“An Image Starts A Conversation”

September 14, 2018

After moving back to her home state of Colorado, Colleen Baz knew she wanted to volunteer and get involved with her community, but she wasn’t sure how. She found her niche with the Colorado Heart Gallery. Now, nearly 12 years later, Colleen continues to combine her passion for photography with her commitment to kids. We asked her about how she’s giving back and what inspires her to continue.

Q. How did you get involved with the Colorado Heart Gallery?

A. My husband and I were watching a segment on 20/20 about the woman who started the Heart Gallery in New Mexico. We loved the idea and he said “You should check to see if Colorado has one.” At that time the Colorado Heart Gallery was not as well-known and you had to make an appointment to see the images in an art gallery. A friend of mine was going through the adoption process with Jefferson County, and she encouraged me to take photos of the kids for the county.

Eventually, I got in touch with the people behind the Colorado Heart Gallery and started to take photos of kids across the state. We would have big displays and kick-off parties and everything became more organized. It has developed and changed and grown - all of the things that you hope happen so a project can continue. 

Q. What do you think is special about the Colorado Heart Gallery?

A. The photo shoots are special in that it’s a dedicated bit of time to capture a moment in a child’s life. I always try to convey to the other photographers that we have a small amount of time to capture a child’s image and spark someone else’s imagination. We hope that the pictures connect with someone and one image can tell a little bit of each child’s story. If you have been considering adoption, then you can see the Colorado Heart Gallery and dream about your family and what it could be. Hopefully, an image starts a conversation.

Q. What is it like working with the kids?

A. My bit of time with them is very brief, so in my mind I want them to feel good about themselves and to put them at ease. I show them the photos and we talk about the backgrounds and that helps them to open up. We do silly things, too.  At the last shoot that I just did for two brothers, there were these rocks and I said, "Do you want to jump off the rocks together?" They did and they saw the pictures and we just belly laughed at how silly they looked jumping in the air. I think by showing them the photos and engaging them, it just helps keep it light and it also helps them relax.

I see so many of these kids that have an understanding of what the photo shoot is for and they’re hopeful. There's this real desire for them to have some stability. They're resilient kids, and they're funny. At the end of the day they're just kids, even the teenagers. I want people to think about the older kids. That need for parents, you have that even when you’re an adult.

Q. Why is giving back to your community important?

A. I have my photography and these kids need support, so this project is just something that is absolutely in my wheelhouse. It's something that's very easy for me to contribute, and there are such tangible results. Once we started taking the portraits, and we started getting a ton of feedback and seeing the successes, it felt fantastic to volunteer and make a difference.

I can't change their parents, I can't change the courts in their life and I can't change any of the things that happened to them. But, I can focus on my brief time with them. I may only spend 20 minutes with them, but for that time and place, and where they are in their life, I can help.

You may not be prepared to adopt, but we can all do something to give back and to help these kids.

Q. Do you ever find out about kids who have been adopted?

A. Yes, and that’s the best part of the whole thing. It’s an amazing feeling when you know that it works. It totally works.

The Colorado Heart Gallery needs volunteer professional photographers and videographers for photo shoots in the Colorado Springs and Pueblo areas. Volunteers on the Western Slope and in Southwest Colorado are also needed. Please email kids@adoptex.org if you'd like to volunteer in those areas. Use our How You Can Help search to find other ways to help a child in your community.

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