The Gift of Photography and a Beautiful Breast

The Gift of Photography and a Beautiful Breast

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

The Gift of Photography
and a Beautiful Breast

I wear the key of memory and can open every door in the house of my life.

Amelia E. Barr

Sometimes the things we do bring unexpected gifts. We do these things because we’re passionate to do them as we follow our soul’s desire. And by doing so, we, and those around us, are gifted beyond measure. Photography has given me and others such gifts.

Some time back, I was working in a wild animal rental compound: the movie stars were great beasts like tigers, bears and giraffes. I would see a woman trainer sitting with a cheetah in deep-eye conversation. I would see another trainer riding on the back of a giraffe. I saw the owner walk across the front lawn with a Bengal tiger by his side. I couldn’t stand it any more—I went to the photo store and bought a single-reflex camera to photograph such beauty and wonder.

Not two weeks later, I was in the living room of the owner and his best friend. They were two hearty and strong men, giving each other a big bear hug. It was so beautiful I picked up my camera and photographed that hug. The best friend soon had to move from the area. I later handed the owner the photo of him and his good friend, and that image meant more to him than a pocketful of gold. That is what photography can do. Like the poet writes odes to love, photography can image an ode to an old friend.

Some time later, I was visiting my pals, Linda and Stu. They asked me if I might take some photos of them for good memories and work, and so I did. After such gorgeous images with the sun streaming behind their glistening hair, Linda asked me, “Pamela, do you mind taking some pictures of my breasts as they are now? I want to honor them; I want to honor the one that is to be leaving. I’m soon to have a mastectomy; I have cancer and feel this is the best choice.”

And so we took photos of Linda’s two breasts as they were, then with her holding them with her two womanly hands, and then with Stu holding them with his two manly hands, as he stood behind his wife.

And thinking about the time when photography honored Linda’s breasts, and the breast that was soon to be leaving, as an ode to the beauty of what was a triumph of the spirit to honor what is gone and to celebrate what is and is yet to come—yes, that is what we all did that day together, we friends, our spirits, our bodies, the camera, the film and, most of all, the smiles in the clouds that day as they gently danced around us, reminding us we are all in this together. Some things come. Some things change form. And we can, in so many different ways, celebrate our time on this Earth together.

There are holy moments in photography. This was one of them.

Pamela Shandel

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