Portraits of Opportunity

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The Portraits of Opportunity exhibit showcases some of the Valley’s best known photographers telling the stories of children and families who have benefited from services provided by Southwest Human Development, an organization that helps families with early childhood services. Rick Gayle, one of the photographers in the exhibit, and Laura Chasko, Director of Marketing and Development for Southwest Human Development, talk about the event.

José Cárdenas: "Portraits of Opportunity" is a unique exhibit and fund-raiser where all proceeds will benefit critical programs for young children. Joining me to talk about this event is Rick Gayle, one of the photographers involved in the exhibition. Also here is Laura Chasko, Director of Marketing and Development for Southwest Human Development. Thank you both for joining us. Laura, we've talked about Southwest Human Development before, but just give us a general overview.

Laura Chasko: We're a nonprofit agency, we are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year. We serve about 135,000 children and families a year, and what makes us really different is our focus on very young children. So our children are about ages birth to 5, and what we're trying to do is really get them off to the best start in life. So help create a solid foundation for the rest of their development.

José Cárdenas: This is the third year in a row you're using this photographic exhibition to kind of showcase the different aspects, there's so you can't capture them all, but at least a number of the aspects of the programs you operate. Give us a sense for this photographic program.

Laura Chasko: Well, we're such a large complex organization that we were trying to figure out a way to really tell the story of what we do there. And so we are -- we pair eight photographers with eight families we serve and let the photographers tell the family's story and how they were helped by Southwest Human Development Services through photographs. And then we have an exhibition where people can come in and look at the photos and read the bios that go with them.

José Cárdenas: And Rick this is your third year, you've been participating, every year this program has been going on?

Rick Gayle: Yes, exactly.

José Cárdenas: You come, you look at the bios, decide which family?

José Cárdenas: I read the bios and select one that seems to give me a sense of there's a lot of possibilities in terms of making photographs. And then I'll go meet the family, talk to them, basically do a location scout and come back, maybe a week later and spend practically a day there photographing them.

José Cárdenas: This year it wasn't necessarily a family, but it was a day care center?

Rick Gayle: Right. It was a day care center started by a young mother, I think her sister also worked with her, there were about five kids in there that I spent time with photographing. And thoroughly enjoyed it.

José Cárdenas: We're going to go through the photos, but first, why would a day care center or child care center be one of your clients, so to speak?

Laura Chasko: Well, our focus is really early childhood. And so those can be services that take place in the children's home, or where they spend a lot of their time which is child care centers. And so we have a number of programs that are working to improve the quality of child care here in Arizona.

José Cárdenas: And that was the case with this one particular center. We've got some photographs we want to put up. These were the four photographs that you selected. This first one, tell us about that.

Rick Gayle: Well, essentially in order to tell a story, I always find it's important to get some photographs of the environment and in this case, the kids were eating Cheerios and fruit in the morning and the way the light was coming through the window, it was just fantastic. So I thought it was worthy of photographing. So I photographed the kids in a lot of little still life images.

José Cárdenas: You've got a little fella here is giving you quite a quizzical look.

Rick Gayle: I basically saw him, he was sitting by himself, and I said, "Hey, smile!" And the guy looked at me like I was half crazy, and that's when I took a bunch of pictures. He was very, very curious with the camera.

José Cárdenas: Another one, speaking of cameras, who was giving you the treatment with his own camera.

Rick Gayle: Exactly. As soon as I picked up my camera he grabbed his toy camera and we had a shootout.

José Cárdenas: And finally we have another one. Very typical childhood experience, kids not wanting to brush their teeth.

Rick Gayle: I love this image because you have this typical thing, kids don't like toothpaste and the child in the background is out of focus and sucking his thumb. I thought it was an interesting contrast.

José Cárdenas: You do this for free?

Rick Gayle: Yes. And I think myself and other photographs find they do their best work when they can do pro bono work.

José Cárdenas: Tell us in more detail what happens to the photographs that you get from these professionals.

Laura Chasko: Well, we set this up sort of like a gallery exhibit. So it's an open house format. So it is a fund-raiser, people pay a fee to come view, and we've got eight photographs in the eight families, and they come in and look at the photos, there is food, wine, silent auction, and they can actually purchase the photos.

José Cárdenas: We've got some information about the exhibition on the screen, people will come and on October 20th?

Laura Chasko: Yes.

José Cárdenas: And they have the opportunity to -- the photographs are fixed prices.

Laura Chasko: yes.

José Cárdenas: So they can get some professional work at a pretty reasonable price.

Laura Chasko: M-hmm.

José Cárdenas: This is a major fund-raiser for you?

Laura Chasko: Yes, it is.

José Cárdenas: We've only got a little bit of time left, but tell us about some of the other things that go on with southwest human development.

Laura Chasko: We have a lot of services for young children with disabilities, we have a lot of kids coming in with really complicated issues and families are going from one doctor to another to another, and really trying to piece together the picture of what's going on with their family and now we've start a new children's developmental center where they can actually come and work with a team of professionals that includes a developmental pediatrician, physical therapist, mental health professional, the whole gamut, all in one room, working to try to figure out what is going on with this child.

José Cárdenas: We appreciate you both joining us to talk about the program. Good luck on the event. That's it for our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.

Rick Gayle:Photographer; Laura Chasko:Director, Marketing and Development for Southwest Human Development;

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