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'Women of Beverly' Project Photographer Raising Money for Unveiling

Women of Beverly
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Maplewood Photography

WEST BEVERLY — Role models for Diego Ivan Martirena's three young daughters have made frequent visits to the West Beverly photographer's home studio since May.

The owner of Maplewood Photography is behind the "Women of Beverly" project, which consists of portraits of 35 influential women from the Far Southwest Side. A short video is also part of each piece.

Martirena has been asked to display his work Oct. 1 in the main gallery at the Beverly Arts Center during the Beverly Art Walk. To do so, he hopes to raise $3,750 through a Go Fund Me campaign.

He's raised $1,925 in just six days. The money will be used to pay for printing the portraits and framing, as well as cheese, crackers, music and other extras needed to host the gallery's unveiling.

"The support from the community has been insane," Martirena said Monday.

The "Women of Beverly" project actually has roots in the Beverly Art Walk, as Martirena began his local portraits by photographing area artists in their home studios. Many of his subjects are part of the Beverly Area Arts Alliance, which coordinates the annual art walk.

From there, the native of Argentina who has lived in West Beverly since 2007 began searching for other influential women from the neighborhood. He relied on nominations from others to cast his subjects.

Thus far, the list includes some familiar faces, such as former 19th Ward Ald. Ginger Rugai and state Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th) along with including Audrey Peeples, who was an early advocate for bringing diversity to the neighborhood, Martirena said.

"This is really something that is for the community. It is not for me," said Martirena, who works most weekends photographing weddings and other special events.

He said his project was inspired by the work of Annie Leibovitz. Thus, Martirena worked to perfect the lighting, make up and clothing for each of his subjects. The other elements in the photographs remain the same: including a chair, ladder and apple box.

"I am really proud of the project," Martirena said. "I like the way it turned out."

He's considered hosting the show at other venues throughout the neighborhood after its run at the Beverly Arts Center. Several local businesses have already offered up their walls, including the Beverly Yoga Center, the photographer and former jazz musician said.

As for his daughters, Mia, 5, Lola, 3½, and 4-week-old Luciana were often wandering about during the portrait sessions. He said his girls were fans of the Disney princesses and other such toys, but he said the influence of the "Women of Beverly" project proved powerful for the young observers.

Soon, his daughters were saying they wanted to grow up to become like the subjects of his portraits rather than the fictional characters from television and in movies, Martirena said.

In fact, he said part of the video testimonial portion of the project includes all of the "Women of Beverly" answering the question, "What advice do you give the younger generation?" Martirena said.

"That's the common thread, they all say, 'You can be whomever you want to be,'" he said.

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