The first organization to be featured on Fresh Face Friday, Picture.Me.Here is an exceptional project that combines photography, storytelling, and healing. In this special profile we learn from two of the founders, Brigid McAuliffe and Lauren Dorn, on what it means to live a wholehearted life.
What never ceases to amaze me is the power of art and creativity. That through photography and the motivation of three entrepreneurs we can connect and feel for people hundreds of miles away. That through this craft, we can bridge space, time, language, and culture. To me art, creativity, and passion are nothing short of magical.
To learn more about Picture.Me.Here visit http://www.picturemehere.org, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/picturemehere/picturemehere-storytelling-project-for-refugees-in.
2) Website Address
Brigid McAuliffe – Director, CoFounder, Teacher
Lauren Dorn – CoFounder, Teacher
Erin Preson – CoFounder, Teacher
4) Examples of your work
5) Brief Biography:
Picture.Me.Here began in 2012 as a volunteer project in Denver, working with a group of recently resettled Bhutanese refugee women. This first program had a powerful impact on the participants and leaders. Seeing this potential and need, co-founders Lauren Dorn, Brigid McAuliffe and Erin Preston decided to keep building the program. Today PMH offers multiple programs and exhibits per year and partners with the Colorado Photographic Arts Center for nonprofit status and advising. With a waiting list of participants and exciting projects/classes lined up, 2014 is bound to be a great year of continued growth.
Brigid McAuliffe is the director, co-founder and an instructor of Picture.Me.Here. She is a multimedia artist and educator. She also works as a videographer and photographer, helping organizations communicate their mission. In her personal work, she focuses on stories of cultural diversity and identity, especially in times of transition. She holds a MFA in Emerging Digital Practice from the University of Denver, and a BFA in Photography from Colorado State University. She has taught participatory media and digital storytelling projects as a professor and as a consultant to foundations and community organizations. McAuliffe has exhibited her work in the United States, Italy, and Argentina.
Erin Preston is a co-founder and an instructor for Picture.Me.Here. She is a photographer, videographer and adventurer. The beauty of all people and their perspectives on life drives her to continue exploring the various forms of storytelling. Her assignments have taken her around the world and from coast to coast of the US. She has worked with agencies including Catholic Relief Servies, LifeStraw, Bridges to Prosperity, and DelAgua Health. Erin has also worked extensively with the immigrant and refugee communities of Denver, Colorado and created the multimedia series “Stories of Integration” Agency for the Human Rights & Community Partnerships of the City and County of Denver.
Lauren Dorn is a co-founder and instructor for Picture.Me.Here. She works with newly resettled refugees in Metro Denver in the area of employment, education and English Language Acquisition (ELA). She has studied Spanish in Central America, yoga and Buddhism in India, and has taught English in South Korea. Picture.Me.Here. fosters her passion for photography, teaching and encouraging self-exploration and personal growth of local refugees. As the Community Internship Developer and Youth Education and Employment Specialist, she has developed innovative programs at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains focusing on internships, education, ELA, and employment opportunities for refugees. Lauren holds a B.A. in International Studies from Colorado State University.
Birendra Dhakal is an instructor for Picture.Me.Here. He is a Bhutanese refugee that was born and raised at Goldhap refugee camp in Nepal. In 2007, at age thirteen, he resettled in Denver with his family. Birendra remembers how welcoming everyone was as he adapted to his new life in Denver. He took his first photography class at South High School and is now a college student at Metropolitan State College of Denver. He sees teaching for Picture.Me.Here as a valuable leadership experience and sees the program as an excellent opportunity to practice photography in a different perspective, focusing on storytelling. He now realizes that documenting everyday life can lead to interesting stories. He enjoys helping newly resettled refugees navigate their new city and share stories about their experiences.
1) What does wholehearted and mindful living mean to you?
Brigid: Paying attention. Being thoughtful, considerate and patient. Slowing down. Listening. Observing. Honoring the world and those around you by asking questions and being genuinely curious.
Lauren: A journey of living in sync with the body, mind and spirit.
2) How do you practice wholehearted and mindful living?
Brigid: Striving to do all of the above… I have dedicated my education, career and life to this practice. Nothing brings me more joy than listening to others, observing, telling stories inspired by these discoveries, and most importantly empowering others to realize and tell their own incredible stories.
Lauren: Being in nature helps me to create balance and harmony. There is so much truth in nature. Taking time for true reflection as well as meditation.
3) What or who inspires you?
Brigid: Family, friends, refugees (specifically PMH participants), PMH colleagues and volunteers, storytellers/documentarians, teachers, individuals and organizations that serve refugees, etc… Similar programs that inspire us: Kids With Cameras, PhotoVoice, Aja Photo, First Exposures!
Lauren: Nature and so many people – my PMH colleagues, my family and friends and my partner.
4) Answer this quote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one, wild, and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver
Brigid: To live courageously, to continue pursuing my dreams. To have patience to take things one day at a time, but stay committed and see the big picture.
Lauren: To live it preciously and wildly
5) What words of wisdom would you offer to your younger self?
Brigid: To be tenacious and patient at the same time. Take risks. Seize opportunities since life is incredibly short and you never know if you’ll have that opportunity again. Laugh often and take things lightly. To realize something stressful today is likely not a big deal in the grand scheme of things (These are things I have to tell myself now too!)
Lauren: Don’t take things so seriously. Surround yourself with people you want to be influenced by. Try many different things and do them with an open mind.
1) What is Picture.Me.Here?
Picture.Me.Here (PMH) is a photographic, digital storytelling program for refugees based in Denver. The project uses photography and other digital media as powerful communication tools for social engagement, community building and integration. Participants are empowered to tell their stories, explore their new surroundings and share their resettlement experiences. They build skills in technology, English, and public speaking. PMH projects culminate in exhibits and events that bring together diverse groups to view photographs, hear stories and build new friendships.
2) What is your Kickstarter project, “Picture.Me.Here: Storytelling Project For Refugees in Nepal,” about and what do you hope to accomplish?
In April, Picture.Me.Here will teach a two-week workshop in the Beldangi refugee camp in eastern Nepal. This is a camp where many of our Bhutanese participants once lived and we will be working with refugees that will soon resettle to Denver. Most of our participants never had a camera before arriving in the United States and taking our classes… many express wishing they had a camera in the past to preserve these memories and their history.
In Nepal, we will provide cameras and training to empower these new participants to document their lives in the camps, the experience of leaving the camp (where they spend an average of 18 years), the journey to America and their first impressions of Denver and resettlement. We will have three exhibits: one in the camp, one in Kathmandu, and one in Denver.
Our Kickstarter funds will ensure we can carry out the project and exhibit successfully. We only have until March 21st to reach our funding goal. We hope the campaign will reach far beyond our immediate network, leading to an array of supporters and new friends! With enough supporters, even the smallest donation really adds up.
3) What have you learned about humanity and life through your work and artistry?
Brigid: I’ve learned that everyone has a story, but often it takes time to realize. It takes patience and commitment to craft a story in an artistic, engaging way, but it is worth the effort. Stories about our collective and individual life experience, can lead to greater social and cultural awareness and positive change.
Lauren: That people are extremely resilient. Refugees have lived through some of the most difficult life situations and are the most appreciative people I know. It is an honor to work with them.
4) What is the relationship between art, education, and service?
Brigid: I see art, education and service as one. Personally, I find sharing the creative process by teaching and collaborating, far more rewarding than working as a solo artist… especially when this practice builds stronger communities, offers support for marginalized people and leads to social change.
Lauren: PMH gives refugees a tool for connection and exploration. It is just them, the camera, and their curiosity. Photography gives them an extremely powerful tool for cultivating rich and rewarding experiences, self-reflection and understanding. These lessons lead to new skills, more confidence and greater integration.
5) What do you hope is the impact and meaning of your work?
Brigid: Through PMH, I hope refugees realize the value of their incredible stories of strength and resilience. The integration component to PMH is important too. Refugees gain confidence from sharing their stories in class with each other and with the instructors, as well as at the exhibits with people who may not otherwise meet a refugee. Photography becomes a powerful tool to connect and start meaningful conversations… it leads to a constant exchange of ideas, stories and cultural traditions. My hope is that these components continue to grow and thrive in our program.