In this age of filters and Photoshop, we’ve grown accustomed to images of perfect beauty. Many young women wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without mascara, lip color or even a full makeup session. The thought of showing their “naked” face in public is intimidating and, for some, unthinkable.

A local photographer is determined to shatter that image, one photo session at a time… and the results are stunning.

Keri Seevers of MoniKeri Imaging is very skilled in using her camera and technology to turn something pretty into something even more beautiful. But working with teens and young adults, Keri also sees the natural beauty that many young women don’t recognize in themselves, a beauty that needs no embellishment or artificial enhancement. When she learned about Project Beauty and the chance to help young women feel confident about their natural appearance, Keri knew she wanted to bring the campaign to Marietta.

Project Beauty is the brainchild of Thomas Nguyen, renowned Cincinnati photographer whose work with high school seniors has graced many magazine covers. So why would he conduct a session without the beautiful clothes, flawless makeup and unique props? Nguyen writes on his Facebook page “My aim has been to portray these wonderful girls in an entirely unique way and get as close as possible to them — to capture their unseen confidence. What has started as a small project has slowly grown to a movement.”

Keri brought the movement to Marietta last year, and the response was overwhelming and heartwarming. High school girls donned white tops and jeans or denim skirts, posing in natural light among industrial backdrops. Each participant had a 15 minute session, and while the session may have begun with nervous shyness, Keri coaxed and coached until the girls embraced the freedom. Without the restraints of fussy hairstyles and makeup, the girls’ personalities were captured in images of joy and confidence.

Project Beauty: Photo by Keri Seevers

In her words “As a photographer whose primary client is a high school senior, I meet a lot of girls – all of them are beautiful!  Where I see perfection in her sparkling eyes and amazing freckles and traffic-stopping smile, she may see blemishes or scars or dozens of other perceived imperfections. I want them to see what I see.  I want them 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.  In recognizing their own beauty, I encourage them to share that with the next girl by raising her up with a compliment. Empowered women empower women. Project Beauty has given me a platform to say, “Look at how stunning you are!” and have them really recognize their beauty in their images.”

This year, Keri photographed 39 girls ranging in age from 7th graders to college sophomores. The short individual sessions were accompanied by “girl power” anthems and Keri’s easy-going support. She develops the photos in black and white, and the final images are stunning. The girls are only permitted to see one image until the Gallery Show, where each girl will have a group of photos mounted for display.

Project Beauty: Photo by Keri Seevers

The Project Beauty Gallery Show, at 217 Second Street (next to Dudley’s Florist) opens at 7:00 Friday August 3rd, and the public is invited. The girls involved in the project get VIP entrance before the show, entering to view their photos even before family and friends. Tickets are $5.00 at the door, with the proceeds going toward charity.  Last year the project raised $1200 for the Bauer fund and this year the recipient charity is the iBelieve Foundation.

The iBelieve Foundation was created to provide opportunities for Appalachian youth and help them develop leadership, communication and problem solving skills. Keri’s son and daughter both attended summer workshops sponsored by the foundation and she appreciates the valuable service it provides to young people in Appalachia.

Please stop downtown Friday evening to enjoy this unique Gallery Show, support the young ladies who bravely embraced their natural beauty, and support a worthy foundation at the same time. You may be inspired to put down your own makeup brush on occasion and show more love to that image in the mirror.