Woman uses photography to give voice to the voiceless

February 11, 2018

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (AP) — About two years ago, BarbaraLea Barron and her family were living in California, struggling to stay afloat as she worked two jobs while caring for her three kids along with her husband.

Her kids were each born with certain special needs which kept them within arms-length of the doctor and in need of constant attention and treatment.

“My kids are all special needs in one form or another. Our 6-year-old has heart conditions and kidney conditions, our oldest is on the autism spectrum. Our youngest doesn’t have a formal diagnosis right now but he is working with Headstart through the school board on his speech,” Barron said.

“I was working at a pretzel company inside Walmart and I was working at Kroeger just running myself ragged, just so exhausted and still not even barely making the bills.”

Now, the family of five lives in West Virginia, where they moved in a last-ditch effort to find a better pathway for their kids, who are aged 3, 6 and 12.

“When we all lived out there in California about a year and a half ago, we hit some pretty hard times. A friend of ours said she had a house out here for us if we wanted it, and I guess it took us about a week to decide ‘we’ll move to West Virginia,’” Barron said. “We spent basically everything we had to drive cross-country and move here on nothing more than a hope and a prayer, but I think it was probably the best move we ever made for our family.”

This decision they made helped get the Barrons to a more comfortable living arrangement, for both financial reasons and well-being, as well as better healthcare for her three kids. It was a decision they haven’t regretted.

“It was good in a lot of ways, and a lot of ways that we didn’t anticipate,” Barron said. “It wasn’t until we moved out here that we met a neurologist for our 6-year-old who thought outside the box. He suffers from debilitating migraine, and he still gets them on occasion, but they’re few and far between. We’ve gotten answers because of WVU that we’ve been searching for forever. We have better understanding of his conditions and had we not moved here and transferred his care to WVU, we would not have had that exposure,” Barron said.

Now a West Virginian through and through, Barron is able to better care for her kids and pursue a career in helping adults with some needs similar to those of her children.

“I work a full-time job at ResCare, I work with special needs adults. I’m a direct service professional, so my days are spent working with the special needs adults ensuring that they have a quality of life. It’s another one of those passions of helping those without a voice,” Barron said.

With this job, Barron is able to do herself what others are doing for her kids, paying it forward to people who may suffer from similar problems. However, her work with these clients gives Barron a daily gift that she would never have seen working in retail.

“I get to witness Christmas every day with one of the clients I work with, because when he gets genuinely happy about something, when something goes exactly the way he wanted — and it’s over silly things, and it’s little things that we would pass by — the joy you see on his face is worth every moment that is frustrating,” Barron said.

What’s more, Barron captures moments like these all the time in her work as a photographer.

Because when she is not watching someone experiencing that pure joy, she can just go back and look at it for herself through the eye of her camera lens. When she realized she could capture the emotion from a moment to see forever, she really took an interest in the art form.

“That was kind of what I started to study and started to develop, capturing the essence of whatever it was I was photographing, not just a picture but translating what the emotion was behind it,” Barron said. “I try to stop time and I try to hold that emotion. We talk about stopping kids from growing up and stopping life from moving on, and you want to live in just this one moment. That’s what I try to do with my camera, just capture everything that this moment is.”

While she first picked up a camera in middle school, using it to complete assignments for class, the hobby grew until years later when it evolved into something more. Barron’s friends began seeing her work, and encouraged her to pursue it professionally.

She remembers the photo that pushed her from a picture taker to a photographer, portraying a close-up of a peacock feather containing detail on every strand.

“It actually came from some friends seeing this, and I was out and I wanted to,” Barron said. “They actually said ‘you actually do have a really amazing skill,’ and at first I thought ‘yeah, you’re my friend, you’re being nice.’”

“I was getting all this feedback about how dynamic it was, the ability I had to capture something, there’s metallic colors that might not always come through being photographed, it usually comes out from muted to blown out to it being too bright, but that was the first time I really took myself seriously.”

Barron even found a way to give back through her photography. She donates to charities some money from studio sessions, some of which are meant to help individuals who have needs like Barron’s children.

“That’s kind of where my drive for my photography came from, and then trying to find a way to make sure I could do some good with that, and that’s where the kind of passion for doing mini-sessions at different events kicked in and trying to find ways to give back in that area.”

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