Darius will provide a welcome introduction to the group, and will be an active participant along with special appointed speakers (representing a variety of perspectives including law enforcement, educators, correctional officers, youth, …) Kevin will help set the framework for discussion, mutual respect, and providing a safe place to share differing viewpoints to encourage a deeper understanding of these complex issues.
We won’t solve all the world’s problems in this session, but we hope to open the door to maybe a bit more understanding and openness to discussing these important topics.
These are some of the topics we may cover:
Does systemic racism exist and if it does, how do we fix it?
George Floyd Death
How and what can we do to change the division between law enforcement and the community?
Why is this happening?
Are there disproportionate numbers of minorities incarcerated and if so, why?
Are black communities underserved?
Are white communities underserved?
Does police brutality exist across America and if so, how do we fix it?
Do you agree or disagree with the current looting and rioting?
A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of meeting Nichola Cotto, Founder and President of a new nonprofit organization called We Are Not Broken.
Nichola started We Are Not Broken as a way to encourage women and girls to view their scars (from injuries, accidents, abuse, illness, surgery, combat, …) not as something to be ashamed of, but as something that helps tell their story. The concept is simple: provide free photography, spending time with the women and girls, in a safe studio environment, taking professional pictures and video that highlight their scars of survival and their true beauty.
Shame and covering up, isolation, hiding, and feeling depressed. These are words that are often used in relation to scars, especially for women and girls. They have fought the ultimate battle of life and death and come out victorious. Yet all too often they find themselves in a mental and emotional battle because of the devastation left on the their body. Our mission is to change that. We want to encourage and enable women and girls to proudly show their battle scars by redefining beauty. If you have scars from some kind of abuse, cancer, life-saving surgery, combat, car accidents, or any other type of life or death situation, please contact us. These are your hard-earned victory marks and we want to give you a platform to show the world your true beauty. You are courageous, precious, victorious, and made for more! You are BEAUTIFUL.
From the moment I learned about We Are Not Broken and met Nichola, I sensed this is a cause I want to wholeheartedly support in any way I can. Nichola has big plans for We Are Not Broken, envisioning taking this worldwide! In fact, I believe in the mission so much I am now on their Board of Directors!
Any of you who know me, know I believe we ALL should use our gifts to make a positive difference in this world. [I talk about this a bit more in my earlier blog post ‘Reflections of an Old Photography Teacher’ ] This might be the perfect opportunity for you!
Volunteer: Want to learn more about this amazing new organization and how YOU can get involved? Email:
If you can’t volunteer to help, you can STILL HELP!
Consider making a DONATION to support this organization!
On August 26th, 2019 we hosted an event and potluck dinner at my studio for attendees to come and hear Nichola’s story about how We Are Not Broken began.
We Are Not Broken had its official “ribbon cutting” ceremony today (July 30, 2019) at the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce:
When you come to the end of your days, you will not measure your life based on successes and failures. All of those will eventually blur together into a single memory called ‘life.’ What will give you solace is a life with nothing left undone. One that’s been lived with relentless ambition, a heart on fire, and with no regrets. On the other hand, what will haunt you until your final breath is who you could have been but never became and what you could have done but never did. The Last Arrow is your roadmap to a life that defies odds and alters destinies. Discover the attributes of those who break the gravitational pull of mediocrity as cultural pioneer and thought leader Erwin McManus examines the characteristics of individuals who risked everything for a life that seemed impossible. Imagine living the life you were convinced was only a dream. We all begin this life with a quiver full of arrows. Now the choice is yours. Will you cling to your arrows or risk them all, opting to live until you have nothing left to give? Time is short. We invite you to join with us as we read and discuss The Last Arrow and begin the greatest quest of our lives.
What is this LifeInsights group all about?
As some of you may have known, we recently decided to open up my photography studio as a place to connect with each other beyond “just photography” and get to know each other more and share in this experience we call “life.”
Community leaders (Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler, for example) have been saying we should do more to get to know our neighbors, to connect with one another in the community, and engage in dialogue and friendship. So I decided to do my part, and with the help of friends, we started a book discussion group at my studio in NW Austin. After our first book discussion, we enjoyed it so much we started talking about doing another book study, as well as going out to dinner as a group to celebrate completion of our first book study.
We have since done more book studies and discussions and plan to continue, mostly on Monday evenings (but not every Monday Evening)!
If you think you’d like to join us, just send me an email () and I can add you to a new google group we set up to keep in touch with each other. .
Our little group is called “LifeInsights” since that is what we are doing, exploring and sharing about meaningful life insights.
By the way, what does this have to do with photography? I mean, I am doing this at my photography studio, so what’s the connection? Well, my studio just seemed like a good place as any to do this since it has a classroom space. But yes there is a connection to photography. The images we create are influenced tremendously by how we see the world around us. In fact how we see the world around us influences our photography way more than the particular make and model of camera we own. So why not spend some time exploring meaningful insights about life? It might just affect your photography, and you will likely make some new friends along the way. And if you are not a photographer, you are definitely welcome to join us also!
I am really excited to inform you about what Help-Portrait Austin is doing this year! (Any of you who have taken my Photography 101 workshop may remember the video I show about the great work Help-Portrait is doing.)
Help-Portrait Austin creates brighter holidays for families and individuals in need. A portrait is a treasure. It is hung on the wall or displayed on a mantle, or kept in a special album. It is a record of how we looked as children, the pride we feel in our children, and a legacy for our descendants. It is these portraits that most people would save from a burning house.
These photographic treasures can cost hundreds of dollars, putting them out of reach for many Central Texas families. Help-Portrait Austin is on a mission to provide those in need with the entire portrait experience, from hair and makeup to a fun photo session, to leaving with framed professional portraits.
Volunteers will gather to make this magic happen on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Boys and Girls Club of East Austin, 901 Thompson Street, Austin. More than 100 photographers, hair and makeup artists, photo editors, and other volunteers will welcome up to 200+ guests, turning the 1950s-era gym into a giant photo studio.
“It is an amazing event,” Event Director Regina Maldonado said. “I have a soft place in my heart when it comes to kids.” Maldonado has been involved in the Austin event since it was started in 2009 as part of Help-Portrait Worldwide.
All around the world, gyms, tents, homes, offices, and hotels are transformed for one day of fun, hugs, smiles, memories, and even a few tears. Guests at the Austin event range from extended families who lost all family photos in a flood to individuals who need a good headshot for a resume to families who dress up for a holiday portrait to treasure and share.
The event has created some special traditions, including an arts and crafts area and a visit from Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, who are happy to pose with young guests.
“I love looking at the photos and videos from past events from other cities as well as the Austin event,” Lorraine Miller, one of the volunteer coordinators with HPA, said. “They never fail to make me smile.”
As an all-volunteer event (HPA has no paid employees), the local group depends on the generosity of local businesses and individuals. The event requires photo supplies such as ink and paper, arts and crafts supplies, and food for the volunteers.
This year, HPA has expanded its focus to help the homeless and teens in foster care. On March 11, several HPA volunteers braved wet conditions to take portraits of homeless people (and some pets) as part of the SXSW Pop-Up Care Village sponsored by LavaMae and Encast. Photos were taken and printed on the spot, and guests received stamped envelopes to send the portraits to loved ones.
Another new initiative will be an add-on to the Dec. 2 event, as HPA will partner with Foster Angels to provide portraits to high school seniors in foster care. More information will be available soon!
HPA welcomes volunteers who can help with photography, photo editing, hair and makeup, or just a friendly smile. Volunteers who speak Spanish are always needed! To volunteer or for more information, visit the HPA website at www.helpportraitaustin.com
Monetary donations are accepted through Pure Charity, and are tax deductible. For information, contact Regina Maldonado at or leave a message at (512)-748- 7751 or contact Cynthia Miller ator leave a message at (512) 971-9092.
Let me know if you get involved! I’d love to hear about any of you who volunteer!
Kevin Gourley Photography Workshops, Austin, TX – Austin Photography Classes