Youth group helps find focus on beauty

Youth group helps find focus on beauty


by Pat Dooris

Bio | Email | Follow: @PatDoorisKGW

Posted on April 27, 2012 at 10:12 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 27 at 3:06 PM

SILVERTON - Thousands of photographers gather each year at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn.

“This is heaven," said one woman looking at the beautiful flowers.

One group here is about more than snapping pictures. They are students and mentors with a non-profit called Focus on Youth.

“I think that beauty is something that really enriches all of our lives,” said Donna Lee Holmes, the organization's founder.

Holmes started the group nine years ago, teaching photography to the low-income and underprivileged.

“There's really something about taking them out in nature and giving them a chance to experience beauty," she said.

The program matches students with photographers, who coach them on the finer points.

“You're going to focus on this area right now,” said professional photographer Shawn Weishaar. “And I want you to find something uniquely different in here to shoot,” he said to one of the students.

Weishaar is also a representative for the Canon company. He arraigned to have the focus on youth team borrow state of the art cameras.

Rayann Gere is here and flourishing.

“I just focus on something that shouldn’t be there and take it,” she said, pointing to a picture of a purple tulip sprouting amid a row of pink flowers.

She knows what it feels like to be out of place.

“I was put in foster care when I was seven,” she said. It would color anyone's view of life. “I was in 30 different foster homes,” she said.

But now photography is helping raise her self image.

“I used to be one of those low self esteem people, don’t find myself too attractive so I focus on things I find beautiful,” said Gere.

Photography skills she's slowly nurtured spring to life, surrounded in this place full of color and possibilities.

“I want to get some of these pink ones over here. I haven’t gotten those yet,” she says rushing past.

The intensity allows her to forget for a moment that she's still homeless and has a baby being raised by one of her former foster moms.

And when the pro walks over to check her work, he's astonished.

“I think your, your eye, your conception is really good. I mean ... it's a great shot," said Weishaar.

Praise from a pro and a lesson for us all: If we look for the beauty in the world, we will find it.

Find out more about Focus on Youth.