DuBOIS — Joelle Watt has been photographing memorable moments in people’s lives since 2003.
“I was doing senior pictures, I was doing weddings, I was doing family pictures. Basically, anything that came across my way I would shoot, building my business,” Watt said as she sat in her studio at 38 W. Scribner Ave., DuBois, which she opened in April 2012. On the desk were bottles of water, her name labeled on the paper wrapped around them. She notes that she likes “people to feel like it’s special” when they come to her studio.
Continuing with her story, Watt said she started to realize that she was making very solid relationships with the girls she was photographing.
She started to see the change in somebody when she would turn the back of the camera around and they would say, “That’s not me.”
“I would say, ‘That is you.’ They’re like, ‘I don’t look like that.’ I say, ‘But, that’s how I see you,’” Watt said. “I feel like God gave me this. I don’t think there’s one ugly person in this world. I think there’s something unique and beautiful in every single person. I feel like I was given this gift that when I put my camera up, I’m able to see that.”
Watt — noting she loves boys, she’s married with a son and two daughters — said she connects with girls and women.
“Here I am, and I see that I don’t just shoot these girls in pictures, but we continue having a relationship after senior pictures,” Watt said. “I realized what a difference it could make in somebody’s life by showing them — not just saying — ‘Oh, you’re so pretty,’ but showing them their beauty.”
That’s when she expanded her heart and talent toward her mission of reaching girls and women of all ages and started “Be Your Own Beautiful.”
Speaking from life experiences, and incorporating her background in women’s portraiture, Watt travels nationwide performing at seminars, schools, clubs, churches and conferences. Her seminars also feature a live beauty shoot to truly empower women of all ages to find worth and value within themselves.
“I have a secular version and a faith-based version. I have programs for young girls, teenagers, and women. It’s all on the same information, I just change the format,” Watt said. “I go in and I talk to them about ways that they can become beautiful from the inside out. Because I want them to be rooted in an identity that they have built, not what they look for in somebody else.”
As she’s having these extended relationships with seniors in high school, Watt was also trying to do work with different non-profit organizations with her business.
“I have a heart with my ‘Be Your Own Beautiful. How can I pull all of this together? That’s how CLICK came about,” Watt said. The program is designed around the mantra, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of other things,” from Pericles.
Started last year, Watt specifically targeted several seniors who she knew had the integrity and the characteristics that would be good for this group.
People can do CLICK for two different reasons, said Watt, noting that ultimately she’d like for them to do it for both reasons.
“The first reason would be that they love to get their picture taken,” Watt said. “With CLICK, I call it my CLICK Student Ambassadors, because they represent my studio. They either sign up because they like to have their pictures taken or that they are people who want to give back to the community.”
“There’s so many girls out there who have gone through things in their own life and are like, ‘I’ve learned this. I want to help other people.’ That’s the kind of person that I am and that’s what I’m finding with the girls that have joined CLICK, as well,” Watt said.
The girls who sign up for CLICK receive three to six shoots during the year.
“Any time I need a model, any time that I have a new idea that I want to try out, or I’m going to go somewhere and have a mini session, I say, ‘Hey, I’ve got time open. Who wants their picture taken?’ I kind of treat them like extended children,” Watt said. “Then, especially if they’re interested in photography, like they’re available, they can come to any of my classes that I have, or I’ll put them to work, like I’ll have them hand out papers or different things like that. They can come to all of my classes.”
The group also collectively agrees to complete three charity events a year. This program allows the teens to receive hands-on business hours as well as community services hours, teaching them to run a business, but also the importance of giving back to the community. For example, this year on Small Business Saturday, they did Santa Claus pictures at Brady Street Florist. All the members participated, and those coming for pictures were asked to bring canned good items for the food pantry.
When the CLICK group attends the charity events those count for community service hours.
“So looking from a college perspective, they have hands-on training in a business, not just about business, but about giving back to the community,” Watt said.
Watt enjoys giving back to the community.
“My daughter goes away on a mission trip, like she’s sent to Jamaica. They want me to go, and I said, ‘People need so much here that I can give to them.’ I feel like I am making a difference right here, and that’s what I try to teach these CLICK girls.
For more information about CLICK, contact Watt at 814-590-0593 or on her website: joellewatt.com.