Creative Voices

Empowering women through creative expression. Developing communities of trust, support and encouragement for those often ignored, searching for a chance to be heard and to promote change. Through workshops in photography, Creative Voices helps women transcend cultural and geographic boundaries by speaking the universal language of human emotions and showing their realities.

Food Works Market Grand Opening Feb. 9th 8-3

GRAND OPENING for Food Works - a local food market here in Bloomington, IN that is partnered with the women’s shelter, Middle Way House. It runs 8am-3pm and will have all of their culinary delights available for sampling, plus door prizes and a chance to win a power hedge trimmer! They are located at 318 S. Washington Street, in the historic coca-cola building. Come show your support!

Upcoming Exhibit

 Paper Crane Gallery presents:

Creative Voices Photography Show by Courtney Michelle Miller

Reception: Friday, March 4th, 8–10pm

Show Runs: Wednesday, March 2nd through Sunday, March 13th

Paper Crane Gallery is located at 401 W. 6th St. Suite J, Bloomington, IN 47404 

(Entrance is located on the back of the building right off of the parking lot)

Gallery Hours: Wed-Friday 2pm-8pm, Saturday 10am-4pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm

Admission is free.

According to the World Health Organization, one in three women suffers from some form of abuse, thus making violence against women one of the most pervasive problems in the world. In an attempt to bring violence against women to an end, organizations across the globe are working to help victims and their families escape violent situations. One such organization is Sol Naciente in Buenos Aires, Argentina, founded in 1998 by Lidia Hernandez.


This past fall, Courtney Michelle Miller had the chance to teach a photography workshop at Sol Naciente. For three weeks, she worked with a group of eight women, all of whom were victims of some form of abuse, ranging from domestic violence to drug addictions. They discussed basic techniques, such as the use of light and composition, and how they are used effectively to tell stories and portray realities.


The workshop in photography was about more than teaching basic techniques. It was a way to connect the women to experiences that they shared but that were often difficult to verbalize. The workshop participants saw how photography constitutes an alternative language for conveying human emotions. By telling or sometimes showing personal memories out loud, the students learned how photography exceeds boundaries and brings people together. Thus, the workshop created a space of support and trust, empowering them as individuals and also as members of a group.


Courtney is working on using photography as an alternative language for conveying human emotions and overcoming cultural and demographic boundaries to create an international network of women. Through these photography workshops with female victims of domestic violence in various regions, she hopes to provide them the opportunity to think, speak and learn without inhibition or fear. She wants to show how the mastery of basic photographic skills can bolster self-esteem among women attempting to exit oppressive circumstances. She is doing this in order to help women better understand their similarities and the way in which they are empowered as individuals and as members of a group through small-group workshops in photography.


In hopes of creating an international discourse about empowerment via photography among women, Courtney created a blog:   Please come view her work and that of her students at this eye opening exhibit.


Additional images and interviews available with artist and/or gallery director upon request.


        401 W. 6th St. Suite J, Bloomington, IN


We're published!

I’ve created a book of photos which were taken by the women of Sol Naciente, my students, and myself, to show how they applied their basic understandings of photography.

Watch the full episode. See more IN Focus.

WTIU covers the issue of domestic violence in the US, specifically in Bloomington, IN.

In fall 2010, I worked with a local women’s organization, Sol Naciente, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is dedicated to empowering women who have suffered from various abuses - living in the streets, drug addictions and domestic violence. For three weeks, I taught a group of eight women photography, from the basic techniques to the way that it can express what words cannot. The workshop was used as a tool of empowerment for the women, teaching them how to express themselves as individuals and as members of a group, thus creating a space of support and trust. This is their story.

Professor Michelle (me), I hope I have left in you what you have left in me, a great, beautiful affection.

— Lorena, one of my students

On December 3 the Museo de Mujeres (Museum of Women) in Buenos Aires, graciously opened their doors to the women of Sol Naciente for their own, private visit. The director, Garciela, walked us through the current exhibit and later talked to the women about her desire to host an exhibit for our project. She discussed the importance of what they did through photography - connected to the outside world and promoted awareness for women who have suffered from domestic violence and other abuses.


Great news! The meeting at the Museum of Women in Buenos Aires, as well as Paper Crane Gallery in Bloomington, Indiana , are going to host an exhibit for our project! I couldn’t be more excited.

One Last Hoorah

Tomorrow, to properly bring our workshop to an end, I am accompanying the women on the ultimate self-esteem boosting visit: we are going to the Museum of Women for a private tour. The director, Graciela Tejero Coni, graciously offered to open the doors to my students and show them around. She thought it only made sense since they will soon be having their very own exhibit. I couldn’t agree more.

My last day at Sol was filled with so many emotions - sadness, pride, joy but above all love. I have really come to care about my students. They have taught me so much. I will truly miss them.

Day 9, Exceeding my Expectations

Yesterday I felt like I was revisiting my first day of class with the women at Sol. I was so nervous. It was finally time to see how the women did, how they applied their understandings of photography, and I was a wreck. Their pictures were ready. My time teaching was over. There was nothing more I could do but hope they listened and understood what I was trying to teach. On the way to pick them up, I thought about all the time we had spent together over the past three weeks and everything that happened.

In the beginning, we were all fairly timid and reserved. We did not know what was going to happen throughout the workshop, for it was new to us. I was new to teaching photography, especially in a foreign language. They were new to photography in general. They, like most people, viewed photography as something that preserves memories of people who are usually shown smiling in poses. They did not view it as a form of communication, as a way of connecting people by transcending cultural and geographic boundaries.

Slowly but surely as we delved deeper into the subject, they began to see photography in a new light. We discussed how as an art form, photography is most effective when it is natural. The most powerful and influential photographs are usually those that are not forced. They are moments captured at just the right time that tell a story anyone can understand. By focusing on human emotions, something we all share no matter how different our experiences are, photography speaks a universal language. I hoped to convey this effectively so that the women could understand, but it was difficult to do with the language barrier. The best I could do was show them. And so I did.

We looked at slideshows of photographs taken from various corners of the world, which put things into a global perspective. However, as my director Brenda said, sometimes it’s easier to understand and accept people who are obviously different from you based on physical aspects. It is more difficult to understand and accept people who are closer to you, people more like you. We tend to be harder on them. Believing there is truth to this, for I myself am more prone to judge people I know, I wanted to break down those barriers for the women. I wanted to show them that no matter how different their backgrounds are, they have a lot in common. Doing this, I believed, would create the space of trust and support that I hoped for.

In order to show them their similarities while simultaneously discussing photography, we discussed our favorite photographs, memories, and the best day we’d ever had. Many of their answers were interconnected or the same. This helped them see one another as equals, which Lorena even said during class one day. From the same level, which we eventually reached, we could start building that place of trust. 

I could see them growing together, through disagreements and treaties, as the time passed. Each of them developed as individuals and as members of a group, providing something unique and special. Even for those who did not take photos, such as Blanca and Doris, it would not have been the same without them. Together, they have become a powerful group of women who are no longer afraid to speak of their dreams and the future, of hope and independence.

To make it even better, a great deal of their pictures turned out amazingly. Through their use of techniques like the use of light and the rule of thirds, the showed me that they not only listened, they understood. They applied everything I taught them and more. They exceeded all my expectations. I could not be more proud.

Nazarena, who said photography has become a kind of therapy for her, took these photos. She’s come to really take to photography. As shy as she is in person, her photos show that she was definitely paying attention to class and has a knack for finding the right moments.

Damiana, mother of two, took these photos of her kids and friends. She is someone who always has a smile on her face, not matter what is passing. Her kids are the most important things in her life.