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Summer Night Lights

I have amazing friends.  I really do.  I’m not sure why – probably has something to do with my amazing wife – but I am surrounded by people who do fascinating things.  One of my amazing friends is Jeff Carr. Jeff has worked for years developing programs targeted at inner city youth and families. He has this gift for seeing all people as people and for understanding that what may look different on the outside for any number of reasons is a lot more the same on the inside.

Photo by Leo Flores.

A couple of years ago Jeff was asked by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to come and work for the city, running a department focused on Gang Reduction and Youth Development.  Jeff’s experience and perspective made him the right guy in the right place at the right time.  From experience, Jeff knew that one of the key drivers of gang involvement is boredom.  The old adage is true, kids tend to get into trouble when there is nothing else to do.  In depressed neighborhoods there is less to do than in neighborhoods where the local economy is flourishing.  It’s not about the people, it’s about the conditions.  He had an idea.  What if during the warm summer months, on the weekend nights when the rate of violent crime tends to skyrocket, we gave these kids something else to do?  It didn’t need to be anything terribly fancy. In fact, the best thing would probably be to just keep the lights on in the local parks and keep the doors open to the gyms and community centers?

10_D_S_0110Photo by Juan Posada.

What if, further, we worked with the local community leaders and the police department to identify kids who are at risk and what if we hired those kids to be the people who ran the program?

These two ideas are the foundation of a program called Summer Night Lights.  Jeff started in with some corporate donations and the help of community organizations (the program is almost entirely privately financed). Churches from all over LA pitch in with barbecues, and local bands play sets long into the evening.  I heard Jeff speak on the program and decided there was something he needed to help tell the story and that we could help.  What he needed was pictures.

Photo by Leo Flores.

During this last summer, Pictage employees Leo Flores and Edwin Medina, along with Pictage photographers Jen Clausen and Juan Posada went into the parks and community centers.  I asked them to shoot these settings as if they were wedding receptions, be PJ, but celebrate the people.  The work they all did is beautiful and it is already paying dividends.

Photo by Edwin Medina.

Jeff has recently been promoted to chief of staff in the Mayor’s office, but Summer Night Lights is moving forward under the capable hands of Guillermo Cespedes, who was Jeff’s right hand man in the gang reduction and youth development office.  On nights when the program is running, violent crime drops precipitously in these neighborhoods, and almost as importantly, the local families are coming out of their homes, getting to know each other and building community.

I am pleased and humbled to be a part of a company whose customers and products can create such powerful output.  We recently printed and framed a series of images from Summer Night Lights and these now hang in the Mayor’s offices. This spring we will be sponsoring a gala opening for a gallery of these images.  Guests will include the corporate sponsors and potential sponsors of Summer Night Lights as well as a group of Pictage photographers.

Photo by Juan Posada.

Stills tell stories.  In the images captured by Juan, Jenn, Edwin and Leo, you can feel the energy of these special evenings.  You can hear the laughter and the banter of community.  You can see the childrens’ smiles.  You can feel hope.  This is what you do.

We thought you’d want to know…

Below are images, courtesy of Jim Collins, of the presentation of Summer Night Lights framed photographs to the Mayor’s office. Receiving the images are, Jeff Carr and Guillermo Cespedes.





Written by Pictage CEO Jim Collins

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!