Tag Archives: austin

Family Photos: Chandy, Zach, Rocco and Bru

Zach, my friend since HS, and his fiancee, Chandy, asked me to do family portraits last week. Although it’s not my main photo business offering, I have a lot of fun doing family portraits when I’m asked by friends. I did portraits for Chandy and Zach late last year when Bru was still in the cooker. Now that Bru is here and Rocco is getting bigger, it was time to do it again!

I went with some structured shots in mind, but I typically tend to just see what happens beyond the poses. Here are some of my faves 🙂

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Independence: A Day in East Austin

On July 4th the streets of East 6th Street are empty. The bars are closed for the day or won’t open for at least a few more hours. This is when I want to be here. Skip the crowds. Imagine the frenetic, yet still laid back energy of the place without actually being in the middle of it all.

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Shameless Self-Promotion: Yoga Teacher Headshots… I do those!!

Hey all you yoga teachers out there in Austin!!

Yoga teacher training is challenging. Then finding a place to teach can be even harder. Great head shots can help you market yourself as you build a student base or get onboard with studios around town.

My friend, Kat, turned this photo

 Into this!

Check out these additional shots of Kat and Chantal below. Then email me to discuss details (pricing, etc.) I can’t wait to help you take your teaching practice to the next level!

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Change Agent: Erine Gray- Aunt Bertha

Gray at Aunt Bertha Texas launch

Gray mingling at the Aunt Bertha Texas Launch in March

Two years ago, Erine Gray reached a turning point. After four years of creating efficiencies and cost-saving solutions as a consultant within the Texas state human services agency, he decided to pursue an idea that would attack a complicated system from the outside with a simple solution. He named this solution Aunt Bertha and put everything he had into making her a reality.

Aunt Bertha collects information on federal, state, county, city, neighborhood and charity programs and puts it all in one place online. For clients, this means they can be empowered to find available services themselves as the internet has become a ubiquitous resource anyone can readily access from the privacy of home computers and mobile phones. For social workers, Aunt Bertha is a efficient tool to help their clients find services which saves them much-needed time. For service providers, it is an accountability tool. Similar to sites like Yelp, users will eventually be able to rate and review service agencies, allowing a new standard of service to emerge and evolve.

Gray’s personal experience with the social service sector was the impetus that led him to pursue his Master’s degree in Public Affairs at the LBJ School of Public Service at the University of Texas in Austin, and eventually start Aunt Bertha. Gray and his six siblings were raised in a household where his parents struggled to make ends meet. Before they bought his childhood home in a small town outside of Buffalo, NY, his family lived in public housing. He qualified for free lunch in school and, as he explains in an early Aunt Bertha blog post, Gray experienced the embarrassment and shame so many kids feel when they’re different from their peers.

In his late teens, Gray’s mother, Donna, endured permanent mental impairments as a result of encephalitis. At 25, he moved her from western New York state to Austin to live near him and his older sister and relieve his father of being her primary caregiver. Gray then became her legal guardian and found himself in many a social service office working to get her medical and other state-offered care. He knows first-hand the amount of time and energy it takes to sit in a service provider’s office all day only to be told they didn’t qualify for care because a form was filled out incorrectly or because his mother’s condition was difficult to manage and the provider did not want to take her on. After many years of bouncing in and out of nursing care facilities and the state hospital, Donna has been happily settled in a small nursing care facility in East Austin for a little over four years. Gray visits her as often as possible and sometimes brings his dog, Rosie.

Gray with mom, Donna

Gray during a visit with his mom

Gray’s vision of Aunt Bertha’s success looks like this:

  • Government and private social service providers are using and paying for Aunt Bertha’s web-based software which will allow agencies to bypass the need for expensive and clunky, custom-built software packages, thus freeing up millions of tax dollars to continue service programs currently in danger of funding cuts.
  • Funding by investors and venture capitalists is secured so that Aunt Bertha can expand beyond Texas.
  • Most importantly, people in need feel empowered by using Aunt Bertha to get back on their feet, and have a voice within an online community to hold service providers accountable for both good and less than awesome practices.

To Gray, this accountability is the key to changing the system in the interest of providing better and more dignified service to those in need. He believes that online community will help de-stigmatize the idea of receiving help by allowing recipients to help each other and interact, making an inherently difficult process less isolating.

This vision is becoming closer to reality. In March, Gray launched Aunt Bertha for the entire state of Texas and was selected to be a fellow for the Unreasonable Institute. As a fellow, he will spend six weeks in Colorado this summer networking and learning best practices from other successful social entrepreneurs, and pitch Aunt Bertha to venture capitalists to secure future funding. Aunt Bertha was also recently accepted into the University of Texas Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), another path to funding and resources. Additionally, the Austin For the City network of faith-based service providers recently became one of the first to utilize Aunt Bertha software in beta mode so that Gray and his small team can work out any bugs before presenting to the larger market.

Big things are in the works for Gray and Aunt Bertha. For the social service sector, “That’s great news, sugar!”

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TX Roller Derby: Lynnie Bruise, Las Putas del Fuego

“I’m not scared of getting hurt, but I bruise like a peach.”

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Lynae Lee, aka Lynnie Bruise, co-captain of La Putas del Fuego, is the “toughest skater on the track.” She is one of the smaller girls out there- quiet and unassuming. Yet the minute she gets on the track it’s clear she’s a force to be reckoned with.

Lynnie was a longtime über fan girl of TX Roller Derby (TXRD) before she had the guts to try out five years ago. She came to every bout for four years, typically with her mom and/or boyfriend in tow. When Lynnie finally decided to try out, at the insistent urging of her boyfriend, her mom was supportive yet wary. Evilynn Carnitt, her favorite skater, is tiny like her and got knocked around a lot, but always retaliated with a vengeance.

Lynnie remains star struck by her favorite skaters. After her first win, Evilynn, now retired, was there cheering her on. “She was there in the crowd, with her tiny puta sombrero, screaming her ass off for me, alongside Axle Frikkin’ Rosie. They both came up to the edge of the track after the bout to hug me and tell me I did so good- It was maybe the craziest moment of my life, and definitely my favorite derby moment ever,” Lynnie recalled.

Off the track, Lynnie is a pre-school teacher, or as she calls it, a  “baby wrangler”. She says of her class of 1 year olds, “They’re smart and crafty, and you shouldn’t trust them.” Outside of baby wrangling and TXRD, Lynnie has little time for much else, but she loves the team and having friends. “Even splitting responsibilities with Shanx[zilla], it is more than a full-time job,” she says. “I just want to be a hermit when I’m not at roller derby, and watch nerdy TV shows.”

Lynnie is now a well-respected voice within the league. She used to think, “who am I to say anything to these girls?” Now she speaks up and people listen. Although she’s a more low-key than many of the other girls, she is a skater who clearly puts every bit of herself into the game. Keep giving them hell, Lynnie!

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