This month we are very happy to have Flashpoint Labs Co-founder and CEO, Mickey Kovari. Flashpoint Labs is a socially innovative professional photography agency and training academy. They provide corporate photography services and run changemaking photography programs with young people from diverse backgrounds.
[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]Changemaking photography is about melding social innovation and photographic storytelling.[/gdlr_quote]
How was Flashpoint Labs created?
I have had a passion for contributing to social change since I was a teenager. Growing up, I lived between two worlds. The haves and the have-nots. I was constantly struck by inequality. I had friends from the richest families in Australia and I had friends who slept rough from time to time. It was hard to reconcile the differences in my young mind.
During my years at university studying Political Economy and in my first few jobs in various NGOs, I began to realise the power of social enterprise for social change.
While working together in 2009, Leanne Townsend and I discovered we shared a passion for youth empowerment, social innovation and photography. Inspired by PhotoVoice, in 2011, we co-founded Flashpoint Labs and began running changemaking photography programs (based on the PhotoVoice Manual) with young people from diverse backgrounds in Sydney. Since then we have engaged over 200 participants, more than 45 in multi-week programs and 3 in multi-year paid apprenticeships.
In 2013, Tomasz Machnik joined Flashpoint Labs as the Lead Photographer. He now heads up the delivery of our professional services, the professional development of our young apprentices and the facilitation of our programs. He has had a huge influence on our ability to achieve social impact.
Why Diverse Backgrounds?
We use the phrase ‘diverse backgrounds’ because we want to move away from the deficit language of ‘disadvantage’ and ‘marginalisation’. We believe these labels are negative and influence how young people see themselves, contributing to their disempowerment. We use the strengths based language of ‘diversity’ as we know diversity leads to resilience, creativity and innovation.
Flashpoint Labs works with young people who are not involved in full-time work or study and who are, or are at risk of, not earning or learning. Due to Leanne and my experience in the Indigenous Sector, we have mainly worked with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. In partnership with other NGOs, we have also worked with many young people who have recently migrated to Australia and who come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
What is Changemaking Photography?
Flashpoint Labs has its own version of participatory photography, we call it Changemaking Photography. While participatory photography is a broad field ranging from very personal and therapeutic practices to very public and activist like practices, we focus on the later. We encourage our participants to explore socially innovative ideas and to think outside themselves, to think about their community and society more broadly. We encourage them to use systems thinking as well as visual and critical thinking in their projects.
How Does Flashpoint Labs Work?
Flashpoint Labs has two mutually reinforcing enterprise elements, the Photography Agency and the Training Academy.
Through the Agency, we deliver brilliant imagery with exceptional customer service and social impact. We provide a full range of corporate, event and advertising photography services. On every job, where possible, a young apprentice from a diverse background is paid to work alongside a professional photographer, getting valuable on-the-job industry experience. All profits from our photography services go directly into supporting our training academy.
Through our Training Academy, we deliver a range of changemaking photography programs, workshops, coaching and events for people of all ages and skill levels. So far we have focused on engaging and empowering young people from diverse backgrounds with the intention of employing the most committed as apprentices in the Agency.
Our programs use photography to engage people in breakthrough learning experiences. In supportive and cohesive groups, participants are given the opportunity to learn about technical photography, strategic storytelling and social innovation while developing critical and systems thinking skills, creative expression and confidence.
What is Happening Right Now?
Between June 11th and June 30th we are running a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for two programs we want to run in the second half of 2014. Please back us to make these programs a reality and empower up to 40 young people! Go to the StartSomeGood Website.
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