Art Therapy for Women and The Skinned Knee

Texas Tribune & National Geographic - all at once.

When I was about 5 years old, I remember being struck by how impossibly cool it is to be alive in this body that can feel sunshine and feel rain and the absence of both and that it unequivocally belonged to me; these experiences in my world were completely my own, that I often had to close my eyes and reach out to touch the closest object to make sure this was all real. I find myself in that state once again with the discovery that one of my photographs has been published in National Geographic's Your Shot, specifically with the assignment titled "Home".

But first, I feel like I should address my most recent assignment with the Texas Tribune.

The story was over "Illuminating Spirits," an art and poetry exhibition by about 50 incarcerated women in the Texas prison system, that are displayed at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, presented by The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the City of Austin. The purpose of the exhibit is to address that "in addition to past sexual abuse and mental illness, data collected by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition showed that 82.1 percent [of the 421 women surveyed] had experienced some type of domestic violence before their incarceration. More than half said their household income was less than $10,000 a year, and 73.3 percent reported that family members had also been incarcerated."

Art therapy is not only inexpensive, it's an effective coping method that offers a safe form of expression for individuals suffering from previous trauma, low self-esteem, and other emotional needs.

Featured on TexasTribune.org

Featured on TexasTribune.org

It was awesome to experience the exhibit, as well a performance by Conspire Theater, a group of previously incarcerated women speaking on womanhood, love and loss, the Texas prison system, and life after being a number. Providing a voice and outlet to those who have likely never been heard before is direly important. Most of the crimes these women committed stem from past abuses in their lives. "Someone failed these women."

Read about the event and the organizations here:


and then....

I went to my National Geographic Your Shot account (Your Shot is a way to submit photographs for "assignments" that editors and NatGeo photographers curate, directly to the editors. It is open to the public and is a fantastic photo-sharing community.) to check my notifications, as usual. I scroll down and see a comment that goes something like..."congrats on the selection for the story!".....scroll down some more, and I see a notification from the editor congratulating me on my being published for the story. It hasn't set in yet and I don't know that it will. It's an honor and I'm a little overwhelmed.

The photograph is of my friend's younger brother, Orion, on a custom-made, pink-lighted, dinosaur bike with velociraptor claws and a detachable tail, outside of their house in Austin, Texas. The image has a relatable feeling of childhood; riding your bike until after dark with banged up shin bones in the cooler summer nights, plus the fun of pink lights and dinosaurs.

My photo, among 19 other selections, was chosen to represent the word "home." At the front of each issue, there is designated "Your Shot" page or two, usually at the front. However, I'm not sure which selected photos will be actually printed in next month's issue, since there were so many selected for this assignment, but here's hoping that by this time next month, I'll be able to hold one of realized life's dreams in my own hands, and make sure it really is real.



Thank you for not only taking time to read, but for the support.




April 8, 2014

Hello friends,

Last Friday I had my first (and maybe last, my shadowing is up this week) photo assignment with the Texas Tribune. It was a little hectic, there was a miscommunication about transportation, but once it was started it worked out very smoothly.

I was sent to document the headquarters of Dulce Vida Spirits in Dripping Springs, for a story on the brand new market for tequila in China, after president Xi Jinping lifted the ban this past summer. Both Mexican and American tequila companies are scrambling to put their product on the shelves of the top alcohol consumption force in the world.

I was disappointed to discover that in order for tequila to be considered tequila, it must be distilled, bottled, and sealed in Mexico - so no distillery photos for us.

The headquarters is a modest warehouse with a big Texas dance hall feel; country music plays on the speakers and twinkle lights are strung across the main entrance. There was even a stage with two acoustic guitars just waiting to be picked up and played by a pair of cowboy boots and denim jeans. The owner takes a lot of pride in his company, informing us, while he sips on a rich brown añejo tequila I'm told, that they are the most awarded tequila company and are independently owned, as well as their products are the only completely organic, 100 proof (whatever that means - I'm 20), and kosher tequila in the world.

While the reporter Cathaleen, an intern from Chicago, interviewed the owner and director of sales, I went to do my thing. I listened to what she was looking to gain from the interview, and from what I heard, the Texas Tribune wanted a Texan tequila company's perspective, since there are stories from freelancers in Mexico over Mexican tequila companies.

I made sure to get as many options for the editors as possible and to make it as Texan as possible, which proved to be easy, considering there was a Texan flag in nearly every shot I took. I walked around the facility ('strolled' would probably be more appropriate, considering the setting), made sure to capture the offices in the back, and listened to the interview for a little while. It was fascinating to listen to how careful the questions had to be worded, and to just watch how intricate the interviewing process really is. To my laymen ear, the reporter seemed to be cautious as to not explore favoritism bias for that company in what she recorded and asked, but rather how they, as a tequila company, independent from their practice and how good their product may be, plan to venture into the new market in China, how it will affect business, etc.

It was a very fun experience for me, and I can see myself doing this for a long time to come. I know nothing about tequila and next to nothing about foreign affairs, but being in a new environment and observing and listening to stories is a blast. I always love listening to people talk about things they're most passionate about, I think it's very connective. I was ecstatic that although I'm inexperienced and probably (definitely) naive, that the Tribune would give me this opportunity and trust me enough to not make a blunder of their piece. 

Stuck in traffic on the way back to Austin, I was able to chat with Cathaleen and it was really nice to gush with someone about how cool it is to be at the Tribune, how much we love journalism and how the Tribune is the future of journalism and so on. She told me that the owners had offered her a bottle of tequila as thanks for stopping by, and she was so upset that she had to turn it down because it was unethical to accept gifts. Shoot!

Keep an eye out for the article on the TT website, you can search for the keyword "tequila", as I'm not sure when it'll be up.