We had the good fortune of connecting with John Marshall and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, how does your business help the community?
My Sunset Selfies are a way for me to get away from the computer each day and play a little bit. I do them for fun. The fact that so many people around the world also enjoy them is a huge bonus for me. I love adding a small amount of surprise or beauty or humor to the Internet. People need more of that. My work with Teach Her has a more direct social impact as we are providing college education to orphaned girls. But it’s not as linear as that. Yes, we are teaching them, but as I’ve seen: they are teaching us…about compassion, about getting involved, about making a difference. Which is something we all need more of as well. It certainly has made a dramatic change in my own life. Basically, in both cases, I work as a storyteller. And stories have the power to change the world. If an image or a blog post or a video I create can reach someone at an emotional level, then I have done my job.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My life and career have been shaped by a series of impractical choices. Whether it was moving to Hollywood at 21 to become a screenwriter…or spending a year in a Portuguese fishing village at 34 with my wife and two young children…or volunteering our way around the world at 44 with our teenagers, I’ve always tried to follow the creative sparks that light my way. But it’s not easy; it can be very difficult to choose a life that is uniquely yours or even to know what this is sometimes. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with an imagination that I’ve been able to depend upon and trust. And so I just follow it. If I wake up with lyrics in my head, I write the song. If I am drawn to a social cause that needs a champion and it just won’t leave me alone, I get involved. It’s guidance, I suppose, and perhaps everyone experiences it, but it does not turn into action without listening. And I listen. I also move in a direction that feels good or fun or exhilarating or alive. Whether it’s cutting out cardboard and posing with it at sunset or raising money to fund an orphaned girl’s college education, these activities resonate with me and make me happy. In fact, my work with orphaned children has been the great revelation of my life because for the first time in my career, in a very genuine way, it’s not about me. As a creative person, so much of my early work was about accomplishments: selling something, getting recognition, earning more. But with Teach Her, the girls are the stars. Their stories are what matters. My job is to help them shine and then get out of the way.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate my Shoutout to Mary Singer: my Freshman English teacher at Manchester Central High School in New Hampshire who inspired me to write, Steve Elde: my summer camp cartoon instructor who inspired me to draw, and the children at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission in north India who inspired me to get involved.