A Chance to Be Your Truest Self

I have learned a lot about connection recently. Previous to the last couple of months, I was afraid of it. In a way, I’d imagine we all were. As a shared humanity, it seems as though in the last year we’ve never been farther apart. Amidst wars and division in many facets of life, we have also been going through a global pandemic that, in my opinion, has somehow also brought us closer than we’ve ever been. That closeness, love, and empathetic communication are all things that Dr. Jane Vella and the leading women of Global Learning Partners taught me.

My name is Mia Frenduto and I am a professional photographer from Durham, North Carolina. I had the incredible honor to work with the GLP team last month and they’ve asked me to contribute to this blog! I was tasked with capturing Dr. Jane Vella for her new podcast (and her fabulous 90th birthday, of course!) As well as gathering some personality portraits of the GLP team. I connected with Rebecca a few months ago through a friend referral (thanks, Courtney!) and it was very quick that I realized the uniqueness and emotional weight of this opportunity.

The day that I arrived to photograph Jane, Rebecca, Sylvia, and Val I woke up in an honest bundle of nerves. Like any new experience, I caught myself overthinking the intricacies of my job as well as the social aspect of connecting honestly and openly with new clients. As we’ve all been in solitude for the majority of the past year, I can imagine many of you may relate to these feelings in some aspect or another.

Upon my arrival to Dr. Vella’s home, I was welcomed with open arms by Jane herself, who immediately felt like home. All of my anxiety soon dissipated into thin air and I clicked into place with such ease. Jane is the type of woman that comes with an abundance of sage wisdom and honest humor that anybody who is in her presence quickly realizes how special of a human she is.

As a strong woman and teacher, Jane noticed extremely small details about my photographic process that I have never had the pleasure of discussing with other clients. Curiosity rose to new heights as we discussed the technical details of my work. In between talking I captured snaps of Jane and would look at the back of my camera every couple of minutes to check up on my progress. Whilst doing that very thing, Jane asked sweetly and inquisitively why I take so many images. After thinking for a moment, I explained to her that an image represents a person and that my job was to “find her.”

After a small sigh, Jane put her hands over her heart and started to tear up. “That makes me cry,” she said. We kept photographing for a few minutes and I saw her pondering a thought. She then started talking about how a photograph is an “inflection moment,” a chance to be your truest self in between every shutter click. We started exploring this idea and how this entire year has been an inflection moment. A time to grow, bloom, explore, learn and simply exist as we face new challenges, barriers and anxieties.

My time with Dr. Vella and the GLP team was an inflection moment in my career. Not only did I truly define the art of my medium, but I walked out of that session understanding the enormous power that imagery holds. Together we cried, danced to ABBA’s greatest hits, admired each other’s smiles and created tangible memories of all of the beautiful inflections in between.

Thank you, GLP. I will never forget this day.

How have you showed your learners you’re looking for them?


Mia Frenduto is a professional photographer from Durham, North Carolina. 

Read Jane’s reflection on this experience here, Looking for You.

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