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The WE Project Portraits Showcase Mid-Missourians

The WE Project
Valerie Berta

Valérie Berta's photography presents an unfiltered look at the marginalized communities across mid-Missouri, and the subjects provide information about their lives to accompany the intimate photos. Now, in collaboration with The WE Project, two exhibitions of portraits by Berta, founder of The WE Project, are open to the public.

Berta believes it is important to use her art in conjunction with the lives and experiences of her subjects. 

"There's no filter," Berta told KBIA's Janet Saidi on The Check-In. "It's not my eye seeing and portraying them, it is their words and their voice." She hopes that by elevating the stories of marginalized groups in mid-Missouri, she can begin conversations to bring people together.

A portrait of Melissa Horner, courtesy of The WE Project

Berta's work with The WE Project is closely tied to her passion for activism and community building, and she hopes to use the project as a platform for the lived-in experiences of the people of mid-Missouri. Participants include people across the spectrum of religion, race, gender-identity and social class. Berta wishes to highlight the variety of people living here as a way to emphasize a shared humanity between us.

"A lot of things are pushing us to be divided," she said. Berta wants her portraits to do "anything (they) can to increase the connectedness (and) the dialogue between people."

Berta began her career as a photojournalist where she worked many international assignments. After marrying an acrobat, she began a long form project documenting circus life as her family traveled, titled "The Mudshow Diaries." Her work as a photographer has always been her way of engaging with the world.

"These portraits are very much my way of seeing people," she remarked.

The galleries showcasing the portraits include the Boone County Historical Society and The Bridge at the MU College of Education. Virtual discussions are taking place between Berta and The WE Project participants on October 19th and 23rd for The Bridge and the Historical Society respectively.

You can see photos from The WE Project on the project website, as well as Valerie Berta's artist site.

Janet Saidi is a producer and professor at KBIA and the Missouri School of Journalism.