In this month’s Get to Know ZBC Partners series, we interviewed Ian Walker, owner of Hurricane Images. Ian's health education expertise combined with his skills in editing videos and sound recording have been an invaluable asset to the Girls’ New Puberty campaign. He created the Youth Advisory Board videos for the Girls’ New Puberty microsite, which are also available on YouTube in English and Spanish. Then, he recorded the narration and edited the videos for our animated tips series in English, Spanish, and Chinese. We are always grateful for his support of ZBC’s mission and are excited to share his background and insights with you.
Q: What is your professional background?
A: Early on, I got into developing youth leadership programs around the state of Colorado as part of their state drug prevention plan. We would train teams of adults and kids to work together to develop youth-run programs in their communities. Then I moved to California and started addressing other health issues, including teen pregnancy prevention, HIV test counseling, and smoking cessation counseling. From there, minus a few little twists and turns, I worked as a community liaison and educator for the California Department of Public Health’s Environmental Health Investigation branch. They conduct long-term studies on the impact of environmental contaminants on human health. As an educator, I worked in a variety of mediums, including print, video, web design, and community outreach. Throughout my career, I also worked in theater as an actor and director and I run a small theater company called Second Wind Productions. When I left the health department, I started to look into how I could merge theater and photography with health messaging. For the past two years, I’ve been doing media production with a wide variety of clients. I still do a fair amount of work in the health side of things, but I also work with small businesses to help them develop their communication messages and do other projects. I’m currently wrapping up a music video that I shot and edited for a local artist.
Q: What do you consider your top 3 professional skills?
A: I would say a few of different aspects of communication. Group facilitation is one set of skills; education is another. Also, communication design, which for me includes how to develop effective messages and move them into a visual medium. That merges with media production, including video production and photography.
Q: What attracted you to working with ZBC when you first heard about the organization?
A: One of the things that attracted me was that I would be doing work focused on youth. ZBC’s focus on youth is getting ahead of the curve on this problem of exposures. I came from a field where there’s a reluctance to be proactive and address issues before all the science is in. But we don’t need to get the definitive report if it’s something that we don’t need to be exposed to in the first place. We don’t need to be using toxic make-up. Not only is ZBC’s Girls’ New Puberty project proactive in that way, but it also engages youth in their own process. It really brought me back to some of the things that I was doing in the early days in my career. It’s exciting as well that Zero Breast Cancer looks at communication in a very contemporary way and thinking about new ways to communicate the message.
Q: What did you learn about breast cancer while working with ZBC that you did not already know?
A: By the time I was introduced to Zero Breast Cancer, I had a pretty good grasp on chemical exposures based on all the work that I’ve done, but there are times when you re-learn things. One of the re-learnings that I’m happy about is the level to which youth can engage on issues. I know from my youth leadership work that, when asked to join the table and the discussion, kids bring as much insight and expertise as adults. That’s easy to forget because we so infrequently ask kids to the table. Seeing that done again after I had not seen it done in decades was a chance to re-learn the resourcefulness and power of youth.
Q: Which of the projects that you worked on did you enjoy the most?
A: I worked on a few aspects of the Girls’ New Puberty campaign. The videos where the girls are talking stand out because I got to see the passion and thoughtfulness they bring to the table. It really connected me to the work that you’re doing in a powerful way.
Q: What has been rewarding and what has been challenging about working with ZBC?
A: The rewarding side I would say is two things. One is getting to sit back and see the youth take the spotlight. The other is the level of polish that goes into the work and the quality of the final product. When you work in a larger bureaucracy, there are a lot of compromises that go into the final product. When you have a smaller organization that is lighter on its feet and more cohesive in their thinking, then you end up with products that are bolder and brighter and easier to feel proud of. What was challenging for me on that project is the polishing also required a lot of keeping track of the details over an extended period of time as we were working on this. The project came together slowly and as I worked on other projects, it was really easy to lose track of little details.
Q: What do see as your biggest contribution to ZBC?
A: One of the unique qualities of my background and experience that I happily feel matches with the needs of ZBC is that I come from a background of both working with youth and working on environmental contaminant issues. I hope this translates into being able to occasionally give input or make choices in the edit that someone who doesn’t have that background might miss.
Q: What passion or hobby do you do that is separate from your work?
A: Over time, I have turned my passions and my hobbies into my work. Now, my passion and my hobby is playing with my toddler, Evander. He provides a space for me to turn everything else off and to focus on the moment, to be able to see things again through really fresh eyes. He constantly challenges me to listen because he’s two and a half. He’s just starting to talk and so you think he may be saying nonsense but when you listen really hard, you realize he’s saying something about what he saw earlier in the day when I wasn’t there and it’s a real word about a real thing. Those are both great challenges for my skill set and something that I get to have fun with.
Interview conducted and written up by Lianna Hartmour, Zero Breast Cancer Program Director