By Maddie Roth
“Teaching photography, entrepreneurship and leadership to the next generation of young female photographers in all communities of Annapolis” is Sophie Macaluso’s mission for her nonprofit, Females in Focus.
It all started with a school grant and an interest in teaching young women empowerment through the camera lens. Over the past year and a half, Macaluso, a senior at Glenelg Country School in Ellicott City, has developed her nonprofit into pop-up shops, after-school events and summer camps located in the Annapolis area.
“The girls come from all kinds of backgrounds,” Macaluso said. “It’s a great opportunity for people to get to know each other in an inclusive environment.”
Since the beginning of Females in Focus, she’s held events through studio and retail store ArtFarm and has also been contacted by city government officials to hold an event with Mayor Gavin Buckley of Annapolis. Leading up to Macaluso’s first event, digital camera equipment was gathered through fundraisers and the initial grant.
“I wasn’t expecting much from the donors I reached out to, but the generosity they immediately showed toward Females in Focus was astounding,” she said. “The photography departments at local universities, including MICA [Maryland Institute College of Art], and the University of Maryland, were more than happy to put their gently used cameras in the hands of new photographers, knowing that each piece of equipment gave one more girl the opportunity to create through photography.”
Most of the girls who attend events are interested in going into photography as a profession, but more importantly, they attend for fun and experience.
“I loved Females in Focus because it was a small group of girls and a young instructor who shared the love of photography,” said Juwayriah Okedeyi, a high school freshman, on her experience with Females in Focus. “I’m interested in photography because I love capturing memories and keeping them alive. Photography also can make us appreciate the everyday things in life when we see its beauty in a picture.”
After an event, Macaluso uploads the day’s photographs to her Facebook page and website gallery so the girls have somewhere to review their work. This has sparked interest in parents to keep the inspiration flowing at home.
“Cydney really enjoyed the workshop,” said one mom, LaKeisha Simmons. “We are looking into getting her a nicer digital camera.”
Other girls arrive home and can’t stop talking about Females in Focus. “[Sophie] has done such an amazing thing by teaching our girls! Anna raved about the workshop,” said mom Ali Colman. “She loved every second!”
Macaluso’s work with Females in Focus has given a passion to many young women. She continues to urge her attendees to be their own advocates. “Jobs aren’t just going to come to you; you need to stand up for yourself in a profession dominated by men,” she said.
To learn more about Females in Focus or to donate gently used equipment, visit www.smac-photo.com/femalesinfocus or @femalesinfocus on Instagram.