Meet Our Volunteers: Matt Kosterman

Cara Staff

We’d like to introduce you to a group of Cara VIPs: our volunteers. Without them, Cara wouldn’t be able to function as it does. We’re so thankful for this talented and hard-working group. That’s why we’re highlighting our volunteers—so that you can get to know more about the people working behind the scenes to make magic happen.

Get to know more about Cara’s amazing volunteers

If you’ve seen our website or any of our collateral, you’ve probably seen Matt Kosterman’s work. Matt is our amazing resident photographer who rolls out the red carpet every quarter and captures our incredible participants to help share their story and spread Cara’s mission. From a full photo studio setup (complete with makeup), he makes everyone feel like a star so we can capture this moment of change and possibility forever.

Director of Marketing and Communications Mark Toriski says, “One of the core values taught at Cara is to ‘Look with New Eyes.’ Every time Matt lends his time and talent to our community, I see that value at work. Each participant he photographs walks away from the experience in awe of the person staring back at them in that professional headshot. It helps them realize the person who has been inside of them this whole time. Thank you, Matt!”

What’s your background?

How long have you got? Although I was born in Madison, Wisconsin, I’ve lived in 15 cities over my lifetime, some more than once. I’ve been in the Chicago area since 1997 and I’m the proud father of two beautiful women, ages 17 and 20.

Most of my career has been in and around imaging and photography. Both of my grandfathers and uncles were photography enthusiasts and it rubbed off. I spent my first five years out of college working for Eastman Kodak in sales, engineering, and product management. In 1998 I founded and ran a digital photo lab—quite a strange thing back then.

I really expanded my photographic knowledge while serving really talented photographers all over the country for twelve years. I began photographing children in 2007 and transitioned full time into photography in 2011. Outside of photography, I have completed the Landmark curriculum and enjoy tennis, yoga, personal growth, and other spiritual pursuits.

How do you volunteer at Cara?

Every quarter I bring my team—me, my assistant and a professional make-up artist—in to create social media headshots for the participants at Cara so they have high-quality images to put on their profile pages.

Why did you choose to support our mission through your photography?

Typically my pro bono work consists of photographing events or doing portraits for nonprofits. Although I enjoy the work, I was looking for a more direct connection to its benefactor. I told my friend Emily about this desire and she, being an Old St. Patrick’s church parishioner, was familiar with Cara and suggested I reach out. It was a perfect match!

What difference has Cara made in your life?

Just knowing that Cara is out there helping people in need is comforting. Seeing the enthusiasm and eagerness of the clients to jump in and transform their lives is really heart-warming.

What’s the best experience you’ve had while taking professional photos for Cara participants?

Last fall, we did additional photos of each client where they appeared to be singing into a microphone. They were used in the Giving Tuesday campaign. It was a blast having the client request a song and then photographing them full-on singing! You just can’t fake that energy.

Do you have a particular participant you worked with who impacted your life or left a strong impression on you?

I don’t spend a ton of time with the folks. There have been several over the years who have remarked that it was the first time they ever had a professional portrait done. Seeing them light up and infused with a new confidence when they see their image on screen is very rewarding.

Why do you think it’s important to give back to the community?

Life is a struggle. Not everybody is given the same set of skills and tools. Luck plays a big part in people’s lives. I believe everybody deserves the opportunity not just to live, but to thrive. I have been given much in my life. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate that more and to realize I have a duty to share that bounty with those currently less fortunate.

Have you ever attended or spoken at Motivations?

Yes, I have attended a couple of times!

One of our favorite Motivations questions: At this point in your life, what motivates you?

I have always been a “Seeker.” These days I’m driven by a quest to deepen my own spirituality and connect with others.

At Cara, we help participants break the cycle of poverty by providing them with the training and skills they need to get and keep meaningful work. Join us in our movement to bring back hope, jobs, and opportunity by donating or becoming a volunteer today.