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Alicia Kozakiewicz: Taken

One of the best aspects of being photographer is being able to tell someone else’s story in a single portrait. The ultimate goal is to visually express something about the person, including some part of who they are, where they have been and where they are going. I have had the pleasure of photographing a variety of people from celebrities, community and political leaders, entrepreneurs and sports heroes, to philanthropists, scientists and innovators. They all have a story to tell, but none as compelling as one particular subject, Alicia Kozakiewicz.

I was provided a rough outline of her story when I accepted the assignment. At age 13 Alicia was kidnapped by an Internet predator and survived. I met her when she was in her early 20’s. At that time she had already become an advocate and international public speaker. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we met and I admit I was a bit nervous. After all, it’s my job to invite my subject to let me in and I was worried she would be too guarded to get the image I wanted.

What immediately struck me upon meeting Alicia was her beauty. She was tall and thin with fair skin and large, thoughtful eyes. After we spoke for a while I found her to be genuine, intelligent and very open. Once she was on set I found her even more interesting. She had a conviction about her that seemed to pour from every part of her being. She seemed so gentle and poised, with a quiet confidence that came across beautifully through the lens. I had the shot in no time at all. It seemed she knew what she wanted to convey all along.

After she left, I remember sitting for a moment absorbing all she had shared with me. As a mother with daughters I couldn’t stop my mind from going to the place she had been. Imagining the horrors she had to conquer to become the courageous woman she is today moved me to tears. I felt lucky to have met her and I was honored to tell her story of strength and survival.

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