Sometimes an opportunity comes along that reminds us why we take photographs. Photographs are memories, but the memories that we choose to photograph tell so much about us because taking a portrait is a conscious effort to hold on. When my son was born with a major congenital heart defect and a rare genetic anomaly, I took photos. The photos were under hospital lights and Griffin had IVs and tubes and monitors everywhere and the photos were hard to look at. But I had a strange peace knowing that if I lost him, I would never struggle to remember what he looked like when he was new.
Jennifer contacted me about a month ago with what she called a “special situation”. She was 43 years old and newly diagnosed with cancer; and she would be undergoing a mastectomy in the coming weeks and wanted to document her body before it underwent its dramatic change. I invited her to jump on to the last slot of my May 4th boudoir marathon and receive hair and makeup along with her photo shoot. Photographing her was an incredible experience that I will never forget. As we talked and took photos, we swept a light pink scarf around her neck and over her chest, she looked down to show her right side, saying “this is the one that is going.” First there was the glint in the eyes, then the pursed lips… the head resting against the wall while she let the feelings in. Then the deep breath, eyes closing. Then opening once more to look at the camera and resolving with the most beautiful image I think I have ever taken. That series of photos is what Jen said later was her story and process of letting go. What a story… I am so lucky to have the opportunity to help tell it.
In chatting after seeing her photos, Jen said, “When I got my diagnosis, I do not know why having photos popped into my head, but I knew it was the one thing I needed to move on. I have been gaining my emotional strength and trying to wrap my head around this transition, but I wanted to have something tangible to remember the body that I never truly appreciated until now […] I still am not sure why this is the piece to give me PEACE to move through this process, but this is truly a gift you have given me.”
What do you want to remember?