By Natalie Fobes, Blue Earth Alliance Co-Founder
With great sadness I learned of the death of my friend Malcolm Edwards: attorney, photographer, co-founder of Blue Earth Alliance, former board member, treasurer and vice president.
Twenty-five years ago Phil Borges and I had an idea for a non-profit that would help photographers tell the stories that needed to be told. Even then, magazines and newspapers were cutting back on assignments for financial reasons. We were afraid that without support for visual storytellers, important issues would not be covered.
We approached prominent attorney Malcolm Edwards for help creating a non-profit organization that would provide fiscal sponsorship to photographers. We knew he was passionate about the power of photography and was an accomplished fine-art photographer himself. Malcolm crafted the legal paperwork pro-bono to make our idea become a reality.
The impact Malcolm had on Blue Earth cannot be overstated. In addition to his role in founding the organization, he was one of the original board members and served as treasurer and vice president in his two stints on the board. After six years, we both left the board for the first time in the early 2000s to spend more time with our families.
A few years later during the depths of the recession, I received an email from the board’s president notifying me that Blue Earth was shutting down due to a series of failed fundraisers. I immediately asked Malcolm if he wanted to join me in trying to keep it going. Together with then Executive Director Bart Cannon, we established a new board, closed our downtown office to cut expenses, and implemented a fund-raising plan that included direct appeal campaigns, limited edition prints, a photo lottery and an auction of a Phil Borges print that Malcolm donated. The money raised allowed us to keep operating.
The recession continued and many non-profits went out of business. Things were tight for Blue Earth as well. I remember one board meeting when our treasurer reported we couldn’t quite cover our bills for the month. Malcolm immediately wrote a check to make up the difference. Fortunately, over the next few years we were able to put those difficult financial times behind us.
Not only did Malcolm support Blue Earth financially, but he also volunteered countless hours. In Malcolm, Blue Earth had an adviser, strategist and cheerleader. He made it a point to not only consult with and encourage the project photographers, but also the officers, staff and board members. Malcolm seemed to know instinctively when an “atta girl (or boy)” was needed. More than once he called me out of the blue to tell me how much he appreciated what I did, not only for Blue Earth, but also with my photography. I looked forward to our lunches when we talked about Blue Earth, our latest photographic work and interests, as well as our personal lives. His dry sense of humor, astute observations and thoughtfulness made those times pleasurable.
Even in death, Malcolm continues to support Blue Earth. His obituary suggests donations to Blue Earth and Northwest Harvest.
A Tribute of Life will be held Saturday, October 5th at 11:00 am at Mt. Baker Community Club, 2811 Mt Rainer Drive South, Seattle, WA 98144
I will miss Malcolm’s insight, advice and his world-class hugs. He truly made this world a better place. And I am a better person to have known him.
Tributes from Other Members of the Blue Earth Community
Phil Borges, Blue Earth co-founder:
When Natalie and I had an idea to start an organization to help photographers get support for their social and environmental projects we turned to our friend Malcolm Edwards who had previously helped gain non-profit status for a program I was working on.
Malcolm was one of the most respected lawyers in the city [of Seattle] and a brilliant photographer as well. He not only got Blue Earth Alliance off the ground but along with Natalie became the heart and soul of BEA.
I’ll always remember Malcolm for his humor and the gentle manner in which he inspired us to turn photographic projects into programs that had lasting impact.
Marita Holdaway, Benham Gallery owner and inaugural board member:
Malcolm was such a great contributor to our community. One of my favorite memories is from when the board of Blue Earth had a presentation and booth at PhotoPlus Expo conference in New York City. Each board member paid his/her own way and to save money, we shared rooms. All the board members had been assigned rooms except for Malcolm and me. Malcolm wanted to make sure sharing a room with him didn’t make me uncomfortable. I replied, “Oh, not a problem, I’ll sleep with anyone.”
Malcolm burst out laughing. He thought that was quite funny and reminded me of it often in the future. Malcolm was a great roomie, let me have the bed closest to the bathroom and I never heard him snore.
Malcolm Edwards was a gentleman and a kind soul. I am so grateful to have had him as a friend and fellow champion in our photographic community.