Everything I do in photography begins with a portfolio. When I decided to start Braving Life Photography, I knew my first step was to build a portfolio to show perspective partners and referrals. I asked my dear friend Amanda if she would pose for me. Amanda is 26 and has been battling breast cancer. Mastectomy. Reconstruction. Continued treatment to ward off future cancer cells from growing.
I have known this beautiful young woman for many years. I photographed her family’s portraits and her brother’s senior photos. Her family was among the few who stood by my wife and I when we came out. To say I love and respect this family is an understatement.
Watching Amanda grow up and begin to pursue her dreams, I would never have imagined that she would be facing the battle of cancer at such a young age. She had just graduated from the University of Central Florida with a doctorate degree in physical therapy and was literally beginning her career when she got the news that the lump was malignant.
She was so private about it that my wife and I didn’t know what was happening until her hair fell out and she had to wear a wig. More than a year later she is doing well and winning the battle. When asked if she would be willing to sit for a photo shoot I was delighted that she said yes. What a perfect way to begin my Braving Life Photography portfolio.
I knew her spirit and grace would radiate and inspire anyone who saw the images. We photographed in my living room with a one light set up, using the window, and reflector board to add additional light. I wanted a simple setup so there would be no distractions by the use of props. She didn’t need anything to make her beauty and strength shine through.
As we photographed, she and my wife, Dawn, talked and laughed. I kept shooting. Amanda shared with us her belief that she was so much more than a cancer survivor. She had been thinking, living, and breathing treatment for so long. She is eager start focusing on her life and dreams again. I was thrilled to learn that this was the first time she has ever had her photo taken outside of family portraits. Bonus!
I was determined to do this opportunity justice. Yes, she is a warrior. Yes, she has fought the battle. Yes, she is a survivor. Yes, this has made her stronger and wiser, but she has always been and will continue to be so much more. She does not want to be defined merely as a cancer survivor. I could not agree more.