By Rick Coates
Sarah Armstrong hurries home after work and grabs her camera bag and heads
out the door for her next shoot. A media consultant by day and
photographer by night, Armstrong is on a mission to photograph 231 women
from Northern Michigan for a new book and social media project.
Armstrong is not looking for societal supermodels for her project, just
women who who want to express their beauty regardless of size, shape or
I believe pictures have a way of capturing ones beauty that a mirror or
societal expectations cant, said Armstrong. That is my goal with this
project -- to let women be beautiful for who they are not what they are
told they need to be.
At 24, Armstrong has been fascinated with photography for years. A friend
of hers launched a similar project in Battle Creek that was a huge
success. There is no cost to participate and Armstrong hopes the project
will introduce people to her newly launched photography business.
I agree to provide a photo shoot and all the photos to everyone who
participates at no cost to them. For me it is an opportunity to network
and introduce myself as photographer to the Northern Michigan community.
The concept seems to be working as word has been spreading quickly with
Armstrong booked almost every night and most weekends.
Right now most of the women that have heard about this project are in my
immediate circle and from Traverse City or the surrounding area. But I
want to reach out to the rest of the 231 area code.
She also wants to expand her age demographic as well with the final
product reflecting the wide-ranging body styles of the region.
The 30 women I have photographed so far are between the ages of 21-35 and
I want to expand that to include all ages; this project is about
reflecting all the women of the 231 area code, said Armstrong. The same
goes for size. I just photographed a bigger-boned woman and it was one of
my best shoots. She opened up during the shoot she let her inhibitions go
and it was a lot of fun.
For Armstrong, seeing women let their inhibitions go is an important part
of the project.
It is so rewarding when I show them the pictures and sometimes they tear
up and say I am beautiful. See, they have have let magazines and movies
define their beauty, said Armstrong. I ask them what they are
self-conscious about and I steer clear of those features. I love to see
their reactions when I show them the photos as I take them, and they are
like, wow that is me-- how did you do that? I chuckle and say its not a
magic wand, this is how you look.
Armstrong grew up in Battle Creek and had visited Traverse City. She saved
some money and moved here figuring she could work as a server until she
got on her feet.
I have always been a go-getter, so I got a media sales job and that has
been going well. But becoming a photographer has always been on the back
burner for me until my mother passed away last year of leukemia. She was
55, I just knew it was time for me to pick up a camera and learn how to
use it. Since that time I have just fallen in love with photography, my
camera is always at my hip.
As for including only women, Armstrong says they are just easier to
photograph than guys.
Funny thing, people in general dont want to look at photos of guys,
said Armstrong. But both men and women like looking at pictures of
Armstrong uses a Sony SLT -- a single lens translucent which enables her
to have a live view of each shot before taking it. Her goal is to have the
book out next year with supporting photos of each subject on her Facebook
page. Anyone interested in participating in the 231 Project may contact
her at 231-360-8702 or messaging her on Facebook.