based in Columbia, MO, U.S.
Valérie Berta portfolio on Visura - a professional network to connect with photo editors and art buyers, and build photography portfolio websites. Visura members, like Valérie, share photojournalism, art photography, landscape, travel photography, portraits and more. Valérie has 17 projects, 75 community news posts, and 31 images shared in the photo stream.
Valérie Berta is an international photographer based in the United States. She was born and raised on the Riviera, in the South of France, studied English in Paris and journalism at the...
The Voices photo workshop introduces minority children to documentary visual story-telling through the practice of photography and an introduction to photojournalism, and aims to foster an interest in media careers. I created Voices as a graduate student at the University of Missouri's School of Journalism in the nineties, inspired by the Shooting Back program and wanting to make a difference in my profession. Today it is more important than ever to push for diversity in the media, so I have been working to bring Voices back to life since coming back to Columbia. With the help of Bill Thompson and Mizzou's PhotoJ students, it is finally happening. For this first edition of Voices, we are focusing on at-risk kids, and will kick off on October 21st.
The We Project is a series of studio portraits of people in marginalized comunities in Columbia, Missouri: the African-American, LBGTQ and immigrant communities. All three share a history of oppression and under-representation in our society, and and with the rise in bigotry and racism after the presidential election, it has become urgent that each of them be seen and celebrated, and that they finally find their full and rightful place within the tapestry of our humanity. It is my hope that this project, by bringing these otherwise diverse and sometimes opposed communities together in intersectional dialogue (a Sunday intersectional portrait-model conversation brunch is in the make,) will help bridge the gaps between them and recognize the need for marginalized communities to unite in order to fight systemic, institutional and pervasive discrimination. The projectstarted in the spring and in addition to shooting, I am currently working to secure funding to print the portrait in large format to be hung around town.
It is a summer of wide traveling, and I revel in my good fortune, and dwell in my silent wounds, that stubborn gift. The landscape changes. The thoughts come and go, incessant, and the joy is there too. I am in the country I grew up in, France, visiting my aging mother, and I feel like a stranger, and the thoughts follow me, with the wild breath of the horizon on their tail.
Nothing beats the beauty of the southern Missouri hills in the late afternoon light of an early spring. The velvet of the view glistening on the palm of my eye. But the beauty, it has strange fruits: in the hamlet of Hartville, the sign welcoming into town with an American flag and a Confederate flag, like sisters. We made it back to the circus and life on the road for a few days, and back again, and I made it back into my candy store of photography.
Photography is crazy like that. The trees did not look like that. The light was interesting, but it came to life through the lens, or rather took a life of its own entirely, unfurling a view only my eye could envision. Photography is crazy like that, and that’s why I’m in love with its song.
We’re going to make a sand castle, he said. I was walking to town when I saw them. An older man and a little girl, playing in a sandy area off the street in Ashdown, Arkansas, a small town off highway 67 in the southwestern corner of Arkansas, by Texarkana. I asked if I could take their picture and he said yes, this is my grand-daughter, she’s two, we’re going to make a sand castle, she lives right there behind the trees. They had a red plastic wagon and two five-gallon buckets they were filling with sand they scooped off the ground.
I’m on the road again. A milestone birthday with family, Nicolas turns ten this week; the two digits, the eternity of his being ten, if not quite, the memories, the memories in the making of the instant, the joy of being together, counting my blessings, there are too many. Dylan kept trying to light his brother’s candles and failed over and over again, drowned by laughter. We sang in Spanish and in French and last in English so Nicolas got to blow his candles three times, and Dylan got to fail to light them many more, and try again, and the laughter engulfed us all. We are staying at my sister’s house; my sister is not my sister but she is the only one, bursting with life and she makes me stronger. We are strong women in our own different ways, and family has nothing to do with our bond. Her house in the plains of east Texas I make my canvas.
There are so many fires to put out, day after day, that is is hard to find time to do anything else. Call that rep, sign that petition, organize that meeting, work on that project, I forgot the milk, that’s what I went to the store for, manage freelance work, did I forget that appointment?, write letters to city officials because this is urgent, lives are at stake!, work, work, work to grow that business, feed the hens, sit down to eat, put out that next fire, breathe, enjoy the moment, love.
I find writing comforting, difficult, necessary. I write in my mind, every day. My backyard is a war zone. My heart? It has been a warm winter, waiting for snow. The daffodils are out (how can that be?) and I worry about climate change. The ground is all misshapen in the backyard, sinister brown with patches of bare dirt spreading, is it the hens, stripping it bare, Marilou, La Rousse, Pitiblanche, Thing One and Thing Two, laying again since mid-January, big impossible eggs, blue eggs, white eggs, brown eggs, hah here’s to all of you Misters Make American White Again my backyard flock is a motley of colors and so is my family. The ground is hard still but the trace of the moles’ invasion of this summer I still feel under my feet, the undulation, as I pace back and forth between the back door and the compost pile, the daily chores unfolding, comforting. Things are rotting. Promising. The promise. My backyard is not a war zone but a promise.
There is the darkness all engulfing. And there is the light. That morning it was in the sky, out of the peculiar drawings of the clouds, the precise hue of the blue, and the white clapboard house. It was enough.
I marched with my family today in Columbia, my community, because I am a woman, because I am married to an immigrant and I am one too, because my children are brown and beautiful, and because this administration is against what I believe in and my family stands for. I marched because you'd be mad not to.
Just starting. December 7, 2016, Columbia (Missouri.)
In a moment of rare quiet solitude this morning I was reading a New Yorker profile of Pedro Almódovar and when I got to the part where he talks about losses, and how he feels them differently now that he’s older, it made me reflect on the milestone I just passed, turning fifty. After a week of sheer joy with friends, basking in their love and partying as if I were twenty, it is time to start reflecting: those symbols, milestones, rituals, the heightened steps on the sometimes chaotic and haphazard and always uncontrollable path of our lives, there to help the fog lift.
I’m almost fifty. It doesn’t matter much to anybody but me. I’ll still get up in the morning and make lunch boxes, feed the cats and the hens and wake up the kids, plan meals and go buy groceries and cook, go around on my bike, give tutoring lessons to support myself until I can do that through photography. One day, when I’m fifty-one.
It’s Halloween. It’s almost Halloween, three days left, and the kids made costumes from scratch, I did nothing. From paper bags and cereal boxes, recycled plastic and paper, and much thought, and what sounded like endless debate between themselves, and urgency, because they are at that age still, not just quite over that age where it truly matters. This is what the week looks like. I take a picture of their costume in the baroque mess of my house. That and a friend from a buried past visiting in a whiff, a photographer friend, a Mom, accomplished and questioning, working on, work that matters, meaningful and beautiful work. That the thought of the future opening, light with possibilities, just like that, and the engrossing sight and smell of fall, sweet and acrid, the relief.
The girls were playing in the neighbor’s yard, all the girls, the ones from the neighbor in the back and the ones next door, so I tell the boys and they come out running, to Addie’s blond ponytails and Soveryn’s brown pigtails, Klaye’s caramel skin is glowing in the fading light against her blue shirt, the bright yellow pompoms from this weekend’s Homecoming parade that Lidia swerves around stand out against the grass, Dylan rushes back in to our house saying I’ve got to get ready for battle, and when he rushes back out I can’t see his face.
I celebrate the little things, and rejoice in them. This is what I wanted to write about tonight. The struggles feel real, they sting and they may hurt but they are necessary and ephemeral, just like the laughter, the wild laughter of my son.
Last week end was endless. Old friends came to visit on Saturday, and ended up staying the whole day, and the day seemed to stretch and fill and grow, taking up all those years of absence in, and as the week started it felt as if it had been much more than just a day, every moment lived fully in it, as they stayed on and the hours went by and we talked endlessly around the kitchen table, after they emergency-babysat the boys while I went to a photo shoot in the morning and came back two hours late, here they were, in the early morning last Saturday, twenty-two years later, knocking on the door, looking sounding laughing the same, and we picked up the conversation where we must have left it, all those years ago, between here and Palestine, or is it Paris.
August 23, 2016, Columbia (Missouri.) I have missed writing. I’ve missed the act of writing and I’ve missed on the writing, and the summer is gone and with it the easy slacking off of things of no particular interest, like routine and admonitions and rules in the sand. It is a hard discipline, that slackening, in the end, because it means letting go of that constant and oh so illusory need for control, such a common illusion and such a destructive one. In summer things tend to escape my control, and that may be the most useful thing I can teach the kids. Photography is about control too, come to think of it.
My head is exploding. Yesterday I got fitted with a new pair of hearing aids, and it feels just like when I first got hearing aids twenty years ago: a world of sounds is assaulting me with its vigor, a lost world revealed. What a world! Simple things, just water flowing, keys jangling, a plastic bag being ruffled, sounds are exploding in my ears, crisp, sharp as nails, and this morning I walk through the house in amazement over the incredible power of the hardwood floors squeaking or the birds chirping outside my windows.
April 18, 2016, Columbia (Missouri.) On Friday April 15 husband and I became American citizens. For us it is the end of a long, long and sometimes difficult journey, the crowning of many efforts and frustrations, hopes and dreams. For me it is heavy with a significance that I am only now beginning to fully acknowledge and embrace. It begins like this.
April 3, 2016, Elmwood Park (New Jersey.) Spring Break and I took the kids to New York. The excuse was to take Dylan to the Metropolitan Opera after he surprised my by loving every minute of the performance at the Missouri Theater last month, but who needs an excuse?
February 14, 2016, Columbia (Missouri.) Nicolas has been struggling with attention at school all this week, and with frustration at home, the old sibling rivalries, frustration and anger turned into screeching fury, triggered by nothing.
We camped out in the total rehab of a house on an air mattress that made my back screech, amidst the rubble and the dirt, with the tall windows open because it smelled of paint, and there was happiness.
January 9, 2016, Columbia (Missouri.) I survived the holidays and all the new year’s wishes of joy and love, especially love. I’m ready to move on, I’ve packed away the nostalgia, accepted that nothing supported it but emptiness and longing. The road opened up again, I’ll see where it goes, it is mine alone.
Mostly I worry about money, like an undercurrent I can’t fight. Yet the deep river of my worries is tinged with light. Isn’t it the light you see first, out of the shadows in the image drawing your gaze, making you want to smile?
As the end of the year gets near, I wanted to share with you some of the great news Visura has helped bring me. A few weeks ago my work, The Mudshow Diaries, was featured in The Washington Post, receiving international attention. Shortly after that The Story Institute contacted me to consider my work for representation, and I have now signed on with them, a milestone of which I am very proud. Thank you, Visura, for all the hard work you do on our behalf, and thank you all for your continuing support and enthusiasm. We are doing this together!
November 29, 2015, Columbia (Missouri.) Through our shooting star and into the light we fly, grateful for all the joy in our lives. It’s been a trying two weeks. Walking through hell and back on the wings of a few words, yes but pausing to give thanks, too, and that act of will redeeming.
November 15, 2015, Columbia (Missouri.) My country bleeds, and in the small closed kingdom of my heart I bleed, and all I can write about today is a world of hurt. My country bleeds, my family is well but all know of someone who is not, who was there, the daughter of a friend of my mother's, in the restaurant where one of the attacks happened, she is safe but the friend next to her is dead. My country bleeds and we all bleed, the daughter of another friend in the Bataclan that night, and I bleed and I want to cry Why? but I know why, and there is hard part, scores of disenfranchised second-generation immigrant youth left in the ditch of French society for decades and ready for the brainwashing of groups like the Islamic State, an immense collective mess-up turned international tragedy, and I try but can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, nor at the end of my own inconsequential intimate world of pain.
October 30, 2015, Columbia (Missouri.) Big eyes. Brown. My child’s eyes. Yes this child I wanted and he is here, and he is all. The days are his and all I can do is stare back in awe, and silly happiness, and go on with the days’ labors.
October 24, 2015, Columbia (Missouri.) Today I am taking pictures of a friend’s family. It is one of the hardest things to do for me, to take pictures of a child, someone, anyone who is life itself for someone else and translate that love in an image. Sometimes those images are going to be all we have left of a loved one.
My little one was sick this week. Here he is, flying high at the circus, with his Dad and big brother, laughing, barely two years old, and that is one of my favorite pictures of him, even though you can hardly see him you feel him laughing flying, time suspended in joy.
October 3, 2015, Columbia (Missouri.) Putting your eye on the viewfinder and composing the frame, looking at your reality through the camera, focusing on what calls you, moving with the flow of what moves in front of you, finding the faces, thinking not thinking about what it means, clicking the shutter release, hearing that click sound and being in the next image before you take a new breath.
This post has nothing to do with photography, other than a failure at it, and the redeeming power of animals' grace. I found Louie today. Louie is a husky I adopted from the Humane Society in the spring of 2014 and then reluctantly relinquished because he ran after our cats and I was afraid he was going to kill them, being a husky.
The week was uneventful, full of chores and kids stuff, work, depressing thoughts, some good news on the photography front as I started working on marketing my business again, simple steps that gave me a small morale boost and that is enough, small stuff, kids stuff, a movie in the park behind our school. The movie was another poor excuse for entertainment, a run of the mill animation with no creativity, but the art was in the field below. The scene reminded me of a Renoir painting, something in the quality of the light, the people, families laying out on blankets, just being together, the stuff of life then and now, the kids chasing each other, sunset behind the trees, a baby crying, joy. I took a picture with my phone.
September 12, 2015, Columbia (Missouri.) The opposite of sadness is not hope, but hope is what this picture I took this summer makes me feel, and it is the picture that came to my mind when I sat down to write. I don’t know why, other than another picture taken of a beach on the other side of the Mediterranean sea in a dramatically different situation was another reason to feel hope this week.
September 4, 2015, Columbia (Missouri.) How do you photograph sadness? It’s been a week full of doubts, like an army of pins and needles invading my thoughts, a week of difficult parenting, a week of not taking any pictures, of feeling more alone than usual. The sadness comes and goes, amid the joys and the chores, and I don’t know how to photograph it. How does a photograph convey one's feeling?