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University of Missouri

Girl Power

School of Journalism alumna uses photography to empower young women.

young girl in wheelchair

Photographer Cathy Lander-Goldberg has made a career encouraging resiliency in young women through workshops and photography. She first photographed Romanda at age 18 when they met through an agency that helps people with disabilities live independently.

The first time Cathy Lander-Goldberg stepped foot into a darkroom, something magical happened: She fell in love.

Lander-Goldberg, BJ ’85, grew up taking photos and working on her high school newspaper and yearbook. After earning a degree in photojournalism from Mizzou, she took a job in St. Louis as an in-house corporate photographer and writer. In her free time she built a freelance business, specializing in personality portraits. She also volunteered with girls in a residential treatment center. Eventually two paths merged, and Lander-Goldberg began working with at-risk youth, using photography as a way to help young people express themselves.

“So much came out of the kids when working with them,” Lander-Goldberg says. “I felt like I needed to learn more about psychotherapy to help.”

Lander-Goldberg went back to school to get a master’s degree in social work and started holding workshops for girls and women. Now she gives workshops all over the U.S., teaching photo-journaling to improve self-awareness.

“My workshops are set up for girls and women to learn who they are inside,” Lander-Goldberg says. “We live in a society that is hyper-focused on how women look, so we use the photos to focus on their inner beauty, to dig deeper.”

woman in wheelchair

This portrait of a grown-up Romanda will appear in the gallery exhibit ​Resilient Souls​, in St. Louis.

Last November Lander-Goldberg published the book Photo Explorations: A Girl’s Guide to Self-Discovery Through Photography, Writing and Drawing (CLG Photographics, 2015), which helps readers recreate workshop activities.

She also has revived a 20-year-old photography project of her own, Resilient Souls: Young Women’s Portraits and Words. The original production, black-and-white portraits of 29 young women, has been updated with color portraits of some of the same subjects, decades later, and the subjects’ own words.

“I asked my subjects what they felt like they’d overcome,” Lander-Goldberg says. “Many had overcome self-injury, drug addiction and violence. I wanted the public to read their stories and learn from them.”

Resilient Souls premieres Nov. 17–Dec. 16 at the Morton J. May Gallery at Maryville University in St. Louis.

young girl posing

Reigha, 9, strikes a power pose during one of Lander-Goldberg’s Inner Strength workshops.