[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]
YOUNGSTOWN — Viera’s Vision is a photography studio that specializes in a variety of portraits with the goal of making clients' “vision” come to life.
“I do all kinds of photography. I kind of fed off of that name Viera’s Vision with the photography because I actually create people's vision,” owner Jessica Morales said, noting her portfolio includes engagement, maternity, newborn and senior shoots.
“It’s not like you come in [and I] just take your picture. It's actually a process for my clients. When [clients] inbox me, I actually become kind of their content creator,” she added. “Now that social media is a platform for a lot of people to voice whether it is how they feel, how they want to look ... it's such a big platform for people that they're actually creating these photo shoots.”
Although Viera’s Vision offers standard photography packages, Morales is known for creating elaborate photo shoot sessions, like a maternity shoot with live snakes and fog and a women empowerment photo shoot that featured six women with empowering phrases written on their bodies.
Viera’s Vision, 2528 Mahoning Ave., even offers photo shoot parties for friends and family to take some snapshots together.
“It's just fun to be able to express myself in my creativity as well as get people in Youngstown to be able to have a place to think outside of the box and create a memory, whether it's with their family or just by themselves [to] create an experience,” she said.
Morales, who is Puerto Rican, also did a community photo shoot to raise local awareness for the impacts of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
“I opened it up to the community, whoever you are, if you're Puerto Rican, to come. I had us paint and express ourselves with the Puerto Rican flag … to highlight us in our community,” she said.
Morales told Mahoning Matters she infuses her Puerto Rican pride into her business and is proud to be a minority business owner. Her grandmother was from Puerto Rico, only went to school through third grade, had seven children and used her talent for cooking to make ends meet.
Before Viera’s Vision, Morales, a mother of three, was a dental assistant and dental assistant instructor for 12 years. She saw firsthand from her grandmother the importance of having a skill set that could help her provide for her family.
“For me, being a minority, it means a lot to be able to tap into a skill that you have. Even if I was still doing my 9-to-5 dental assistant job, being able to find something that I'm passionate about and be able to give it back to our community, and be able to highlight good memories with the minority businesses, with our minority families. It just means so much to me,” she said.
Morales said her grandmother was the first to point out her knack for photography and even bought Morales her first camera. But it wasn’t until Morales tore her ACL and was out of work for six months that she took her photography business to the next level by printing her images and creating a price list.
“I really couldn't go to work and I really couldn't walk too much and be on my feet too much. But photography kind of led me to be able to take pictures at home sitting down, working, editing and whatnot,” she said.
When Morales was able to return to work, her dental assistant position was filled. She told Mahoning Matters she had to make a decision to either move backward in her career as a dental assistant, by taking a lower-level position or starting fresh somewhere new, or put her full efforts into photography.
Viera’s Vision celebrated its two-year anniversary earlier this month.
Morales said within the past year, she’s grown her business and gained partnerships with community leaders, local businesses and schools.
Morales photographed Chaney High School's and Wilson Middle School’s football teams this past season, has her portrait of a local Realtor on local billboards and WRTA buses, has worked with organizations like Hearing for the Holidays and has done portraits for a Youngstown mayoral candidate.
The name “Viera’s Vision” is Morales' ode to her family name and her way of keeping her grandfather's memory alive.
“It had a big effect in our family, you know, so I wanted to keep that name going. I felt like with the memories that I was creating with people, that his name will live on and our family name will be able to live on,” she said.
Morales is using Viera’s Vision to not only keep her family name alive but to honor her community as well.
“There's so much negativity that has been placed on Youngstown,” she said. “I feel like Viera’s Vision gives our minorities a platform to be able to express and create beautiful memories and create great things.”
Visit Morale’s Facebook page for booking inquiries and additional information.