Local business owner and photographer Monica White is finishing up the latest installment of a year-long, non-profit project that, while she’s doing it at no charge, is already paying off in a different and more important way.
White said its success is feeding her spirit and reinforcing her assurance that the vision that inspired her to take it on was an instance of divine inspiration.
She said she believes the project has, and will continue to, result in dividends for the community not measured in dollars and cents.
Each month this year, she will issue an invitation seeking people willing to participate in a themed photo shoot through her business, Nspire Trinity Photography, in a work for which she requires no payment.
For February, she chose the theme “I am Beautiful.” She took individual pictures and a group shot of all the participants, about a dozen women and girls in the local African-American community. She asked them to wear attire that illustrated their appreciation for their African roots and culture.
In that group there was a retired teacher, a singer, a writer, women on other career paths, and some young people still in high school and choosing their life-paths.
White said one of her goals was to capture the inner and external beauty of the female form and spirit, and in doing so, gift her participants with the visual representation of her message: Everyone is beautiful, imperfections and all, regardless of society’s description of what beauty means. Society’s tendency to define it narrowly in terms of certain sizes, shapes, ages and color leave most humans out of the running for beauty by its terms, she said, and leaves the majority of individuals — and women in particular as the more frequent targets of such judgment — feeling “less than” or unworthy if they buy into the image of beauty as defined by others.
White said some goals and extra benefits of the project were realized in the very making of it.
Some people came into it feeling some of those negative societal judgments and being uncomfortable as that underlying lack of confidence was exposed. But the company of women, some of them strangers at the start, pulled together to encourage each other, laugh together, and bond in the common purpose White was trying to achieve. They gathered at the Hinson Conservation and Recreation Area on a cold and cloudy day for the two-hour session. White talked a little about the experience in an email.
“Africa is a continent rich in different culture, traditions, and beauty trends. One of the key roles in tribal groups is make-up (which is often used from clay) and used for various meanings to include tradition, religion, social status, etc. The color white used in face painting signifies hope, purity, and light, which can be seen worn by Amarii Spires and Kelise Saffold. Both Amarii and Kelise outfits and creative looks were created by their grandmother, Charlene Barnes and Kelise’s mother, Lisa Bell.”
When asked about the inspiration behind the designs, Bell said she “took the idea of Africa and expanded the creative side since the culture is so unique.”
“In today’s society, beauty trends are constantly changing which is often a challenge for young girls and women to keep up with,” White commented. Her goal, she said, “was to capture the reflection of each person’s natural beauty through each pose. Inspiring model, Tamia Brown, arrived with her mother, Twanna Tanner, ready to rock her photo session. No matter how someone arrived at the photo session feeling about their beauty, after hearing all the cheering, positive vibes and encouragement from the other participants, (they) were ready to be the next top models,” White continued.
She said she hopes the positive impact continues to resound in the lives of those who took part and to have an impact on their circle of friends and relatives with whom they share the experience.
This page contains a sampling of the visuals that resulted from the session.
And there’s one extra picture. It wasn’t part of the project but it suits the theme. It’s a shot of her own 13-year-old daughter, Trinity, for whom her business is named. The picture shows the youngster with a painting she’d recently made for a beloved teacher. White captured a sweetness of spirit, as well as the beauty of the art her child had created as a young person developing her talents — she also plays the flute, is learning to play guitar and ukulele, and is becoming a force to be reckoned with on the volleyball court.
White talked about the purpose of naming the business after her child.
“It is important to empower young girls to embrace who they are at a young age, instill Christian values and teach them to speak positive affirmations daily, because they will grow up to become strong resilient women in the future…I want her to know she can do anything through Christ who strengthens her,” White said. “I want that for everyone in the world. This project for me was about capturing the beauty, the spirit, that is within and bringing that beauty to an observable image. I’m pleased with what we accomplished together.”
White is touching the lives of other young people, as well, through her “Summer Blast” program in which she offers children K-12 opportunities to engage in activities that enlighten, educate, sharpen life skills they’ll need as adults, and widen their experiences generally.
Watch Nspire Trinity Photography on various social media outlets for continuing updates on her year-long project of which “I Am Beautiful” is a part.