A few months back, a mother whose child also attended my son's grade school, called me to ask about photography and whether I had a studio. This parent also happened to be an officer with the Knoxville Police Department (KPD).
After chatting for a while, I realized she needed some pictures taken for the department for an anti-bullying campaign they were doing. Now, for reasons that I will expalin below, I was compelled to volunteer my time to help. In addition, I have family and friends who wear badges "to protect and serve" - I considered it an honor to lend my talents to the KPD.
A few days later I was at the KPD service garage. It was then I found out the details - the photographs would be used in billboards around the Knoxville area. In addition to the children of police officers and college students involved with anti-bullying campaigns, I would also be photographing Knoxville mayor Madeline Rogero, Chief of Police David Rausch, and Vol 4 Life Sterling Henton. Wow! I had not realized the scope of this and I was excited!
Here was the plan: I would be photographing these people in various groupings, which would be used by Lamar Advertising to create these billboards. It was a loose plan, lacking some specifics in how we could group the people without taking too much time - after all, both the Mayor and the Chief of Police had tight schedules, as to be expected. I quickly suggested that we first photograph each person individually and then try some pairings and groupings. This way, the graphic designer at Lamar would have a number of images he could use to vary the billboards.
And it worked! I was able to deliver high resolution images. Now while driving around Knoxville, I smile when I see one of these billboards:
And, for the record, everyone was wonderful to work with! It was a pleasure meeting the various officers, the Chief, Her Honor, and Sterling, as well as all the kids. And I do not want to overlook the folks at Lamar Advertising, especially there graphic designer Fernando Condarco, who was a delight and a professional.
Now, why this project was important to me . . .
Before I became a professional photographer, I was - actually, still am - an attorney. I practiced solely Family Law in Southern California. When I applied to law school, I had to write an essay on why I wanted to be a lawyer. I started it with this: "I hate bullies."
In 2011, my husband and I moved our family to East Tennessee. My daughter had just graduated from 8th grade and started high school. One of the things we learned after leaving California was the extent to which she had been bullied at her grade school. It was our Catholic parish school. She faced daily insults and teasing, even racist comments (over 95% of the school kids were Hispanic and my blonde-haired daughter was a target, especially from the boys in her class). But it was not something she talked about. One of her teachers knew, but never mentioned it to us, and with a principal largely absent that year to complete his Ph.D. program and a pastor mostly uninvolved the school, who was to say anything?
Fortunately, our move brought both relief and the opportunity for good counseling. But I learned a lesson - bullying can happen anywhere, to anyone, and you may not be aware of it. Take a stand. If you see it happening, don't assume kids will "grow out of it" or "get over it." Don't assume someone else will say something. Don't assume a child will tell you.
I sometimes had to remind my clients in Family Law that they could not ascribe a maturity to their children beyond what the children had. So many parents wanted to "share" their "feelings" about the divorce with their kids, or expected their kids to "understand what was really going on." No - children, even teens, have maturing minds. Maybe some are further along than others, but they are still immature. "Sticks and stones may break some bones" . . . but words CAN hurt. And that hurt can last.
So, please - take a stand against bullying.