Maggie Doyne – a Bright Light in Our Troubled World

The other night, Maggie Doyne of Blink Now,  became the CNN 2015 Hero of the Year. Maggie is a 29 year-old American woman, who has 50 kids and lives in Nepal!

Maggie Doyne, Erin and Gail at the Kopila Valley Childrens Home, Surkhet, Nepal
Erin and I with Maggie Doyne and her children, Kopila Valley Children’s Home, Surkhet, Nepal

Maggie’s story and the path she decided to take early on in life, has touched the hearts of people around the globe and changed the lives of hundreds of Nepalese women and children.

Maggie was a high school classmate of my daughter, Erin. After graduation, Maggie decided to take a gap year and travel before heading off to college. Eventually, she ended up in Nepal and saw a country devastated by 10 years of civil war and thousands of orphaned children left in its wake. She used her babysitting savings to buy property and build a home for herself and orphaned children – she was 19 years old. Maggie has 50 children now, has built a primary school for 250 kids and is currently building a high school.

When Maggie accepted the Hero of the Year award the other night, she said; “ And to all of you in this room and who are watching, please, please remember that we have the power to create the world that we want to live in”. She’s done just that and has inspired countless others, to do the same.   She inspired my daughter and I to seek out other individuals all over the world who were creating positive change and to make a film about them, with the hopes it would inspire others to make a difference.

Imagine if we all thought like Maggie and believed we all have the power to create the world that we want to live in. The fact is we do have that power. It starts with the little things we can do – in our own lives, in our family’s lives and in our communities. Small things have a way of growing into big things. When you educate one child, you change a life that has the potential to change other lives.

Maggie, you continue to inspire me. You are a bright light in a troubled world and a beacon of hope. Congratulations for this well deserved honor.


If you’d like to watch Opening Our Eyes, a film about Maggie and other change makers, you can view it here. Use the code THANKS2015.

Living With the Best of Both Worlds in 07926

People who have been to my home/office in Brookside, NJ:

  1. Are surprised they are in New Jersey
  2. They think they’ve gone back in time
  3. Can’t believe they are only 38 miles from New York City

I live in a small semi-rural town in Morris County, NJ. There were more people living here in the 18th century than there are now. We don’t get mail delivery, but we (about 120 homes/addresses) have our own zip code, 07926.

Our big event of the year is our 4th of July parade. On a good day, I’m 40 minutes to EWR and 75 minutes from Manhattan. If it weren’t so expensive to live in New Jersey, I’d be here forever.

I came across an old blog I wrote in 2006 about my town. Written July 5, 2006

I live in Brookside, New Jersey 07926. Brookside is a small town of about 1100 people located approximately 35 miles due west of New York City – or as some may say “the greater New York area”. But when you’re in my town, you not only feel like you’re a thousand miles from NYC, you feel like you’ve just stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting.

When I moved here in 1994, residents told me that there had been more people living in Brookside during the time of the American Revolution, than there were now – 1994. I don’t know if that statistic still holds true because we’ve grown in the past twelve years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does. Back in the mid to late 1700’s Brookside was not the quiet, bucolic town it is today. Because of its natural resources, water, forests and iron ore, it was the site of sawmills, gristmills, iron mines and other supporting businesses of its day. During the American Revolution, it was a dangerous place for a loyalist to be. Washington’s troops were camped about 5 miles down the road at Jockey Hollow, which is now New Jersey’s only National Park.

Brookside, is a small quiet community . The 4th of July is Brookside’s big day. Yesterday (just like every 4th of July) the residents of Brookside turned out to watch the tractors, antique cars, fire engines, homespun floats and marchers (including about a dozen pooches dressed for the holiday) parade down Main Street. Anyone can be a part of the parade, and most people watching  know at least one person in it. Afterwards there are field games for the kids and beer at the firehouse for the adults. The “beach” is free to all on July 4th. Yes, a beach – Brookside Beach, which is the local watering hole on the grounds of the elementary school. In the late afternoon most people try to sneak in a nap between the picnics and bingo that starts at 7:00 sharp. July 4th is Brookside’s biggest day and even locals who have summer homes at the shore, make it a point to be back in Brookside for the 4th.

There is no commercial zoning in my town. The only thing you can buy in Brookside is a newspaper from the machine in front of the post office.

Brookside Post Office, 07926
Brookside Post Office, 07926

We have our own post office and our own zip code – 07926. We don’t get mail delivery in Brookside. We go to the post office to retrieve it. I don’t really know anyone who minds that – gives us a chance to catch up on the gossip with postmaster Pete or run into friends, especially on a Saturday morning. It’s fun to scan the bulletin board inside – read notices neighbors have put up, announcing bake sales or music lessons or that sort of thing. Shortly after 9/11, the Ten Most Wanted poster with Osama Bin Laden’s photo on it was tacked on the board along side a picture of someone’s lost cat and someone else’s ad for a piano they wanted to sell. There’s a wonderful collection of vintage photos of the post office in its early years when it was a general store. A couple of people in town still decorate the windows for each season or holiday

Recently, a small protest was staged down at our little post office. An angry but not unruly mob of about two dozen people chanted “no standardization”. What caused this dissention? Apparently, a postal inspector had ordered the removal of pictures, notices and other personal items displayed on the walls of this “federal” building in accordance with the new Postal Office policy “retail standardization”. I don’t think these officials were prepared for the outcry that arose from a community whose roots go back to our country’s original dissenters.  After our US representative sent a strong letter to some high level postal officials, things began to quiet down and return to the status quo, at least for the time being.

Brookside is part of Mendham Township, which is about 17 square miles with a population of around 5000 people. What’s amazing is this township has over 55 miles of walking trails, 850 acres of parks and natural land and a beach. It also has 9 zip codes – some people say more, but I will stick with the conservative estimate of 9 separate zip codes that residents use in their addresses. Gets a bit confusing for surveys and fund raising. My zip code, 07926 is unique to residents in Brookside. Unfortunately, there are times when this zip code is extremely problematic. For instance, American Express sends my bills to me regularly at this zip code. But if I try to purchase a “Be My Guest” (a gift certificate to be used at a restaurant) I can’t do it. Amex will not deliver these certificates to a post office box.
The other time living with the “07926” zip code became a problem was during the last Census. Apparently there’s a law that census forms must be sent to a physical address. So each form sent out that year was addressed to the physical addresses for all the residents of Brookside – with no supplemental zip code or box number – just the physical address. Well, when the forms arrived at our little post office – our postmaster (who at the time was “large Marge” – at least that’s what I call her – but that’s another story for another time) sent them all back to the Census Bureau because they didn’t have post office box numbers on them and thus in her eyes, not deliverable. Therefore the residents of Brookside were never counted in the census.

I love it here. I complain like other citizens of New Jersey that our property taxes are way too high, but I think I have found the nearly perfect place to live. A place full of history, wonderful historic homes, great schools, an old fashioned swimming hole in the summer which transforms to a skating rink in the winter, an abundance of natural beauty and neighbors who know you and look out for you. The kind of town you expect to see in a Frank Capra movie starring Jimmy Stewart.

When I’m asked “what exit are you from in NJ?” by people whose impression of New Jersey is based on bad jokes from comedians and now the TV show The Sopranos – I answer “the pretty part”. I try not to be any more informative about exactly where I live because I prefer at times to keep it a secret. But every now and then we get “new” folks moving in and sometimes they want to change things – like erect a new cell tower because they can’t get a signal on their cell phones. Most of us try to gently “enlighten them” about such foolish notions. And so far it’s working.

I call Brookside my home. But home is where your heart and that can be anywhere.


How to be Productive in a World Full of Distractions

I’m an organized person. I need to be organized otherwise I feel that my life is in chaos. Scraps of paperI’ve always been able to define an end goal and break down the tasks that need to be completed in order to attain that goal. I am able to prioritize tasks and assign deadline dates. I’ve always been pretty good at getting things done. I have to be – I’m an independent entrepreneur.

My business is visual communications. I create storytelling images and films for corporations and non-profits. I market myself to buyers who commission still photography and video production for that market. These buyers work for ad agencies, in-house corporate agencies, non-profits or publishing companies.

My business has changed dramatically since I opened shop over 3 decades ago. The possibilities and tools that are available to small independent entrepreneurs to use in their marketing strategies are endless. The problem is the vast amounts of opportunities ends up being a double-edged sword because it overwhelms most of us. There are endless ways to target a global audience through, social media channels, electronic ads, online portals/websites/blogs, emailer promotions, print promotions, print and online directories……….the list goes on and on.

It simply becomes overwhelming and seemingly impossible at times, for me to address all the needs of a small business, to keep our business afloat. What I’ve found is that it’s never been more important than it is now in our tech driven culture, to be organized and focused and not succumb to distractions.

Here are some tools that help:

Basecamp – essential management tool if you’re collaborating with others.

Wunderlist – organize your personal/business life. Notes, notifications, reminders, due dates and share lists with colleagues and family. Free

Post Planner – If you or your company engages their audience on Facebook, this app saves you time and boosts engagement. Schedules your posts – finds content.

Sweet Process – Do you feel like you have to learn all over again, every time you do the same things? It could be a workflow for creating emailers for example. This app systemizes and records your process. Essential in employee transitions.

Magical Pad – Organize – be more productive – get things done. Projects, Tasks, Brainstorming.

StayFocusd – Are you super distractible and find yourself spending hours on social media and not getting anything done? Perhaps you should install this app if you are a Chrome user. It will limit the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites.

New Website, New Reel, New Look for Kelly/Mooney

It had been far too long since we did a redesign of our website – more than 5 years. Not only the industry (visual communications) has changed in the past 5 years, but so has our KM Logobusiness. More and more, clients are asking us to provide visual solutions in mixed mediums for a variety of uses – print, the web and social media. That’s been true especially with our editorial and corporate clients. It’s rare when a client comes to us for just one photograph for one usage.

With that said, we wanted a new website that would demonstrate the scope of our business. The first thing I did was to define the look and functionality of the website as well as what I wanted the website to communicate to potential buyers. We knew that a template site with just our still images no longer represented our business. We also knew that we wanted a website that would speak to our client’s needs and the services we provide that meet those needs.

My list of must haves for our website:

  • A site I could manage and update easily.
  • A site I could move to another server if I chose to do so.
  • A “scrolling” website. In researching numerous websites, the scrolling or parallax scrolling websites appealed to me and I began to see them everywhere – small and large film companies, graphic designers, non-profits, etc. We wanted a site that told the Kelly/Mooney story.
  • Messaging throughout the site communicating to potential buyers, what we do, the services we provide, how we work and who we are.
  • Intuitive navigation.
  • A site that would not only show our work but our experience as well.

I should point out that before I even got to this point, I had spent over a year culling through a vast archive of our work – literally terabytes of still images and footage – both digital and analog. I did the task over time, sifting through new work and old, trying to distill it down to the best representation of what we do, what we want to do and our self-initiated work. . Ultimately sorting through this body of work, not only served the purpose for the website but resulted in a new reel as well.


  • One of the biggest challenges we’ve always had was showing one unique vision because there are two of us. This website shows our combined work throughout the galleries, but it’s the first time we show individual galleries for Kelly & Mooney.
  • New reel – I took 7 hours of footage down to a 90 sec. reel. And then I re-edited it! That doesn’t take into account the time I spent sifting through music selections to pick the right piece for the soundtrack of the reel.
  • Picking images – We have a huge body of work because of the longevity of our careers. Ultimately we selected mostly recent work, but we didn’t want to discount our classic images so we decided to create a legacy gallery.
  • Realizing that I sized the images too big. In addition to the images having long load times, they bogged down the site by adding to the size making it a double digit Gig file. I had to go back to the images and resize them all. That was not fun as I’m not a big fan of going backwards.
  • Finishing the site at the beginning of the summer and then cutting it back all summer long because it was just too overwhelming. No doubt, there’s still editing that should be done on the site but at a certain point we had to launch. We finally did on Oct. 6, 2015. That in itself was traumatic. Right after we went live, somehow I deleted a critical file, which shut down the site. I was very fortunate that I had great support from our host server who had everything restored within the hour.
  • This is the first time I’ve ever built a website. It was frustrating, challenging and scary. I thought that my limited knowledge of  Wordpress  from working on my blog would be enough to create a WordPress website. It wasn’t, and it has been a huge learning curve for me. But I wasn’t the only one who worked on this website and I’d like to acknowledge the people who helped me through my meltdowns: my partner Tom Kelly, my colleague Jan Klier, and all the lifesavers at DreamHost (our host server) and folks at Envato who designed the WordPress theme.

This will continue to be a work in progress and I welcome comments and suggestions.

Travel Tips from a Bon Vivant

I never really thought of myself as a “bon vivant” until a friend told me that he admired my  “bon vivant” lifestyle. GailCoverThen another friend commented, “You have such joie de vivre”. My French boils down to what little I remember from high school but I remember enough to know that my friends see me as one who not only enjoys good food and wine but is living a full and joyful life.

I realized it’s true. I am a bon vivant and that’s exactly what I set out to be decades ago when I decided to become a photographer. My cameras have provided a means to that end – the end being choosing a career that gave me access to a life full of diverse experiences and journeys. It hasn’t always been easy and has had its own challenges and pitfalls, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For those of you who may want to pursue a similar lifestyle, here are some thoughts and considerations about traveling:

  • You don’t have to be rich to travel. In fact some of the best experiences I have had didn’t cost me a lot of money at all. I’ve also found that whenever I spend a lot on travel and/or accommodations in foreign destinations, I end up isolating myself from the cultural experiences that traveling has to offer.
  • Think outside the box and don’t just go to the “10 best……..” unless you want to run into other Americans.
  • Good food and wine can be found in just about any destination without spending a lot of money. (Including expensive cities like New York and London) Get out of the tourist areas or go off-season.
  • Use the Internet to your advantage to find the great deals. For accommodations, check out Trivago – it will search dozens of sites to find the best rates for the same hotel. Better yet, try Airbnb – and experience how locals live. For low airfares – check out sites like Airfare watchdog or farecompare and set up alerts.
  • Read blogs by travel hackers – One of my favorites is The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. Check out Chris’s travel hacking resources.
  • Travel solo – it’s a great way to put yourself in situations where you’ll meet others.
  • Look low key. I’m a photographer by profession but the last thing I want is to look like a photographer with a khaki vest and lots of gear. (Yes I know I’m wearing a khaki vest in this photo – but it is a Scotte Vest – very low key with hidden pockets)  Keep a low profile and you’ll have a better time.  Don’t be bogged down by traveling with a lot of stuff – you’ll be less likely to be robbed and will have an easier time getting through customs.
  • If I’m traveling on a job and need to bring a lot of gear, I make sure I travel with a carnet – which is a bond on my equipment that assures the customs agents that I won’t be selling my gear in their country but will be leaving their country with everything that I brought in.
  • Do your research – make a plan and be prepared to depart from your plan if serendipity strikes.
  • Don’t travel in groups. It might be easier because group operators take care of logistics but the travel experience is not nearly as rewarding most of the time. One exception would be if you were part of a group that has special access to places you wouldn’t have on your own.
  • Stay healthy. I make it a habit to never drink tap water when I’m traveling.
  • Make sure you alert your credit card companies that you will be traveling overseas. If you don’t and you start making purchases or using ATM’s, they may suspect fraud and lock you out.
  • Catch up on the local news of where you’ll be visiting. You don’t want to find out the Pope’s there when you plan to go. I made that mistake in Haiti.
  • Find out if there are any safety alerts from the State Department. To be honest, I haven’t always headed their warnings. Also research what visas and/or vaccinations you may need.
  • Make sure your passport won’t expire within 6 months of your travel dates. Many countries will deny you access if that’s the case.
  • Get “Global Entry” – If you travel overseas a lot, this will expedite your customs clearance upon your return to the US
  • Be prepared for things not going exactly according to plan – If you think things will work like they do in the US or at the same pace you’ll be exasperated when they don’t. Go with the flow.
  • Be respectful of the culture – If you’re a woman and traveling in a Muslim country – pack a scarf. Even in non-Muslim countries, if you plan on visiting churches or cathedrals, don’t show up in short shorts and a tank top.
  • Don’t wait until you retire to travel –  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that make that mistake and regret it. There will never be a perfect time.
  • Make photocopies of your passport and credit cards – Leave one set at home and keep another copy with you (not in the same bag as your cards or passport)

PS  Thanks to my good friend Jenna for designing my future tell all book cover.


10 Tips to Nowhere

I realized recently that I had succumbed to the prevailing trend in editorial writing – the “top ten” syndrome – the top ten places to see in a lifetime, 10 tips on how to be more productive, 10 tips for taking better photos, the 10 best towns to live in – you get the picture.

Train tracks, Mississippi
Train tracks, Mississippi

Seems like we want our info and we want it fast and easy to digest. The problem is we tend to lose sight of the things that aren’t on the top ten lists and lose focus on who we are.

I spent my summer redesigning our company’s website, editing a new motion reel and strategizing with my partner on marketing ideas. I am grateful for whatever outside forces motivated me creatively to have such a productive summer. I learned some of the pitfalls of following just the advice of “top ten” check lists when it came to editing our new motion reel. For example, these tips:

  • Pick music that sets the tone for your brand and footage.
  • Select only your best clips.
  • Cut on the action.
  • Cut to the music – to the beat
  • Have an opening that hooks the audience – gets their attention.
  • Include your company’s logo and/or info.
  • Pace it like a story with lows and peaks.

That’s not 10, I know, but that’s not the point. The point is that I had lost sight of the most important thing of all and that was I hadn’t shown our company’s vision. After months of work, I had picked the right music, culled through hours of footage and selected the very best clips, came up with an opening that I thought was intriguing and did my very best to cut to the beat of the music. I had shown what we have done, but I hadn’t shown who we are. So, I went back to the drawing board and re-edited the reel.

I realized that there are no short cuts to doing really good work. Good work comes from lots of trial and error and learning from our own experiences. It’s the journey that has its rewards.

By the way, we’re very close to launching the new site.  Stay tuned.

Breaking Barriers – Like a Woman

I’ve been a photographer for the better part of my life. It’s who I am. I’m also a filmmaker and love telling stories in this medium. And, I’ve been a woman living in a man’s world. Photography and filmmaking are professions that are dominated by men. The still photography business has changed Changedramatically  since I started out – it has become far less technical and many more women have entered this industry. Nevertheless, I’ve spent a lifetime working in a profession where, as a woman, I was in the minority. I never really focused on being a minority. I didn’t have a corporate job and had to compete against men for equal pay and/or opportunities. I was an independent creative entrepreneur. My latest assignment photos were my calling card and they got me in the door and my next assignment. I worked hard, harder than most because I wanted to – I had a strong desire to do something good. There were times (probably more than I know) when I didn’t get the job because I was a woman and there were times, when I was paid less money because of my gender.

Things have gotten better for women in the business of photography as well as in other industries but it took the tenacity and commitment of countless women who needed to break down barriers. There have been gains for women but gender biases still exist and we can’t be lulled into complacency by saying, “well, it’s better than it used to be.” The movie industry is dismal in terms of gender equality, women are paid less and make up a small percentage in “behind the scene” roles in the industry, especially in certain sectors like directing and sound design. Other industries like engineering, architecture, computer programming, aviation, firefighting are all gender lopsided and less than 5% of Fortune 5oo companies are led by women. And that’s the key word “led”. We need more women leaders. It’s not just about equality and justice, but women’s leadership potential has been massively untapped. And that’s a fail for us all – economically and socially.

So, I’ve decided to do something about it. I am initiating a project called Breaking Barriers – Like a Woman. My plan is to use my craft (photography/ filmmaking) as I always have, to make a difference. My intention is to create still environmental portraits and short video stories of women who are working in male dominated professions – pilots, computer programmers, engineers, doctors, construction workers, mechanics etc. etc. I want to tell their stories about the barriers they had to break and are breaking. I want to share these stories with the hope they go viral and start a revolution that will empower other women and young girls. I have built a FB page and opened Twitter and Instagram accounts so please “follow” and “like”.   But, more importantly, please share with me and with others your own stories about barriers you’ve broken.

CALL TO ACTION Are you a women working in a profession that is male dominated? Or know someone who is? I am looking for subjects to photograph and film. Please contact me: