As someone who believes that social responsibility is an extension of photography, it was natural for Nithya Rajkumar, licensed professional photographer and mentor, to launch a project that celebrated individuals and their eternal spirits. But what started as a one-time portrait photoshoot in 2018 – of a stage III breast cancer survivor – quickly turned into PinkDayToShine, a pro bono photography project that includes an exclusive portrait photoshoot as well. a professional makeup for 10 breast cancer warriors – both survivors and those battling the disease – to celebrate their strength and cheer them up.
“The woman who came to see me made a deep impression on me as a young mother. In my pre-consultation photoshoot, she opened up about being a breast cancer survivor and the trials she faced as a mother. She mentioned her concerns about having sparse eyebrows and eyelashes (from all the chemotherapy treatments). An otherwise successful and confident woman, she was anxious and concerned about her appearance. So I decided to make it special for her, to have a free photoshoot, to bring in a makeup artist – not to turn it into something different but to enhance what she already had. I expected her to have a good time, but I didn’t know it could have such a profound impact on her that she said, “I’m so happy to be alive today for myself. see how you clicked “. And I wanted to do it for more women who have battled breast cancer in the years to come, ”said Nithya, based in Dubai.
The NIFT graduate then decided to invite 10 of these women to join her for a one-day photoshoot each October, in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “I try to focus on the people behind these slogans. “See the capable, not the label.” We should all try to see beyond the labels. I believe that by being genuine and respectful, one can better communicate and connect with others. My idea is to highlight the person full of joie de vivre, aspirations and fears as each of us does. Making them feel comfortable and respecting their space has always been my top priority. Everyone has an inspiring story to share, ”said the 37-year-old. indianexpress.com.
Some of her other social impact projects include photographing children born with HIV; and “Special People, Big Hearts” – photographing children with special needs and their families. Nithya makes sure the portraits capture the spirit of the warriors, as she says the emphasis is on the positive side “because I don’t want them to relive the pain they’ve been through”. “I ask them about this positive thing that they’ve clung to that has helped them in their toughest days. For some, it was their child, for others it was their faith, or their will not to give up, ”she said.
One of the stories she documented is that of Jennie Hennessy, a mother of two and a survivor. “In 2020, I was the fittest and healthiest in years and felt great. One day in June 2020 I was giving my hairstylist full control of a funky new rainbow hair look and a week later I was at a doctor’s office with my husband who told me that I had breast cancer. As if 2020 doesn’t have enough with Covid-19, ”Jennie shared, in an interview with Nithya in 2020, who was undergoing chemotherapy and preparing for surgery in Ireland.
While organizing the project, which is currently in its third year, Nithya, who has brand experience and has worked in retail for many years, was able to enlist the support of brands like Nikon to offer gifts to warriors, among others. Every October 26, the initiative hosts an informal meeting that brings together more than 40 to 50 women breast cancer warriors and experts raise awareness about early detection of the disease. This year it was again a virtual event on Zoom like last year due to Covid-19.
“About 180 people attended from different cities and countries. Speakers included oncologists, surgeons, mental health specialists and breast cancer survivors who joined to share their perspectives and answer many questions from many people. All offered their services free of charge. There are many who want to help others but don’t know where to start. I just want to tell them that if you are going to do something right, no matter how small you think it is, just do it. What you do can mean a lot to someone. Some mothers who have joined us at Pinkdaytoshine share the pride of their families and children when they see the footage, ”said Nithya, whose onsite photoshoot this year featured 15 warriors, as well as a remote photo shoot involving survivors from Kerala in India, his hometown.
Notably, the 2021 photoshoot took place over two days in Dubai and Abu Dhabi from October 20 to 22 with all the security measures related to the covid. While the core idea is to celebrate the strength and resilience of women affected by cancer, Nithya’s use of the medium of photography to create awareness is unique.
So, what to take away from his project? “I realized the importance of spreading the message of early detection because the chances of recovery are greater. Everyone should know how to do a breast self exam. And the taboo and shame associated with breasts must go. And although mastectomy is a medical procedure, it is widely associated with femininity which must be suppressed, ”Nithya said.
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