How do people find out about POSITIVE EXPOSURE photography opportunities?
How do people find out about POSITIVE EXPOSURE photography opportunities?
OOOH, good question! Check our website for upcoming opportunities - I travel the world, I just got back from India, where I was doing a photoshoot - in collaboration with an organization, photographing people who have undiagnosed conditions. Because when you have a diagnoses, you have a network of community, of specialists, but when you’re undiagnosed, you’re alone. And I’m going to Germany on Tuesday, to speak at a German dermatology conference. And then tomorrow I go to Minneapolis, to photograph - they just built a new dermatology clinic at the University of Minnesota Masonic Childrens Hospital, so I’m going to photograph a bunch of kids who use the clinic, and they’ll be a permanent installation there! We don’t really solicit anyone - people can always contact me with ideas, or if they want me to speak at their advocacy group, and my answer is always “yes.” We try to not do one photograph at a time, but if there’s an individual who’s working on an advocacy program, we try to collaborate there, as opposed to having photographs taken. It has to have legs, to grow, to help change the way the world sees difference. Our calendar is up on our website at all times, we’re always updating the calendar - after I go to Germany, I’m going to Portland for a conference called ANCOR, for people with intellectual disabilities, and then I come back, and then I go to Australia and New Zealand! It's so much fun.
It hasn’t really, to be honest. I’ll tell you why: we’re not a real traditional nonprofit organization, where we have really high overhead, this big space, we’re very transactional. A lot of the work that we do, we fund our programs through honoraria of me speaking around the globe, community-based projects, grant proposals. Liz Grossman, our executive director, she’s five grants successful for five grants written, she’s pretty amazing. Before Liz started writing grants, I wrote 19 grant proposals, and I got 21 grant rejections - it was HORRIBLE! But we partner with so many people, and what we offer is we have so many friends across cultures, across disciplines, across medical, art, teaching - they are all great friends, because this is about all of us. We’re shining in a position where people really believe this is necessary - not just for their own kids or families who are affected, but for EVERYBODY. Everybody deserves to look in the mirror and celebrate what they see. EVERYONE. So my dream, in this last 20 years, is to create a public gallery, performance, film screening space, where everyone can come to, and be safe, and be celebrated, and be inspired, be empowered and empower others by sharing their talents. We need to all lift our heads up, and have a conversation all together, by creating a permanent space where its purpose is to invite everybody to the table, so we can all understand IMMEDIATELY that we are all so powerful in our community. We are going to be inspired. The big conversations will create big ideas. And right now, our only restrictions are our imaginations. If we can all see gorgeous representations throughout the world it’s going to cause an earthquake. And guess what we just did? We just signed the lease for POSITIVE EXPOSURE 109 - on Museum Mile in Harlem. We are going to open up in the fall. On 109th Street and Central Park, on Museum Mile, which includes the Cooper-Hewitt, the Guggenheim, right across the street from the very north corner of Central Park. It’s going to be a multimedia gallery, performance space, lecture hall, workshop space, creative workspace, computer labs and classrooms and library -and we are fundraising like animals at the moment to make the space accessible, with ramps so everyone can enter with the same experience. No special entrances for anybody, everybody enters the same way! We are putting a new floor in, and we’re doing this all with zero dollars, so we did a huge campaign, and we’ve raised $50,000 of our $100,000 budget, but we’re trying to get the third floor fully accessible. But I have the feeling the money is going to come. Believe it or not, it’s the first time in the history of New York City that a space celebrating diversity and accessibility exists. It’s right there.
Well, I’m going to a conference in Rochester, before I go to Australia, to present the 3 new films we created, FRAME films. There’s an organization called the With Foundation, and they gave us a grant to create 5 films, and instead of just tackling 5 films, we made longer films - one on intellectual disability, one on autism, and one on cerebral palsy. And we’re going to present them in Rochester at a conference for people with intellectual disabilities on the 5th of May. The organization is the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD), in collaboration with one of the coolest foundations on the planet, called the Golisano Foundation, and this is why - they created a program with the Special Olympics that gets every single athlete to get an eye test, an ear test, and dental test, to make sure their teeth are good, because some of them may never have had that opportunity. And after each test, by volunteer physicians, they are treated right there and then - at the last world games, when I was there, you could hear kids screaming with joy, being able to hear their coaches for the first time. And at the very last tent, these kids get the coolest pair of sneakers custom-fitted just for them, thanks to the Golisano Foundation. It’s incredible. Those three films will be shared on our website, under FRAME, after the big screening. A lot of the kids we photographed for the film will come to the premier, on the red carpet, no less! And I’m the paparazzi. I’m so excited. So those 3 films will be coming out soon, and we hope to work on additional ones after that - so stay tuned. Our website has a lot of what we’re up to coming up, on our “About” section, a bit more in-depth visuals. You’ll see the trip to India, some of those images up there, from the Faroe Islands in December - they reached out and said “We have 55,000 people living on these 18 islands, but we’ve never had a dialogue about disability or diversity, can you help us make an exhibition on persons with disability?” So I went in October, I took a ton of photographs, and then for the Persons with Disability exhibition in Norway at the Nordic House, I went for that on December 3, Persons with Disability Day. We did the same thing, a community-based exhibit, for the Sunshine Coast in Australia. And I'm going back again to speak to medical students in Melbourne, and the exhibit is moving down there, and we're going to be adding more photographs of people in the local community with the help of photographers there - helping tell stories and create platforms.
You have to be very careful. The greatest thing is to create a very safe environment, and make sure the images are used to really celebrate diversity, without restriction. The exploitation is so far removed, because in the old days, when they would photograph a kid, those were exploitative photographs -with a black bar across the eyes to protect their privacy. But now families chase me, asking for photographs, because nobody wants to be seen as a disease or diagnoses. ALWAYS as a person. So the exploitation is gone, because we aren’t selling product, we aren’t selling images - the images are given to RAISE awareness on a big scale. To create opportunities so we can break through the exploitation’s, the negative things of the past. To see the beauty of these individuals. All the exhibitions we do around the world, whether in a fancy gallery, the Smithsonian, or a mall - it’s always faces mounted on highly mounted glass or plexi. So as you approach the piece you see the energy of the eyes, the movement, their face, and you’re also aware of your OWN reflection. It goes from being about THEM to being about US. And that’s so important. That we know it’s about US. ALL OF US. And there you have it.
Everybody looks beautiful in the right light. And everybody - going into countries where I don’t speak the language, I don’t speak Russian in Moscow, but everybody responds to “WOOOOWWWW! AMAAAAZING!” I don’t take photographs. It’s always a collaboration. Everybody has a connection, a moment. I’ve never photographed anybody who didn’t connect. No matter what their cognitive abilities were, they can always connect with your approach - with love, with gentleness, with caring. I don’t take photographs, it’s ALWAYS a collaboration. Whether someone is verbal or nonverbal, has severe cognitive issues, there’s always a connection, that beautiful amazing way to connect with someone. Always always always. And you’re always questioning your own biases. If you’re asking if someone is aware that you’re in the room, I can assure you that they are. Just today I was photographing a young lady, Julia, she was nonverbal. Her mom and her sister were there. And as we were photographing, she started communicating with me using her hair - she was drooling a bit, using her scarf, and as she was daubing herself, I could tell she didn’t want to have that in her photograph! She would look away in a giggling way, engaging and playing. She was communicating in a way that most people don’t have the ability to do. So you just have to be ready for that. People are there in the room, always, and it’s all in how you approach it. It's extraordinary.
STEM is really important, all that’s really important, but I’m looking after the kids who are here right now. I’m surrounded by these kids, these adults, and I’m just looking after these beautiful faces who are in front of me right now, and that they have an opportunity to look in the mirror, and love what they see.
How can we best stay up to date with you?
So many ways! Follow us on Instagram...
And for sure on our website - and sign up for our newsletter, which we send out quarterly, it’s always very image driven with stories and links. You can sign up on our website - it’s all there. We’re a good team, and any suggestions or thoughts, definitely reach out. There are so many ways to keep in touch with us. And as soon as our doors are open, POSITIVE EXPOSURE 109, you call, you can set up an appointment to come in, it will be open to the public just with an appointment to set that up! We are all about celebrating the richness and the beauty of human diversity.