DETROIT – A photo shoot is trying to change lives and teach girls to find self respect and worth.
It’s called the Girls Photo Project and was designed by a Metro Detroit photographer to empower girls and teach boys the importance of equality and respect.
The project is the result of the troubled and trauma-filled childhood of Bari Balbes. She is taking painful memories and turning them into fuel for a project that is trying to help girls.
Balbes said when she was an elementary student she was molested by her art teacher’s son. She said she was raped by her riding instructor when she was a teenager. She said she was left shattered with low self-esteem and felt lost.
“A lot of times I was not respected as a woman,” Balbes said. “That’s why we’re doing this, to respect the girls and let them know they are amazing.”
She uses her camera to teach children about equality and self worth.
“I thought that I’m very special I am able to do this as a 9-year-old,” Laila Goodstein said.
Laila’s mother, Sari Zalesin, heard about the project and wanted her daughter to be a part of it.
“I want to show my daughter that she can be proud of anything that she does,” Zalesin said.
Sianna Hill, 13, said her photo shoot inspired her.
“I feel more confident in, like, what I can do and I like playing softball more than I did before because I like showing that girls can do, like, anything,” Sianna said.
Emily Aienbuam said showing off her hearing aid in the photo shoot gave her a sense of freedom and self-worth.
“I think I’m more braver to show everybody that I have hearing aids,” Emily said.
The message of equality is not only for girls but for boys, too.
“Everyone is equal to each other no matter who they are,” Gabe Vieder, 12, said.
“We see too many times women being taken advantage of,” Logan Edelheit, 15, said.
Metro Detroit mothers are eager to bring their sons in and take part in sharing the message.
“I’ve always shown them and led by example how important it is to respect women and to show them how women are equally as important as men,” Amy Edilheit, Logan’s mother, said. “They see how I work in the home, outside the home.”
Balbes hopes the children will look back at the photos and that they will serve as a reminder that they are worthy of respect.
She hosts a once-a-month photo session, free for children. Her next session is on Dec. 7.
She is planning on creating a book with many of the photos she has taken.