Over the past 8 years I have had the incredible pleasure and honor of taking portraits for my employer, Social Advocates for Youth. The teens and young adults who participate in SAY’s housing, counseling and careers programs are so incredibly hopeful. Getting to know them and seeing their hard work and commitment to themselves inspires me every day. Getting to tell their stories, to share their photos with our community is a true privilege. While I know only small pieces of their stories – what they were comfortable sharing with me – I hope my photos capture the determination I saw in them.
Working with youth who are homeless, youth who are working hard to overcome life’s challenges, and become independent, and stable, youth who maybe didn’t have a supportive family to come home to, it’s both a reminder of how lucky I am and a reminder that there are so many ways we can make a difference in these kids lives. If I’ve learned anything at all in the 8 years I was marketing and communications manager for SAY, it’s this: our kids need adults in their corner. Adults who won’t give up on them. They need a community to support them. They deserve this, and so much more.
When I started at SAY, the only photos we had were black and white images of sullen kids glaring at a camera. The images were probably stock photos. Used on brochures and online to announce our services. These images didn’t match the hope and determination I saw in our kids. They didn’t match the way I viewed our work. So I got to change that by creating images filled with color. With smiles. With action. I view our youth with a lot of hope for their futures, because that is how they view themselves.
This gallery is just a small sampling of the 15,000+ photos I took over these years. I look back at these photos and have a tremendous amount of love for every single one of these kids. I like to think that that love shows up in my framing, my color choices, my lighting.