Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Artist Builds Confidence through Lens of Self-Worth

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Artist Builds Confidence through Lens of Self-Worth

Article excerpt

Standing in the attic of her North Duke Street home on Dec. 30, Amber Lee prepared herself, and her camera, to change the lives of five York-area women.

The women in Ms. Lee's in-home studio volunteered to help her with her latest photo shoot, though really they hoped Ms. Lee would be helping them.

The models stood around in shorts and tank-tops, baring their arms and legs for the lens. On their skin, Ms. Lee had painted what the women said were their own biggest flaws.

"Impatient." "Anger." "Depression." "Weight." "Sickle cell." "Indecisive." "Hopeless romantic."

That photo shoot was part three in Ms. Lee's "Self-Worth" photo series, in which she depicts women in an effort to help them own and embrace their self-described flaws. The project came about from a dream, Ms. Lee said, and a saying she thought up with a friend.

"We often see ourselves in unrealistic terms defined by other people," Ms. Lee said. "Define yourself."

The shoot started with a group photo, with the women holding a sign reading "And We Are Beautiful," before each posed individually, making sure their flaws were prominently placed in the frame.

After two hours, and a few forced smiles, the shoot was over and the models began putting on their pants and jackets to brave the cold weather.

One of the models, Evelyn Parker, said that while she knows how to use angles and lighting to cover up certain things she is uncomfortable with, Friday's photo shoot helped show her not to hide her sickle cell disease.

Ms. Parker, 28, of York City, said she has been dealing with the disease her whole life and, after being inspired by Ms. Lee and others who have embraced their flaws, is determined not to let it hold her back.

"I'm one of those people that even though you're going through something, or you have a flaw or something, you don't want to let that stop you," she said.

To Ms. Parker, the photo shoot was about sharing her story and trying to inspire other people dealing with sickle cell or self-esteem and self-worth issues.

"Life is too short," she said. "Everybody's been though something, but you always have to think about those people who are worse off than you and how they're still pushing, so it makes you want to continue and go on. …

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