Raina Stinson's photography earns international acclaim

by: COURTESY OF RAINA STINSON PHOTOGRAPHY - 'Perfect Wife' won Raina Stinson second place in the 'Invisible Women' category of the Sixth Edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award For Women Photographers, an international exhibition sponsored by the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards. Raina Stinson knows creativity is a way to deal with pain, and she has the award-winning photos to prove it.

About a month ago, Stinson, a Beaverton resident and photographer, was notified she had been chosen as one of 12 recipients for the Sixth  Edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award For Women Photographers, an international exhibition sponsored by the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards.

As a result, three of her photographs will be in shown at the Third International Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography, opening on Sept. 18, and running until Nov. 9, at the Municipal Museum of Malaga, Spain, the home city of Picasso.

And basically this all came about due to the death of her father several years COURTESY OF RAINA STINSON PHOTOGRAPHY - Raina Stinson's photograph entitled 'Eye Candy,' depicting Malia Rodgers, clad in a polka dot dress with a halo of frosty curls and huge lollipops for eyes, is one of three selected to be shown in Spain.

Outside the box

Stinson has been a nurse for 30 years, most of those spent in intense situations. At some point she realized she needed a balance in her life, and then when she turned 50, her father passed away.

“A couple of days before he passed, he told me he was happy about his career choice as a fisherman, but he was sorry, because it kept him from us. My dad said he couldn’t have been anything but a fisherman.”

Stinson said when her father told her this, “something clicked. I realized that he had always lived outside the box, while I had lived a safe existence, inside the box.”

After her father died, Stinson took some of the money he left her and purchased the gear she needed to become a professional photographer.

She set up her studio in 2011, and in 2013 began to enter competitions. One of her photographs was accepted right away into an exhibit at the Lightbox Photographic Gallery in Astoria, which featured 40 Portland photographers.

Another one of her photos was recently accepted by the same gallery, and will be shown there from April 12 to May 6.

But it is being chosen as one of 12 photographers in the competition honoring Julia Margaret Cameron that has confirmed for Stinson that she is on the right path.

Cameron was a British photographer, known for her portraits of celebrities taken from 1864 to1875.

“This is significant for me, because I feel a connection to her. She received her first camera when she was 48 years old, and I started when I was 50,” Stinson said, adding that Cameron’s photos are timeless and her work is still respected today.

Knowing the international competition was set up for women photographers, Stinson decided she wanted to feature women in the photographs she entered.

And that is where her sister, Michele Wade, her niece, Malia Rodgers, and her own daughter, Justine Verigin, 27, came into the picture.

“Michele and her daughter, Malia, had just experienced a huge personal loss, so I approached them and said let’s work together, let’s have fun, let’s create. And out of their pain came these amazing photos,” Stinson said.

“Malia became my muse — she appears in every photo in my ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ series; Michele did all the hair; and Justine, who is an amazing artist, created the sets and helped with wardrobe,” Stinson noted.

Competition winners

Three of Stinson’s photos were chosen to be shown in Spain, and all three feature Rodgers, with a variety of hairstyles and personas.

“I chose to enter these in the competition, because I knew they were unique. I like the bright colors and the vintage, yet modern, feel. I picked out the best ones to represent my work,” Stinson said.

It all began last summer, when Wade dyed her daughter’s hair a delicate lavender, and Stinson remarked that it looked like cotton candy.

From that chance comment arose the photograph entitled “Eye Candy,” depicting Rodgers, clad in a polka dot dress, with a halo of frosty curls and huge lollipops for eyes.

Another photo in that series, “Doughnut Madness,” surrounds Rodgers, who is 18 and a senior at Tualatin High School, with a flurry of pastel doughnuts and a scattering of confetti-like cereal bits. For this photo, Wade colored her daughter’s hair blonde with aqua highlights.

Both these photos were chosen as winners in the international competition, in the fine art and portrait divisions.

However it is the third photo, “Perfect Wife,” that won Stinson second place in the “Invisible Women” category.

“This picture just happened. Justine was supposed to be in it, and I was just testing the light with Malia sitting at the table, and the photo just grabbed me. It has that ’50s style, with the energy of the oppressed woman. She has created the perfect little breakfast for her man, who is not there,” Stinson COURTESY OF RAINA STINSON PHOTOGRAPHY - Justine Verigin, Michele Wade, Raina Stinson and Malia Rodgers all contributed to Stinson's 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun' photography series.

Family ties

So what started out as just a project to help her sister and niece cope with loss, has now turned into family bonding time, and so much more.

“I like working with family members. Michele has an idea for the hair, and just goes for it, and Malia is so good at embracing characters that I just let her be in the moment,” Stinson said.

Designing eye-catching hairstyles has given Wade a “creative outlet,” she said, noting she has been a hair stylist for 30 years, but these projects allow her to do something different from what she does every day.

Rodgers, who is active in her school’s drama program, pointed out that it is an odd feeling to be part of a lasting piece of art. She trusts her mom, when it comes to hairstyle and color, and is getting used to being “a human doll,” she added.

Stinson said she and her daughter go shopping before a photo shoot and buy all the props and costumes, so this is another bonding experience for them.

“It is fun to create an environment and watch as the story develops out of that; it is communal storytelling,” said Verigin, who has a daytime job as a kindergarten teacher in North Portland.

She is proud of her mother and finds it inspiring to see her mom’s confidence grow as a photographer.

Stinson added, “This is a group effort, and in the end, we can look at the photos and say, ‘Oh my God, look what we did.’”

Contact Raina Stinson, a portraitist and professional photographer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To see more of her photography, visit her website at Scroll down under info, on her website, for more details about the competitions she has COURTESY OF RAINA STINSON PHOTOGRAPHY - Another photo in Raina Stinson's award-winning series is 'Doughnut Madness,' featuring Malia Rodgers, a Tualatin High School senior surrounded by a flurry of pastel doughnuts and a scattering of confetti-like cereal bits.

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