Last July, a small handful of Pro Photo Supply employees headed to North Portland to help document the painting of the N Killingsworth Ct. / N Borthwick intersection. Street paintings are not uncommon in Portland, but this one is particularly special. As a project organized by the Multnomah County Health Department and STRYVE, this was the first of many street paintings and community projects targeting areas historically affected by violence; often youth violence. By bringing together youth of different ages, community and government organizations, schools, churches, and even passersby, this street painting is far more than just a work of art. It is a conversation piece; a reason to stop and ask questions, educate yourself, and share the story behind its creation. Many people connected to the project had a hand in its design, meaning the painting is not a result of just one artist’s vision. It stands as a beacon of hope and unity for the entire community.
As a business, Pro Photo Supply strives to be connected to the community as much as possible. When we were asked to play a role in this project by providing photographic equipment and training, we jumped at the chance. Part of the program included employing high school students and recent graduates in media jobs for the summer, and it was with this group of youth that we worked most closely. Even though I didn’t get the chance to meet the students until the first day of the project, I was immediately blown away with their desire, drive, and capability in quickly learning and applying video production skills. Literally within an hour, we had set up an interview area and handed off production entirely to our new crew: camera, sound, and interviewer. All I did was help hold a diffuser. The video above was shot almost entirely by these youth.
On a personal level, participating in this project made me feel more connected to the Portland community in two days than I have felt in the past four years of living here. I met so many amazing people and heard some incredible stories. I lived in North Portland for over a year when I first moved to the city, and this project exposed me to new perspectives that taught me a lot about an area that used to be my own backyard.
A common question from people not connected to the project was, “How can a street painting stop violence?” It’s a question that is answered again and again in the video above, but for me, the main reason is very simple: it brings people together. People who otherwise may never see each other or be exposed to each other’s lives, desires, struggles, intelligence, compassion, and creativity. When you see everyone around you working for the same cause of peace, you cannot help but feel hopeful.
To everyone at the Health Department, STRYVE, PCC, the students, youth, and community members who came out to paint the street on that hot July weekend, know that as a business, Pro Photo Supply is proud to have had the opportunity to sponsor this event. But as individuals, as members of this community, we are much more than that. We are humbled, we are hopeful, we are thankful, and we had a heck of a good time getting to know you and helping to document this amazing project. And especially to the media crew: you guys rocked it. It was our pleasure to work on your set.