For most people, the mention of photo shoots and young models conjures up images of makeup artists, hair stylists and cutting-edge fashion resulting in flawless looks that the average girl can never achieve. But for five years, local photographer Keri Seevers has been shattering that image one photo session at a time, through a unique program titled Project Beauty.

Keri, of MoniKeri Imaging, has been working with teens and young adults for years, photographing them for senior portraits, special occasions and creative fashion shoots. The relationship between photographer and subject is an intimate one, and the artist behind the camera often sees the vulnerability or insecurity that may be masked from classmates or friends. But Keri sees the natural beauty that many young women don’t recognize in themselves, a beauty that shines with no artificial enhancement or adornment. When she learned about Project Beauty and the opportunity to help boost young women’s confidence in their natural appearance, Keri knew she had to bring the national campaign to Marietta.

“I want these girls to feel confident in their own skin and to recognize and celebrate their unique beauty. I don’t want them falling into the comparison vortex which is cultivated through social media.” 

Project Beauty was created by Thomas Nguyen, renowned Cincinnati photographer whose work with high school seniors has graced many magazine covers. He wanted to portray girls in a unique way – without the beautiful clothes, makeup and props – to capture their unseen confidence. His small project has grown into a national movement, and teens in Washington County embraced it with enthusiasm. Each model has a 15-minute session, wearing a white top and jeans or denim skirt, posing in natural light against a simple backdrop. Keri’s gift for coaching and encouraging “her” girls helps them relax and enjoy the experience. With uplifting music in the background, the girls are soon shedding their trepidation and posing with confidence. After five years, Project Beauty shows no signs of slowing down.

As long as these amazing, brave, beautiful young women are eager to participate, our Project Beauty will continue!

“Each year I think, ‘Will I have participants? Is it time to wrap this up? Are the girls tired of this?’ and each year I get messages, ‘When is Project Beauty? Is Project Beauty happening this year?’. As long as these amazing, brave, beautiful young women are eager to participate, our Project Beauty will continue!” Keri said.

Keri develops the images in black and white, and the result is a stunning gallery of photos that depicts the strength and natural beauty of the young ladies. When the gallery show opens, the girls are excited and proud to share the experience with their friends and families. Project Beauty is not just about the photographs, it is also a fundraiser and Keri has supported several worthy projects over the years. She explains, “The previous four years, our fundraising efforts have totaled $6000 for local charities (The Bauer Fund, iBelieve, Gospel Mission Food Pantry and Boys & Girls Club of Wash Co). I specifically choose beneficiaries who in some capacity serve local teens. They’re my clientele and it’s important to give back to groups which may benefit them.” This year the selected charity is The Right Path for Washington County, a community coalition for fostering healthy youth development.

Because the girls have such a positive experience with Project Beauty, word has spread and many have returned to participate again. Keri explains that one girl, Grace Huck of Waterford, is returning for the fifth time.

“She’s also a multi-year model for me and currently on my Senior Model Team. We have several multi-year girls and their years of participation are listed in our show catalogue.”  

Not only do some girls participate in multiple years, but they enjoy it so much their friends or family members decide to give it a try. “We have sibling groups and cousins. We have young women and their support systems who know the importance of inner beauty and what planting the seeds of self-confidence can do for a young woman.”

This Friday evening, those support networks will be out in full force as they browse the Project Beauty gallery show. The show begins at 6:15 pm in the Armory Gym on Front Street. The girls have their private entrance at 6:00, during which they’ll see the gallery of images for the first time. The public is invited to attend, with a $5 entrance fee to be donated to the Right Path for Washington County. Stop downtown during First Friday and enjoy this unique show, celebrate the young ladies who had the courage to embrace their natural beauty, and support a worthy charity at the same time. You may be inspired to look in your own mirror with a less critical eye and feel more confident about your own inner beauty.