Vernon Ray was inspired after attending the funeral of his young cousin. It was time to give back to the community when he saw a young man, not much older than Ray’s son, lose his life.
Instead of participating in Street Life, Ray launched Shoot Cameras, Not Guns, a program that teaches photography for children, teens, and even adults through a photo studio.
“I called my brother, and I say,” You, we had to do something, “Ray said. “Just like that, I vaguely” shoot the camera, not the gun. ” “
From there, Ray began to move quickly. He created a logo, an Instagram account, and a concept video where the child had to choose between holding a gun and picking up a camera. The video caption says: It’s time to show them a new way to shoot a camera instead of a gun. “
Ray lost another cousin in 2021. He worked to change his life and respected him. He attended a photo studio and also attended a workshop before being shot and killed.
Ray had to drop his cousin’s body into the grave. This experience reaffirmed that he needed to keep pushing his program of rocking people towards photography rather than getting involved with guns.
“I was so passionate about seeing change that I started offering more free workshops,” Ray said. “I had to do something. They need help. I didn’t want to see other brothers do that, so I offered a more free workshop and I bought a camera and equipment with my own money. “
Just last week, one of Ray’s mentors, a teenage boy, was shot dead after making a confession about violence prevention throughout the program. Ray said the trauma of the murder was the reason his program had to be successful. The program works, but he needs people to get together and support the exercise.
With more than 1,000 murders in Philadelphia since January 2020, Philadelphia is in a state of emergency and providing creative means to young people is a life involved in gun violence. Said it was one of the solutions to keep them away from.
Ray knows directly how possession of a gun can change someone’s life. He spent three years on suspicion of guns in the mid-2000s. After returning home, he picked up the camera. Through his mentorship, he built a career and a relationship that allowed him to open a photography studio, Creative Mind Productions.
He charges for photography and camerawork, but Ray does these workshops for the community for free, offering trade to those who want to work or want to get off the street. Help. Ray teaches them entry-level photography skills and makes them comfortable enough where they can pursue their own photography opportunities.
“We teach the skills to understand cameras,” Ray said. “Whatever the basic skills they learn, I promote practice after you learn, so they have the opportunity to exercise these skills. So now you are in real-world, real-world situations. Implementing the skills they are practicing, they have the opportunity to come out with me in several different jobs. “
This pilot program was successful, but Ray wants to keep evolving. He wants to secure partnerships and funding to continue to provide the right opportunities for young people. This is a creative way to increase the positiveness of the community.