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Name: Cathy Lander-Goldberg

Business: Photo Explorations

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. 

Industry: Arts & Entertainment

Reason for starting? In the early 90s I was teaching photography to at-risk adolescents while working as a freelance photographer. I saw how they benefitted from self-expression in many ways. That was the impetus for opening Photo Explorations, a photography learning center for teens. My motivation was to teach these skills and provide opportunities for students to display their work with the intention of building self-esteem. At that time, I was especially concerned with so many girls who suffered with depression, abuse and self-injury.

In response, I created a traveling photo exhibit, Resilient Souls: Young Women’s Portraits and Words in which I photographed subjects who had overcome life obstacles and asked them to write their stories to advise and inspire others who may be going through similar challenges. Recently, I re-visited these same women 20 years later, photographed them again and asked them to reflect on their journeys in The Resilient Souls Project to celebrate women’s inner strength.

Related: Read about another arts entrepreneur here. 

How do you define success? I find success in doing work that has meaning and allows for creativity. I have been able to enjoy work which fulfils me and allows a flexible schedule to live a balanced life.

Through my personal experiences facilitating Photo Explorations workshops and in the Resilient Souls: Young Women’s Portraits and Words, I chose to return to school to seek a master’s degree in social work from Washington University. This decision to take time from my business to become a licensed clinical social worker changed the direction of my photography career. It opened new doors and provided me with new knowledge and skills. In addition to running my business, I now work part-time in a clinical practice as a psychotherapist and often use expressive therapies in my work with clients.

Biggest success: I am most proud of The Resilient Souls Project! This traveling exhibit is a 20-year follow-up to RESILIENT SOULS: Young Women’s Portraits and Words. I had the honor of working with women who had overcome personal challenges. They were brave by sharing their stories (pre-social media) as we worked together to create beautiful portraits to represent their perseverance in the hope of encouraging others. The exhibit explored issues such as disabilities, mental health, relationships, illness, adoption, pregnancy, immigration, school problems, violence and grief. Two decades later, we revisit these women’s continued journeys, including their low points and triumphs, as they approach middle age. It provided participants an opportunity for personal development through storytelling. The photos of their external selves provide symbols which represent their inner power. It inspires all of us to consider our resilience while finding beauty and meaning in our own imperfect lives.

Related: Helping Young Women Achieve Their Goals 

What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? The biggest challenge continues to be spreading the word about the Photo Explorations workshops and workbook as well as The Resilient Souls Project. I have addressed this by continue to educate myself on social media as it evolves.

Who is your most important role model? Gloria Steinem for her collaborative spirit and contributions to helping women through her writing, speeches and activism. At 82, she is still going strong!

Instagram   @photoexplorations [/box_light]

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Edited by The Story Exchange