Bright Spot: Photographer helps teens in foster care love themselves

Photographer helps give foster kids portraits
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 4:53 PM EDT
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(WFSB) - A photographer is donating her time and talent in a unique way for high school seniors who have been in the foster care system.

For 15 years, Tamara Niewolny didn’t get to experience a lot of things that other kids did.

She became an orphan at the age of three.

“It started with my mother driving me to Hillcrest, which was the place you wait for placement. And then she had me get out of the car and she drove away,” said Niewolny.

From that point, the search for a home and a family felt never ending, until a moment she had with one of her last foster moms set her straight.

“She was saying that I need to learn to love myself before I can understand what it’s like to be loved. And so that was a big life lesson for me. It’s very precious to me,” said Niewolny.

Now, Niewolny, a part-time photographer, wants to share that life lesson with high school seniors with her camera.

“I don’t really have any pictures with the exception of my one photo shoot with my youth counselor. I don’t have any photos of me younger.”

She calls the project, “17 Pillows”.

“One day I sat down and tried to figure out how many placements I had been in. It was 17.”

“17 Pillows” gives other Wisconsin High Schoolers, who have been in placements, the “Super Model” treatment. From hair and makeup to a couple of new wardrobes.

It’s cathartic, too, not just for the students, but also for Niewolny.