Marla Must uses a photo session with area teens at the Toledo Botanical Garden in her self-esteem project.
A recent photo shoot of teenage girls skipping through Toledo Botanical Garden, laughing and taking photos, is part of one photographer’s plan to stomp out bullying.
Marla Must, a family photographer in Birmingham, Mich., met with five Perrysburg teens at the garden to work on Ms. Must’s Random Acts of Enchantment project. She uses her camera to help participants tackle negative self images.
Ms. Must provided the girls with a free group photo shoot that focused on inclusion, self-esteem, and kindness. The girls must pay it forward with acts of kindness toward others.
“Being a family photographer, I hear kids repeat negative things they’ve heard about themselves. I wanted to replace that negativity with something positive and show them how beautiful they are,” Ms. Must, 47, said. “I want them to go to school, to the store, out into the world, and pay this experience forward. Find someone who is sitting alone and invite them to sit with you at lunch, or out to a social event.”
Ms. Must uses Instagram and her website, randomactsofenchantment.com, to connect with ’tweens and teens interested in the project. The boys and girls share kind acts they’ve done and stories of helping others. Ms. Must has done more than two dozen shoots in Detroit, Chicago, Florida, and the Toledo area.
From left, Kate Rudebock 17, Serena Ysassi, 14, Kendall Wright, 12, Delaney Esper, 15, and Vanessa Ysassi, 17 pose for photographer Marla Must at the Toledo Botanical Garden.
“It teaches them empathy,” Ms. Must said. “When they feel what it feels like to give kindness from the heart, it’s empowering for them. They feel good about themselves.”
Delaney Esper, 15, of Perrysburg, said she knows how it feels to be bullied and wants to help other girls who may be going through the same thing.
“I’m targeted all the time. I’m doing this because I want to help other girls. Social media can be awful and bullying isn’t a good thing,” she said. “Everyone should be nice to everyone.”
Sneak peeks of the photos will be posted online to motivate the participants to do their kind acts.
Once finished, the girls will write about their experience on the website. They then will be rewarded with the photos.
Vanessa Ysassi, 17, of Perrysburg, said being bullied and participating in the enchantment project has taught her to be more mindful of others.
Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-343-3299.