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Capturing the Faces of Coburn
18th Sep


Capturing the Faces of Coburn

Mark Curry has decades of experience photographing people and places around the world.

How much experience?

This Columbus, Indiana native began a career as a Public Information Specialist in the U.S. Air Force. Photojournalism moments including helicopter rescues-at-sea were a highlight while he was stationed in Korea. He went on to provide photographic support in recording oral histories of the people of Jamaica while serving in the U.S. Peace Corps and has extensive experience writing about and photographing Indiana politics.

Even with all of that experience, the photo shoots at Coburn are not complete without his colleague Laurie Johnson. She dabbled a bit in photography when she was younger, and clearly enjoys this new phase of her life. Think of the “action” in “lights, camera, action.” Mark brings technical expertise, and Laurie brings a creative eye to the art direction as well as providing a female presence that is integral in making these Coburn photo sessions work. Although Coburn does indeed accept male survivors of interpersonal abuse, the majority of the photo sessions are with women. Laurie’s presence is not only a creative one, but a comforting one too.

Why Coburn?

With quite a bit of know-how under their belt, why are they taking portraits, free of charge, of domestic abuse survivors at Coburn? “I like to volunteer,” says Mark. “When I came to the Volunteer Orientation, photographing the survivors here was suggested as a way I could contribute.” Mark and Laurie have been at it over three years now. They select an area outside, and schedule a full hour for each person’s time in front of his camera.


Coburn survivor domestic violenceA recent shoot featured Michelle. This 59-year-old Chicago native has been a resident at Coburn Place Safe Haven since December 2018. When she was young, she actually did a little modeling. Perhaps if her life took a different path she could have continued down that road. Her portrait showed a natural beauty who was at ease posing for the camera. When asked how getting new photos of herself made her feel, Michelle said that although it had been about 20 years since she had her photo taken, she loved her portraits. “It’s fantastic,” says Michelle. “It’s another way Coburn goes above and beyond. They take us to the food pantry, provide bus passes, offer classes. And my new photos are priceless.”

The Dance

“We were having trouble at one shoot getting a survivor to smile,” Laurie recalls. Finally, she did, and when the survivor saw her finished portrait—printed images are delivered back to Coburn—she exclaimed, “Oh! I’m pretty!” The same survivor ran up to Mark and Laurie at a Coburn event, and gave them a big hug.

That hug was born of a special connection portrait photographers need to make with a person, in less than an hour, to get the best result. A choreographed dance of technical and soft skills, the person in front of the lens needs to feel at ease for the photographer to capture their best expressions. Mark and Laurie have the dance down perfectly.

The Why

“It’s about treating people the way you want to be treated,” says Mark. “We are polite and respectful to them.”

“This is all just downright fun,” says Laurie. But she is acutely aware of the impact her and Mark, and their finished portraits, have on the life of the survivors who receive them.“It’s incredibly gratifying,” she says. “Some of these women have lost all of their photos running away from their abuser.”

The survivors are appreciative too. Michelle shares her perspective. “Coburn is overflowing with love. I see lots of volunteers, Mark and Laurie included, taking time out of their busy schedule to do something nice for us. They’re paying it forward. A little bit of their time can be a big thing for us,” she says.

Mark adds an astute point: “Don’t think you know the type of people who are here. People from all walks of life find themselves at Coburn. Our small investment of time and resources can go a very long way in helping another person strive to be better.”

“Everybody has something to give back he adds. We are grateful to be part of the process.”

Check out Mark’s portrait gallery here:

Do YOU have a talent or a gift you’d like to support Coburn Place with? Contact Julie Henson, Donor Relations Officer at

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