Girl power

School of Journalism alumna uses photography to empower young women.


Reigha, 9, strikes a power pose at the "Inner Strength" Workshop, a collaboration between Lager-Goldberg and the St. Louis organization Project Be Confident. Participants explored creative arts and Zumba.

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

From a young age Lander-Goldberg, BJ '85, has loved photography because of the stories she has been able to tell through her work as well as the people she’s met. She grew up working in her darkroom and on her high school newspaper and yearbook staffs. For her, attending the University of Missouri School of Journalism was an obvious next step.

Lander-Goldberg graduated from Mizzou with a photojournalism degree in 1985 and took a job in St. Louis as an in-house corporate photographer and writer. In her free time, she built a freelance photography business, specializing in personality portraits. While freelancing she began volunteering with girls in a residential treatment center and eventually took a job that allowed her to work with at-risk youth, using photography as a way to teach the kids she worked with to 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.”

The healing power of art
Cathy Lander-Goldberg

Cathy Lander-Goldberg combines her degrees in photojournalism and social work in workshops teaching women and girls self-expression through photography.

After working with youth in her area and seeing the effect photography had on them, she decided to do more. She not only started holding workshops geared toward girls and women, but also went back to school to get a master’s degree in social work so she could better help her community.

Now, she gives workshops in communities all over the country. The workshops utilize photo-journaling, which involves journaling and self-reflection as well as photography, to improve self-awareness. Workshop activities and topics are tailored for the goals of specific populations. The most recent session she held focused on inner strength.

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

Lander-Goldberg has seen so much success with her workshops that she published a book titled Photo Explorations: A Girl’s Guide to Self-Discovery Through Photography, Writing and Drawing last November. It helps girls recreate workshop activities on their own or in small groups so they can continue exploring themselves and their love for photography long after their workshops with Lander-Goldberg end. Because she can’t reach everyone, the book also offers a way for young girls across the country to discover the healing power of photography.

Capturing resilience

Romanda was born with a form of muscular dystrophy. At age 18, she met Lander-Goldberg through a St. Louis agency that helps prepare people with disabilities to live independent lives.

Outside of her workshops and psychotherapy work, Lander-Goldberg is reviving a 20-year-old photography project of her own, Resilient Souls: Young Women’s Portraits and Word. The project began with a few of Lander-Goldberg’s former students when she was working with at-risk teens and expanded through word of mouth and her contacting social service agencies for subjects. The original production of Resilient Souls included 29 young women from all over the country and from different walks of life. The newest installment will feature some of the same subjects and show where they are now in life.

“I asked my subjects what they felt like they’d overcome,” Lander-Goldberg says. “Many had overcome self-injury, drug addiction and violence. They had overcome so much. I wanted the public to read their stories and learn from them. I wanted to do something that inspired people going through tough times.”

The reproduction of this project will feature the original black-and-white portraits Lander-Goldberg took of the young women as well as updated portraits in color. Her subjects’ original words will also be included in the exhibit. Resilient Souls will premiere Nov. 17- Dec. 16 at the Morton J. May Gallery on the Maryville University campus in St. Louis, Missouri.

Romanda smiling in a wheelchair.

A grown-up Romanda is featured in the upcoming show Resilient Souls.

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