‘Photography found me’: The Photo Mom Me Ra Koh shares her journey of transformation at convocation

"If we allow God to take the shadows and reframe our story, it would accentuate the brightness in our lives in ways we could never imagine." Thursday, August 31, 2023. (Photo by Preston Waters)

Written by: Andrew Boggess

Me Ra Koh, known as “The Photo Mom” online, visited Southern Adventist University on Thursday, Aug. 31, and spoke to students about mental health at convocation. 

In her presentation, Koh shared her life story, described life altering struggles she faced at home and school and discussed how God brought transformation.

As a young girl, Koh lived with an abusive father. When she got to college, she struggled with self-worth and ended up in an abusive relationship that ended when she was raped. The incident left her feeling worthless, and she considered taking her own life. She left school and spent four weeks in a psychiatric ward where God pieced her life back together. She spent the next ten years writing her first book, “Beauty Restored.” 

Koh’s life turned a corner a year and a half after completing her book when she saw her daughter playing in sunlight and set her mind on learning photography so she could capture special moments like that. 

“I didn’t find photography,” she said. “Photography found me and began to heal me.” 

Koh started telling other people’s stories, not just her own. She learned that “shadows define the light,” in photography and in people’s lives. 

People tend to think of negative experiences in their lives as shadows or darkness and try to hide those experiences or push them aside, Koh explained. 

 “If we would allow God to take the shadows and reframe our story, it would accentuate the brightness in our lives in ways we could never imagine,” Koh said. 

Koh’s photography journey continued, and she ended up hosting a show on Disney Junior for ten years and became one of the first female photographers sponsored by Sony. She said none of that would have happened if she had not owned her pain and looked for the healing she needed. 

A few years later, she and her husband opened a photography studio in Frisco, Texas, where she currently helps transform people through her “Rising Phoenix” photoshoot experience. 

Rising Phoenix is not just another photoshoot with the end result being a selection of photos, Koh said. She takes time to talk to her subjects’ family and friends to understand how they are perceived by their loved ones. When the shoot finally happens, she takes the loved ones’ insight into account and helps her subjects find a transformed version of themselves. 

“When you speak the words of life to someone, they start to hold themselves differently,” she said. “They start to move differently. They believe it.” 

Koh’s presentation is available online at https://www.southern.edu/events/convocation.html

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