As a photographer who specializes in Old Master inspired baby photos, Yunet Holmes works to bring out the essence of individuals. From her modest home studio in Lake Worth, she uses customized props, costumes, floral headdresses, and top makeup artists to create gorgeous, soft, dramatic images.
“I’ve been into photography since I was 17,” she says, sitting in the breezy sun porch outside her studio. “I felt it was the best way for me to communicate with others as I am somewhat of an introvert. I started with a Kodak camera and took courses in college. I wanted to help people further so also got degrees in psychology and audiology. For hearing impaired people learning to communicate is of major importance. Since I am also Cuban and came to the states when I was young, I’ve been a translator for my family as well.”
Holmes has been working as a professional audiologist for several years in West Palm Beach while pursuing her passion for photography doing portraits of motherhood under a company she runs with her husband called Olive and Lace Photography.
After having her daughter, who is now 3, she focused on moms and babies, using techniques from the Old Masters of dark backgrounds, soft lighting, romantic flowing gowns, floral and lace headdresses. Touching up with a bit of Photoshop, the results are deep and lovely portraits that look painterly. She presents the photos to clients in a handcrafted keepsake heirloom box that has one image on the outside and more inside, it stands up for display.
But arriving at that place took some work as she suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety that became increasingly alienating. She didn’t even take photos of her own baby. She sought counseling and that brought her around to using her photography work to help others tell their stories. Motherhood and new babies were the most obvious place to start. From there she expanded to all ages and began reaching out to the community.
The unique imagery and quality of her storytelling caught the attention of Donna Weinberger, CEO of Inspire Recovery and Transpire Help, organizations started in 2016 based in West Palm Beach that recognize that many people who are LGBTQ+ face many obstacles including family rejection for their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, bullying at school and in the workplace, difficulty establishing long-term employment and securing safe, comfortable housing. This may be why the LGBTQ+ community has a 20-30% higher rate of drug and alcohol addiction.
The next challenge an LGBTQ+ person might run into is not feeling safe or comfortable sharing about themselves in group therapies. For a gay man, lesbian or bisexual person in treatment, it can be a hurdle to share the secrets of their addiction while trying to keep so much of their life private. Her organizations provide a variety of services including counseling, housing, transportation, food, and government services. Currently, they are working on a printed resource guide for LGBTQ clients in detox, treatment and sober living facilities to provide info on AA and NA meetings in South Florida, as well as contacts for the health centers, spiritual centers and community centers that are LGBTQ-friendly.
Transgender women and men can apply for financial aid through their micro-grant program towards their transition with support for counseling, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and name changing processing fees. All LGBTQ applicants will be able to apply for assistance with their medications, groceries and job training. But all this costs money, so Donna began to look for creative ways to fundraise.
“I found Yunet through social media,” says Donna. “and felt that we could work together by creating portraits of trans and gay people by helping them to see images of themselves as they believe they are. This would help enormously in their self-esteem and we could exhibit and sell the portraits as a fundraiser as well as a way to outreach into the community.”
“We started by selecting individuals who were getting services through Transpire then really talking to them about how they feel inside and see themselves ideally,” Yunet says. “Are they masculine or feminine? What is your story, who is your ideal tribe? Then I had costumes made by fashion stylist, Collin Santini, and flew in makeup artist Danielle Goreski from Toronto. I used my signature dark versus light backgrounds, soft lighting, and custom outfits. We worked long days and everyone volunteered their time to create this series.”
The result is an astonishing group of portraits called Ambient, that reflect the inner feelings and stories of the people depicted with glitter makeup, scars, eye contact that cuts through the pain. They are all beautiful with an aching honesty.
“I feel the portraits are larger than life,” Yunet says.
The collection will be displayed at The Box Gallery on February 1st from 7 to 10 p.m. as a benefit, the next exhibit is at SubCulture Group/Respectable Street Café with a silent auction March 7th.
Yunet and Donna hope that at the exhibits viewers will ask questions and learn something.
“We want to celebrate these people and hopefully educate viewers,” Donna says. “It’s okay not to know, but everyone desires connection. Most of the people in the photos will be at the exhibits, and it will be exciting to see everyone together.”