Camas photographer Lara Blair has spent the past two decades parenting her own daughters, teaching middle-schoolers and capturing people’s (and dogs’) personalities through portrait photography, so it’s no surprise that her latest venture, Brave & True magazine, has managed to capture the many sides of today’s teen girls.
Launched in September, the magazine, which is rich in photographs and personal interviews, portrays the thin lines — between silly and solemn, athletic and glamorous, joyful and contemplative, dreamer and realist — navigated by most middle-school girls.
“The magazine is all about empowering and celebrating girls in our community,” Blair says.
All of the girls featured in the first issue of Brave & True attend Camas schools. Many of the girls included in the inaugural issue are athletes, including the two sets of twins Blair features on the magazine’s cover and two dancers featured on inside pages.
Blair released the digital version of the magazine in mid-September and had print versions made at Columbia Litho, a Camas-based printer.
Keeping the magazine and her photography business local is important to Blair.
“These are my people,” she says, sipping a coffee drink inside Camas’ Cafe Piccolo and motioning around the outside, downtown area. “I love it down here.”
In fact, Blair will soon move her Lara Blair Photography studio to downtown Camas. She hopes to be set up in the Camas Beauty Bar salon, at 210 N.E. Fourth Ave., by Nov. 1.
Her business, which includes portrait photography sessions, the Brave & True magazine and a new series of “Brave and True” classes geared toward middle-school aged girls that blend photography, art and empowerment lessons, is all about celebrating women and girls, Blair says.
“I want to help young girls see their own strength and beauty,” she says.
When girls or women come to Blair for a portrait photography session, they may find the photographer’s style a little unusual. For “Brave and True” photo sessions meant for girls ages 11 to 16, for instance, Blair typically conducts her consultation in the girl’s home.
“I want to know who they are,” Blair says. “We’ll go into her bedroom with mom, and she’ll show me her wardrobe. Girls this age have fearless fashion. They’ll pull out these fancy dresses and pair them with their Converse. It’s so fun.”
While many people focus on senior-year portraits — and Blair specializes in high-fashion, glamourous “think Vogue” senior photos — to capture a major life transition, Blair urges her clients to think about capturing other life stages, as well.
“The middle school years go by so fast,” says Blair, who used to teach sixth grade at James David Zellerbach (JDZ) and Odyssey middle schools in Camas. “I always tell people they’re going to wish they had photos of their daughters when they were 11, 12, 13. As a mother, I know you just can’t get that time back. And 18 is a right of passage, but I don’t think people realize how precious these middle school ages really are.”
The same is true for older women, Blair says.
“Trust me, when you’re 50, you’re going to wish you had photographs from when you were 40; and when you’re 60, you’re going to wish you’d had photos taken when you were 50,” says Blair, herself 48 years old with an 18-year-old daughter who is a senior at Camas High and a 19-year-old daughter who is traveling the world during her “gap year” before college.
Blair says she loves helping girls and women discover their own beauty through emphasizing their strengths.
“We all want to be seen,” Blair says. “Especially women. Women want to be seen for who they really are.”
But when you look at family photos, she says, often women are missing from the shots.
“They’re concentrating on taking photos of their kids, or they’re the ones behind the camera,” she says of the mothers she knows.
When women come to Blair’s photography studio, she tries to make them as comfortable as possible and talks to them during the shoot about the things that are important in their lives. She wants to know the parts of their bodies they feel least comfortable with so she can light around those areas and emphasize the body parts women love the most — but she also wants to capture their unique personalities and the things that make others fall in love with them.
Blair knows how difficult being on “the other end” of the camera is. When she had her own portraits taken recently, she warned the photographer that she’s always thought her eyes were too small. In the end, however, she chose the photo in which her eyes looked the smallest because that was the photo that showed Blair laughing and therefore radiated her inner as well as outer beauty.
“That was the one that looked the most like me,” she says, laughing at the memory.
And, as much as she loves making women her age and older feel good about themselves in photos, Blair says her passion and talents really reside in photographing and mentoring middle and high school girls.
“I loved teaching middle school. I was very good at speaking ‘tween,’ but of course they hate to be called that,” she says. “But, you know, women can be the worst to each other. And I saw it all starting around those middle school years. The mean girls, the lack of communication. It all seems to start at age 11. If we can get to girls around that age, if we can help them find their gifts, find the things that they’re good at, so they can feel strong at 11 and remember it when they get older … we can nip that behavior in the bud and help these girls become confident young women who support each other and build each other up.”
As a teacher, a mother and a photographer, Blair tries to help young girls recognize that many of the images they’re seeing on social media are not based in reality.
“We need to stop looking at social media like it’s real,” Blair says. “I show girls all the things we can do in Photoshop to alter an image.”
Many of these themes crop up in Blair’s “Brave and True” classes for young girls. She has a five-week class already booked in October, but plans to open another session in January 2020.
In the meantime, Blair is busy getting her second issue of the Brave & True magazine pulled together, opening her photography studio in downtown Camas and finding inspiration in the women and girls she captures in her photos.
She’s also focusing on how much she loves her chosen career.
“My clients are so great,” she says. “We do these portrait parties for women. They come in a group, we have champagne and we do their makeup and hair and they get to dress up. We play their music and they dance. It’s so much fun.”
To learn more about Blair’s photography, her portrait sessions and her Brave & True magazine, visit larablairphotography.com, or find her on social media: at facebook.com/larablairphotography or on Instagram at @larablairphotog raphy.