In a brightly sunlit studio in an historic home on Pittsburgh’s North Side, photographer Elizabeth Craig met with the Women and Girls Foundation to discuss her project, the Beauty Within Foundation. The project aims to share the stories of women’s experiences using the art of storytelling through photography.
Craig got her start in photography almost by accident – her husband had a photography business and during a wedding, gave her a camera to play with. The pictures came out beautifully, and you can tell by looking at Craig’s photographs that she has a true talent. “I had never even picked up a camera,” she admitted. Thank goodness she did. She and her husband shoot weddings and beauty shoots as part of Craig Photography, but the Foundation is their “baby.”
This isn’t Craig’s first attempt at telling women’s stories. A few years ago, she had the idea, but the timing was just not quite right. However, a few years later, when Pitt Marketing Professor Cait Lamberton was in for a photo shoot, Lamberton urged Craig to pick up the project again. Time passed, and with consistent persuasion, finally the timing was right. “Everything started to slow down. And this year was the year for it,” said Craig.
Just speaking with her for an hour or so, it is easy to tell that Craig is great with people. The stories are told organically, and after a session, the women tell her what a life-changing experience the photo shoot was for them. They tell her that they now carry themselves differently, talk differently, and that their lives are changed for the better.
Women are chosen to be featured either through a nomination form that is found online, or by knowing Craig through other means like former photoshoots. About Monica, one of the women already featured by the Foundation, Craig explained her story: “her son was murdered, and I photographed her [about a year ago when] she was having a book come out about it, and I got to meet her then, and we covered her book signing. So when we launched the Foundation, I was like, ‘I have to have her, because she is such an inspiration.’”
The Beauty Within Foundation has three main purposes: to celebrate the women’s achievements, to give them a platform upon which they can support other women enduring trials, and an educational aspect. Ideally, these stories will be shared with groups and events through the downloadable videos and even having the women speak in person. In the fall, the Foundation will have a public event where guests can meet the women featured in the project.
On the future of the Foundation, Craig is hopeful that women take advantage of the service, and that the Foundation will be there to help both the women photographed as well as those viewing and reading their stories. “Truthfully, the only thing I want the message to be is the use of photography in storytelling to inspire and empower other women. What it comes down to is sharing stories, so everyone knows they are not alone.”