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By: Gail Obenreder
Photographer Leah Beach is out to make her impact on the world through the power of photography. Now living in Dewey Beach (a serendipitous meld with her name), she was born in Dover, where her mother’s family had a farm. Her father and his family came from Lewes, so “I’m a Delaware girl through and through.” But her passion for the camera and what it can uncover and document has taken her abroad, especially to Kenya, a place that is now very close to her heart.
Always interested in photography, Beach first developed her eye and her skills in high school, and then she continued to hone her vision through her work as a photographer’s assistant. In 2011, she graduated from Wilmington’s Delaware College of Art and Design. As a student, she was influenced by the work of Salvador Dali and Duane Michaels (an early surrealist photographer) whose manifesto, “The greatest gift you can give is being different” had a profound effect on the budding artist.
Beach is passionate about human rights and determined to effect social change – and people’s perspectives – through photography. Her award-winning Artist Fellow submission was a series of photos from five years of work documenting global dementia, malnutrition and women’s empowerment in developing countries. In this series – and all her work – Beach seeks to show challenging subject matter in an honest light, focusing not only on trouble and anguish but also showing the resilience that her subjects radiate as they meet their challenges.
World issues, especially human rights and individual dignity, continue to inspire and challenge the young artist. But she is also passionate about the strength that can be gained in a community. In South Africa, she created a middle school photography program. And drawing on her communal African experiences, Beach recently founded the non-profit Dewey Artist Collaboration to bring artists together for work and inspiration.
She plans to use the Artist Fellowship award to continue her Global Dementia project and to support a new project closer to home – documenting the work and challenges of Sussex County’s Latino community. Beach believes that “if you change one person’s perspective, that’s a good way to get started.” No matter where she trains her lens, the photographer continues to seek truth and social illumination through her images.