Cathy Loander-Goldberg hails from St. Louis, Missouri. This photographer, educator and psychotherapist is the author of a workbook for girls that uses creative techniques for self-expression.
I am very happy to welcome her to the blog today.
Cendrine Marrouat: Hello Cathy, thank you for answering my questions. What triggered your desire to become a photographer? What do you specialize in?
Cathy Loander-Goldberg: I discovered photography during my teen years and fell in love with the creative process of taking photos as well as the solitude of the darkroom. I started photographing for the school newspaper and yearbook and then began as a stringer for a community newspaper at age 16.
I attended the photo-journalism program at the University of Missouri at Columbia where I had the opportunity to learn from professional photo-journalists. My specialty has always been environmental and personality portraits. I love working with people to create images that show who they are on the inside as well as the outside.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I began working with at-risk teenagers teaching photography and writing. I noticed how drawn the teens were to self-portraits and darkroom work. At that time, I began researching ways in which photography could be used in therapeutic ways. I was lucky enough to find a mentor in Judy Weiser, Director of the PhotoTherapy Centre, who continues to generously share resources and ideas on this subject.
For many years I have worked with girls and women facilitating workshops, which use photography and writing for self-expression and recently created a workbook for girls. From my experiences facilitating workshops and seeing the power of expressive techniques, I decided to become a therapist and attended Washington University in St. Louis, where I earned a master’s in clinical social work. I now work part-time in a clinical practice and specialize in women’s issues.
CM: You are the founder of The Resilient Souls Project, a photo and literary exhibit celebrating women. Why such a name? What’s the history behind it?
CLG: Part one of this exhibit was created in the 1990s and titled Resilient Souls: Young Women’s Portraits and Words. It began with a few of my former students. I had been moved by how much they had already dealt by the time they were in their teens related to issues such as depression, sexual abuse, substance issues, etc. I wanted to give them a forum to use their voices, to express what they felt they had overcome, how they were able to do it and what they would like others to know about their experiences.
Then, we worked together to create portraits. These photos of their external selves provided concrete symbols which represented their inner power. From there, I reached out to other young women dealing with other issues such as mental and physical health issues, pregnancies, adoption, grief, gangs and relationship issues.
CM: The project is a follow-up to an exhibit you did 20 years ago. Why wait two decades?
CLG: I had considered doing a 10-year followup but had lost touch with most of them. Also, I was busy balancing motherhood, my work as a photographer and attending a graduate program.
CM: Did you notice any major changes between parts 1 and 2?
CLG: Yes, my subjects were now approaching middle age! : )
Though I logically knew they would be older, I still had thought of them from the images from many years ago. Several of them now had families of their own. The reunions were touching to me….like re-connecting with long lost relatives.
CM: The Resilient Souls Project is about personal, but universal stories of struggle and growth. Which one did you like the most, and why?
CLG: That would be like saying, “which is your favorite child?” What I liked best was hearing about the next chapters of their lives as well as what they have continued to learn about themselves as they reflected on their original essays and wrote their next chapter.
CM: What do you find the most inspiring about this project? And does it reflect your current photography?
CLG: That life can bring on lots of unexpected turns — triumphs and losses — but these women, like many of us, keep on pushing through their struggles.
As far as my current work, I continue to be interested in using older photos with new portraits and to use photography for self- awareness through the workshops I offer in an organization I founded, Photo Explorations.
CM: What advice would you give to a young woman today? Do you think it would be the same as twenty years ago?
CLG: Live a balanced life. Take time to reflect on your life while unplugged from technology – whether through journaling, photography, dance, collage, music, etc. This gives you an opportunity to build an ongoing relationship with yourself and one of several forms of self-care.
Twenty years ago I would have given that same advice (though I would not have needed to say unplugged from technology).
CM: Anything else you would like to add?
CLG: Along the lines of technology…20 years ago, before social media, people tended to keep their personal struggles to themselves and possibly their inner circle. The fact that these Resilient Souls were willing to write publically about their personal struggles in order to help other women spoke to their courage. I will be forever honored and grateful they that they trusted me to embark on this journey together.
More information on the exhibit and PHOTO EXPLORATIONS: A Girl’s Guide to Self-Discovery Through Photography, Writing and Drawing, my workbook for girls, may be found on www.CLGphoto.com, Facebook and Instagram. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.