Kyla Goff focuses her photography and coaching skills on tweens

“Our teens and tweens are hurting,” says Kyla Goff. “They are full of anxiety, stress, self-esteem issues. It breaks my heart.”

Goff, a local photographer, runs workshops that aim to teach kids who they are before they grow up.

“We all have a motivational value system,” says Goff, “but few of us know what it is or how to use it to our advantage.” A Certified Strength Development Inventory Facilitator, Goff put her own motivational value system into practice and says it has changed her life.

“I’m so excited to implement what I’ve learned for a younger age group,” she says, “helping them navigate while getting to know each other.”

Goff’s photographic images are powerful. A model walks along a sand dune as an impossibly long train swirls around her. The fighters face off in Goff’s “rain room”. Even when photographing a cute child, Goff shows him transmitting his strength.

Kyla Goff owns a photography studio in Bakerview Square and also coaches tweens. Photo courtesy of Kyla Goff Photography

Jaya, 12, leaves the first of a two-day session with Goff and has been trying on dresses. Dresses? Yes, Goff combines his photography skills in his coaching. One minute she and the girls are talking about knowing their love languages. (Jaya was affectionate, meaning she prefers hugs to gifts.) The next minute, they find ways to feel beautiful and strong. They will also receive photographs.

Why does Goff focus on tweens? Childhood is important, she says. Trust can be taken by others. She saw him.

His own upbringing during those years of his life was “we moved around a lot,” which meant about every six months. She made new friends everywhere she went, felt confident even with her own physical flaw – a gap between her teeth, which was eventually resolved.

Jaya, 12, at her Aspire workshop hosted by Kyla Goff. Photo courtesy of Kyla Goff Photography

“I easily adapt to change,” says Goff. Yet she also chose to stay at her East Washington high school to graduate by staying with friends while her parents left. She started working as a teenager in fast food and moved into management at 19. She was motivated.

As a photographer, she sees those who focus on weddings, motherhood and newborns. Although she is happy to take on a diversity of clients, she focuses on girls ages 9-15. “They were left out.”

Jordyn, 14, is another participant in Kyla Goff’s Aspire workshops. Photo courtesy of Kyla Goff Photography

Goff builds a relationship with them. They may not feel comfortable immediately, she knows that. “I want them to see themselves beautiful.” Too often, young people tell themselves that they are “too fat” or “too thin”. These words get into people’s heads.

To get to this place, Goff attended numerous photography workshops, as well as Dave Ramsey’s leadership training. She also added certifications for emotional intelligence coaching and cognitive behavior.

Rather than doing one-on-one sessions, Goff runs workshops in small groups, so the girls can bond with each other.

Model Mak is pictured in the dunes near Las Vegas, Nevada. Goff made regular trips to the area to visit his father in his later years and developed his photography portfolio at the same time. Photo courtesy of Kyla Goff Photography

“I plant seeds,” she says. It’s not just about talking to them or even talking to them, it’s about showing them. Goff asks the girls to stand back to back in the same room and explain what they see. While looking at the same things, they see things differently. They talk about their environment, their experiences and the things that shape them. How do people handle conflict? Some are leaders. Some are followers.

It’s okay to be different from each other. They explore something that is part of their “core” and comes easy to them, as opposed to a “chore,” which is more difficult and can break trust.

Kyla Goff’s rain room studio on Bakerview Road was set up in 2020 after seeing one in Las Vegas. For the most part, she only uses it on special occasions, such as with dancers and athletes. Photo courtesy of Kyla Goff Photography

Goff recently celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary. She grew children and grandchildren.

Prior to his photography and coaching, Goff owned cafes and a daycare center in eastern Washington, then in Blaine after moving here in 1990. His first foray into photography was landscapes; she sold her snaps through Etsy.

Goff’s training for the transition to portrait photography included workshops in Atlanta, Denver, Nashville and Las Vegas. She found a current portrait mentor on one of those trips who was invaluable. She has had her studio for three years. Two of those years he was at Bakerview Square in Bellingham.

Setting up the rain room and cleaning up after shoots is a lot of work, but the end product is unforgettable. Photo courtesy of Kyla Goff Photography

Goff first saw the rain room concept — imagine massive amounts of water spraying everywhere like rain — in Vegas in early 2020. Whatcom County certainly had nothing like it. With the help of her contractor husband, Goff’s rain room was built during COVID. Setting up and cleaning up after shoots is a lot of work, but the end product is unforgettable. She recruited dancers, athletes and martial artists to use their skills there, capturing their kicks, jumps and whirls.

“Anyone can shoot [a picture],” she says. “But not everyone can edit.” She spends twice as much time editing to make sure her subjects look their best.

Goff is currently recruiting tweens for his Aspire Confidence workshop. Visit tweencoach.com for more information. Goff is also available for individual coaching.

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