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Empowering Kenyan Girls Through the Art of Photography is NOW!

This is the first post for the Empowering Kenyan Girls Though the Art of Photography project!  Now, for the photography classes….for this particular class, the focus was to use the camera to empower both the model and the photographer. I told them that the camera could be used as a weapon or a key to unlock the beauty and power of a person just by the way they introduced it. The model , in turn, could reject the invitation or let the photographer into their intimate world by accepting the invitation and trusting the process. By revealing themselves, the model gives the photographer the permission to do the same when the roles are reversed, It is a dance to give and take. That was the goal, but the realty was yet to be seen.Just coming off a train of non-stop classes, the girls stumbled in, glass-eyed and half-open to receiving yet another download of info. i made the lecture short but sweet and got the cameras in their hands right away. They barely knew how to turn on the cameras, let alone where to find the exposure compensation. lo and behold, their quick minds absorbed the know-how and they were on their way to taking portraits of their classmates. Vertical vs. horizontal composition, the rule of thirds, focus points and exposure composition were the technical aspects. Making the subject feel comfortable in front of the camera was another matter. Jules was there to help them find certain functions on the cameras and reminded me of things I might have missed.Our hour slipped by so quickly! I told the girls that I would hang out longer to show them more about portraiture and that was when the action really started! They got their hands on my cameras and all of a sudden, they all became super models…..beaming smiles, s-curves, wide-eyed mavens, their personalities came alive and I could see who they were behind the veils of conformity. Their strength of presence amazed me! This was the one time of the day where they could unleash themselves without restraint. They had no issue being seen and that gave me permission to be seen too. It is so amazing how that works! We were all experimenting with what made a strong portrait, what distracted the viewer from the subject like foreground and back objects that did not compliment the over-all scene. I showed them the difference between an environmental portrait and a headshot. The Kenyan sun acted as our light source and there were billowing clouds that acted as intermittent diffusers. Against the mural of empowering slogans, the girls laughed and clumped together in group poses, all the while I instructed them to mind the light source and keep the rule of thirds in mind while composing the shots. We laughed and ran around in different configurations: models, posers, assistants, picture takers -round and round as we inspired each other to one up the other’s creative impulses. What a delight to behold! Without pressing the agenda, the magic of empowerment unfolded beautifully – we all left the lesson lit up and inspired to do it again and again – I was reminded once again this kind of creativity is a collective process and usually it is best to get out of my own way and become a vehicle of the creative spirit. Neither owning it or rushing it, if I stay in the mindset of eggless service, the process unfolds in ways I could have never imagined!


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What is the power of an image to inspire and change lives? I have dedicated a great deal of my life to answering this question, to revealing that untold beauty or story through the lens of a camera. Now this quest is calling me to Africa!

Yes, is is official, Jules and I are going to Kenya to teach photography to girls from disadvantaged backgrounds at Daraja Academy in the Spring of 2014.  It is a pilot program and will serve as a model for future photography empowerment programs world-wide.

My basic goal for this project is to create a window from which women’s voices and stories can be both heard and seen.  The vision is to empower these remarkable young women to explore their unique creative voice, build advocacy & communication skills and to inspire personal and social change through the art of photography.  The 2-week project will take the students on an inspired journey of self – expression by exploring the idea that one person’s story can be a catalyst for change both individually and collectively.  The nuts and bolts of photography, camera functions and composition will be be taught as well, giving the students a well rounded experience that serves as a springboard for further study or applied to other fields of interest.


Our world is a better place when we educate girls and give them the tools to succeed. They are more active in evolving forward their communities in conscious ways. This photography project will contribute directly to Daraja’s sustainable educational models in struggling communities. Daraja believes change occurs in a developing country through the people themselves and has been established to provide young Kenyan women the tools to create change and become the country’s future leaders.  This photography project was designed specifically to support the following:

Women’s Empowerment:

• The project will be aligned with or support the Women of Integrity, Strength and Hope (WISH) class: This class has been created to help the students understand their self-worth.

• It will also be aligned with or support the Grassroots Girls Club: This club shows how to create grassroots change through applied knowledge.

Cross-Cultural Education:

• Tribal Diversity: In a country with a history of tribal violence, Daraja makes a point of accepting girls from various tribes in order to build bridges and break misconceptions. This project introduces photography as a medium through which the students can present and discuss varying perspectives and respect differences.  The students may also see the similarities in each other and recognize that we are all human and cut from the same cloth.

Social and Environmental Responsibility:

• This photography project will give students more insight into what they are passionate about and where their talents lie by exploring themselves creatively.  From there, they can bring their greatest gifts to their communities and to the world.  Here are all of the benefits of educating girls:

• Permaculture Methods: we will be volunteering in the sustainable garden to help their environmental goals: Due to growing environmental issues such as deforestation and social issues such as malnutrition, the school is implementing and teaching sustainable methods to provide food and resources. Practices such as composting, bee keeping, agroforestry and organic gardening are being used.

Please join our newsletter to get updates delivered to your inbox!  I am looking forward to sharing the treasures behind the eyes of these future leaders!


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I just officially launched the fundraiser and we are on a roll.  The goal is to raise $6,000 to fund a project to teach photography to girls from disadvantaged backgrounds at Daraja Academy in Kenya in the Spring of 2014!

It feels like one of the most important projects I’ve undertaken in a long time. Feel free to share this link with anyone you think might be interested in this project.

THE VISION: The goal is to empower remarkable young Kenyan women to explore their unique creative voice, build advocacy & communication skills and to inspire personal and social change through the art of photography.

I will be accompanied to Africa by my son, Julian who will be volunteering in their sustainable garden & kitchen, learning about the “soil to table” process and otherwise taking advantage of this amazing cultural exchange.

Please join me in these students’ lives as future leaders by giving them the tools for success! Your contributions are invaluable ~ Please donate what you can.





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