The WE Project
COLUMBIA - A Columbia photographer has launched a series of portraits showing the faces of vulnerable and minority communities, in hopes of educating people in mid-Missouri.
Valérie Berta-Torales is a social documentary photographer, an activist and a mother who launched “The WE Project” in 2017 to share the stories of minority communities who experience discrimination on a daily basis.
She said there needs to be a broader local and national conversation about diversity.
"We're not talking to each other unfortunately," Berta-Torales said.
She said her goal is three-fold.
"Why not open their eyes, open their hearts and talk about all of the issues we have in this community and in our society?" she said.
Berta-Torales believes minorities share a history of systematic discrimination, and she wants to bring together diverse community groups to continue the dialogue within their immediate spheres of influence.
Since it’s inception, The WE Project has expanded to multimedia videos in addition to still photos.
Berta-Torales said the project is vital given America's political and social climate. She said the rise in extremism seen since the election of President Donald Trump has been "alarming," showing racism isn't just a thing of the past.
“It’s always been there," Berta-Torales said. “A lot of people have fought it, but I feel that now it's out of the woods."
There is important work for the cultural community to do, she said.
"We’re beginning to see more voices come out - through theatre, through the arts, but there is a lot of work to be done still," Berta-Torales said.
Her website calls "The WE Project," an opportunity to "engage in constructive dialogue about inclusion and diversity and to celebrate our common humanity."
Berta-Torales believes that, through her photos, people will begin to hear the voices and see the faces of these varying minorities groups and, "hopefully change their minds and open their heart and their soul and be more accepting and compassionate about all of the different types of people we are living with everyday in this society.”
“I hope the role that I’m playing is to help open those doors and open those eyes,” she said.