As a young girl growing up in South Africa during the apartheid era. I was introduced to the power of photography early on when I discovered an envelope of photographs in my mother's office. Both psychologists, my parents were involved in counseling children who had been tortured for anti-apartheid activities. In one of the photographs, a young boy about my own age (13 at the time) stared back at me. Both of his arms were in plaster casts and I could see strange markings on his torso. I couldn't take my eyes of him. While I had a vague idea of what was going on in South Africa's prisons, the reality of it didn't hit me until I saw that photo. This image and those that followed were so powerful and really fueled my early interest in photography and continue to inspire my passion for capturing the human experience through photographs.
I moved to the U.S. in my late teens, completed a B.A. at Brandeis University, an M.F.A. in writing at Cornell University, a Masters in Photojournalism at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School and began working as a professional photographer.
I currently photograph for a variety of newspapers, magazines and organizations. My work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Boston Globe, National Geographic and many local publications. I've also worked on numerous long term personal projects--often centered on women's issues. My blog, "Apertures and Anecdotes" (http://blog.juliacumesphoto.com), features a wide range of photographs and the stories behind them. For the past four winters, I've spent time teaching photography to children in Rwanda and to tribal Samburu women as part of an empowerment program in a remote region of Northern Kenya. I was awarded the "Art Within Reach" grant and solo show for my project "Invisible Selves: An Exploration of Female Identity and Experience" --a collection of portraits of women from around the world that explores their unique experiences and struggles.