Photographer seeks to show young women what real beauty is


Smile, said the world to the young women.

But not like that.

Smile, but only with your eyes. Push your face forward to accentuate your jawline. Arch your back. Stand at a 45 degree angle to the camera. Do something with your arms. No, not that. Say “prune” instead of “cheese” and pout the camera sultry. Arrange your whole body in an S-shape. Put your tongue between your teeth. Choose a filter. Throw your head back and give a carefree laugh.

That’s what it takes to take the perfect photo, according to social media and its influencers.

At her Perfectly Imperfect studios in St. Paul, photographer LaTwanna Williams looked at young women through her lens and got worried.

“The boys come in and they are very comfortable in front of the camera,” said Williams, who watched the dynamics unfold over and over again as the families came for the portraits. “I don’t have to give them a lot of directions. They’re very comfortable in their own skin, they smile or not. I don’t have to give them directions on how to hold their body.”

Girls, that was a different story.

“Girls, I noticed they were looking sideways or looking at the ground,” she said. “They are really waiting for this instruction: How do I stand? Where do I look? When do I smile?”

Williams wanted to give these girls something better than the perfect shot. She wanted to show them something real. A photo of themselves, confidently facing the camera, showing their authentic selves to the world.

“Your photo should show exactly who you are,” said Williams, who is hosting a workshop in his studio this Sunday. For $ 50 – or no charge for kids who can’t afford the fees – she’ll put on some music, strike up a conversation, and start munching on years of Instagram posts on which their selfies are good or bad; which of their characteristics are flattering or imperfect.

Facebook has spent three years researching the effect of its Instagram app on millions of young users. He revealed that the photo-sharing site was harmful to almost all of them, but particularly toxic to teenage girls.

Instagram bombards users with airbrushed images and curated content that has made many young people unattractive and inadequate, while keeping them hooked and unable to log out, according to the Wall Street Journal, which obtained research from ‘a company whistleblower.

Senators in Capitol Hill on Thursday burnt Facebook executives for taking advantage of social media at the expense of children’s mental and physical health and self-esteem.

“Instagram is that first childhood cigarette meant to get teens hooked early on,” Senator Edward Markey, D-Mass., Said at the hearing. “Facebook is like Big Tobacco, selling a product that they know is harmful to the health of young people.”

Much of the work that Williams does at Perfectly Imperfect these days helps companies find their footing. Sunday’s “Be Resilient” workshop is an effort to counter some of social media’s damaging brands. The event is aimed at girls in grades 4 through 12 whose self-esteem may have been affected by Insta posts telling them their hair is bad, their skin is imperfect, their bodies are not. isn’t beach ready and they have to take 30 selfies to get one that can be posted safely online.

For Williams, the only tastes that matter are his customers, when they face the camera themselves, looking confident and happy.

“It’s good not to be Insta-perfect, because in reality no one is,” said Williams. “I really try to help girls feel good about themselves. We have the power to change the narrative.”

For more information on the Sunday workshop, visit

[email protected] • 612-673-4008

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @stribrooks


Comments are closed.