By Cailey Barnhart
Jessica Morales, owner of the photography studio Viera’s Vision, held an empowering photoshoot on Nov. 17.
“I just noticed that I take pictures of everything, but I never thought to do photography as a job. My grandma noticed and complained that I’m always on my phone, but really it’s because I like to capture moments and look back,” Morales said about what got her into photography.
It was her birthday the year that her grandmother bought Morales her first professional camera.
Morales is self-taught and has gained clientele by improving her portfolio as she learns, and this inspired her to open her studio.
A trip to Puerto Rico with the women in her family inspired Morales to hold the empowerment photoshoot.
“I spent some time with a cousin of mine. He’s a lawyer [in Puerto Rico], and he just talked to me a lot about women’s power and the fact that if we embraced our power more that we would see things change in the world,” Morales said.
When Morales got home, she asked for volunteers and was overwhelmed by the amount of responses she received, many involving women telling their stories of words tearing them down. Morales used these stories to shape her shoot.
The shoot featured six diverse women with insulting and empowering phrases painted on their bodies. The women posed together and individually, highlighting both sides of the words and stressing unity among women.
The tag on the album, posted on Viera’s Vision’s Facebook page, says, “Behind every woman is a tribe of women who have her back. Each time a woman stands up for herself without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
The photoshoot went viral, reaching news sources across Ohio. This was something Morales was not expecting.
“I really just wanted to boost any woman around here’s confidence and show them that beyond makeup, beyond what people think of you, you can really find a power within yourself. You can really find love for yourself. The more that we embrace imperfections, the more we will find happiness and joy in our lives,” she said.
“It is important for us to fight for our rights and show men that we are not inferior. They are not superior because they are men. We are just as capable. We are just as beautiful on the outside as we are on the inside,” Morales added.
She feels it is important for women to come together and share their stories to lift one another up.
“It’s important to show each other that you are not alone. There’s another woman going through the same thing as you, if not worse. It’s a beautiful experience and I believe that the more we do this, the better off we will see our community,” she said.
Nichole Tarr, a Youngstown resident, said after local media outlets shared the photoshoot online, the positive response was overwhelming.
“Thank you to everyone for all the positive texts, comments and messages. … I truly feel the love,” Tarr said.
She said it was an uplifting experience being able to “share the love” through the photoshoot.
“This was so amazing. … I can’t get over the response,” Tarr said.
Morales next wants to tackle the subject of human trafficking, especially with the high risk associated with Youngstown.
The studio is partnering with local professionals to discuss what to do if people find themselves in risky scenarios and ways they can be avoided.
She plans to hold a photoshoot with the children and adults that attend the event and encourages men and children, not just women, to come and be educated.
Viera’s Vision is located at 2528 Mahoning Ave. and appointments can be set up through Facebook.
The human trafficking awareness and photoshoot event will take place Dec. 15 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the studio.