the Melbourne Public Library. Everything we earned was going back into the business, we just took the minimum out to live.
Where it all began.
We knew we wanted to create something great and we believed in ourselves, even in the hardest of times! We complement each other really well: Christian with his entrepreneurship and crazy ideas, Chris with the numbers and operations and myself with the design and communications. We couldn’t have done it without each other.
You recently changed your brand name to better reflect your mission?
Yes! That's right. The long story is that we actually had trademark issues in Europe. But, you know, you can either see things as problems or opportunities.
We took this opportunity to refine and strengthen our brand. To clarify our direction and vision for the future, and of course make sure we can operate worldwide.
We are super excited because with Urth we’ll be able to expand into new categories of products. Our vision is to offer great quality products for creatives that are not only “carbon neutral” but have a positive impact on the environment too.
What measures do you take as a business to reduce your environmental impact?
We have teamed up with an amazing organisation called Eden Reforestation Projects, to plant 5 trees in deforested regions with every Urth product sold. We have now planted over 3 million trees in Madagascar, Indonesia, Haiti, Nepal and Mozambique. This not only helps offset tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere but it also gives jobs to entire communities, providing people with opportunities for education and access to a revitalised ecosystem. Our mission is to plant one billion trees by 2032.
Beyond planting trees, we are constantly working on new ways to minimise our impact on the planet and have developed an LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) software to calculate the impact of each of our products from the sourcing of raw materials to the end of the product’s life. We believe the best way to make a product sustainable is to make it last a lifetime. So, on top of using recycled materials and minimal packaging, making our products durable is a priority for us at Urth.
In the coming months, we will be working on getting B Corp certified, and changing our shipping methods from air to more sustainable options like sea freight. With Urth, we want to take our positive impact initiatives to the next level.
How have you seen human activity impact the environment around you?
I feel like I’ve seen quite a bit of damage. When you grow up in a developing country, but are lucky enough to have access to education, you realise that there are a lot of things around you that are not ideal. From the million disposable plastic bags that end up in the sewages and waterways, to entire regions of the country being deforested for cattle, and extremely polluted rivers by unconscious industries.
"Photography allows us to slow down and appreciate the world around us. When you spend time in nature and take the time to appreciate the world around you, you feel connected to it, you feel a part of it, and you want to protect it."
Buenos Aires is the home to one of the most polluted waterways in the world. The Riachuelo river has basically become a dumping ground for industrial waste and sewage. Scraps from tanneries, chemical plants, and factories runoff flows directly into it and it’s already so contaminated that no one stops it from happening.
It’s crazy to see how humans can destroy entire ecosystems and just look away. When you realise what’s going on, something clicks in you. At first you get angry but then you just want to do something to change it!
Do you think photography can be used to tackle climate change?
Definitely! Photography allows us to slow down and appreciate the world around us. When you spend time in nature and take the time to appreciate the world around you, you feel connected to it, you feel a part of it, and you want to protect it.
I think the first step for tackling climate change is to realise we are all part of a bigger picture. Sometimes, especially in big cities, we can feel really disconnected from the whole but when you understand you belong to something greater than yourself it all makes sense.
Photography is perhaps the most powerful tool conservation has because most people don’t spend as much time in nature anymore.
Cred: Megan Brownrigg for Urth Magazine
What tips do you have for any aspiring photographers out there?
I think the secret to any creative project is to do. To start doing, start taking photos and to share your work with the world. Don’t wait until you become “better” or until you find your “voice” or “path” to start. I think we all find our paths by doing, so allow yourself time each week to play with your camera and find what you're passionate about photographing!
As our co-founder Christian always says “The secret to photography is to take the first photo” so make sure you carry your camera with you and once you take the first photo, you won’t be able to stop seeing photo opportunities.
Lastly, who else do you think we should interview for A Good Community?
Great, thanks so much Minnie! Good luck with the tree planting and looking forward to seeing more awesome work from Urth in the near future!
We hope you found this fun and inspiring. Are you a keen photographer, got a similar story to share? We'd love to hear from you! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org