At the start of this steamy New Orleans summer, I started looking for a project I could donate my time to. I knew that as the city heated up work would slow down and I would have valuable time that I could pass on to someone who needed it. I stumbled upon the Survivor Glam Squad via a clever facebook targeted ad that turned up in my feed. They were looking for photographers to team up with Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists for a day of makeovers and portrait sessions for women with either a current or previous cancer diagnosis. I knew this was the project for me not only for it being a great cause but one recently close to my heart.
A year ago, New Orleans lost one of its most badass women to cancer affecting not only my life but the lives of so many people in this city that she had been friends with, made noise with, performed with, paraded with, busted shins with, made costumes for, and generally inspired to be greater and do more. Vee was my bandmate in the Noisician Coalition and one of my favorite subjects back in the days I spent in photo pits of colorful cabarets. She left us entirely too soon without even having the chance to fight the cancer that stole her. In honor of the memory of her incredibly multi-faceted life, I decided to give to other women who are still on this earth battling it out with cancer. This event afforded me the opportunity to do that in the best way I could: by creating beautiful portraits of these Survivors that they could cherish- the same way I cherish the images I shot of Vee when I had the privilege of knowing her.
I worked with the event organizers from Survivor Glam Squad and Beauty Pro Distributors to put together a plan for photography that would fit their needs. The day before the event, I got a call from Laura at Beauty Pro saying the photographer slated to shoot studio portraits was sick and couldn’t make it. I happily agreed to bring my studio set up to the salon and give each survivor a real studio session. I turned up at The parlor on Magazine at 9 am on event day ready to rock! The Survivors started showing up around 10 and I was immediately swept up in a day full of really fun portrait sessions with really incredible women.
The day after the event, I spent 13 hours fully retouching 68 images! I wanted each image to shine as much as the women I had the pleasure of working with and I had promised them all that I would get them their photos quickly. By the end of the day, I felt the most satisfying level of exhaustion I can recently remember. Emails and phone calls from the women I photographed were already coming in and I was pretty stoked to be able to send them previews of their images. Making those women feel as beautiful and special as they truly were was a gift I was incredibly pleased to give.
It was a hard task to pick favorite shots but I narrowed it down as best I could. Without further adieu:
This is Charlene and her husband Carl. While he waited for Charlene to finish her few hours of pampering, Carl put himself to work around the salon helping where he could. They had been married for decades and the love they had for each other was so touching I couldn’t resist photographing them together.
Valencia had my favorite smile of the day! When we met, another photographer told me that Valencia had been voicing fears of being in front of the camera. If that was true I definitely couldn’t tell! She was a natural beauty and an easy model.
Laurie had been a caretaker of three Survivors including her daughter Melissa. I really liked that she was given a makeover too because the stories of these Survivors would be very different if it wasn’t for the loved ones in their lives. I definitely had to photograph this beautiful mother and daughter team together!
This is Maritza and Annie. They ran into each other at the salon and I was about as excited as they are in this photo to have captured this moment!
Beth had an undeniable glow. She looked at ease in front of the camera; when I saw the images of her I shot on my camera screen, I got a bit misty. She was stunning!
Here are more of my favorite images from the day!