Student photographer Madeline Morales takes her camera everywhere she goes. She is always looking for something interesting to shoot.
“I try to look at things with a lot of light; a lot of what draws me is positivity – something that means love or happiness,” said Morales.
At 15 years of age, she has lived through experiences most teens have not had to deal with. She has faced cancer, chemotherapy and radiation, but she stays optimistic and tries to find beauty through her camera lens. Today, she will see something most people will never see in their lifetime.
“It makes me feel excited, a little bit nervous,” said Morales, whose photos were on display at a gallery show in Los Angeles.
“I think with photography and having that faith in God has really helped me a lot to staying positive and being motivated to want to keep fighting this disease,” she said.
Morales was one of 23 students who shared their experiences with cancer through photos at the Pablove Foundation’s gallery show of its advanced photography class. The foundation aims to improve the lives of children living with the disease through its Shutterbugs photography program. The Pablove Foundation also provides money for underfunded pediatric cancer research. Proceeds from the students’ prints will go toward pediatric cancer research grants.
The Pablove Shutterbugs program offers photography classes in eight cities across the United States.
“Being in these classes with other people that completely understand their experience and can be a community with them has been really impactful and has really made them feel a lot more comfortable in what they’ve been through and where they’re going with it,” said Ashley Blakeney, program manager of Pablove Shutterbugs.
She said the photography classes give students living with cancer a sense of community at a time when they often feel isolated in their experience. Photography also helps build confidence, said Blakeney.
“Pavlove Shutterbugs serve as a distraction for these students while they’re going through their treatment because it literally is an out of hospital experience first and foremost,” she said, adding, “Because they are able to build this skill set and to be the really great photographers that they are. They’re incredible. It gives them something to brag about in a sense that they can now say “I am an artist. I am a photographer. I have this voice, and I have this story to tell” and they’re able to do that through their images.”
Another student photographer featured in the gallery show is Bayu Lukman.
“Most of my photos’ themes focused on hope,” said Lukman
Lukman was diagnosed with cancer after graduating from elementary school. He described the devastating emotional side of living through cancer and its treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.
“You kind of get really depressed and you don’t want to live anymore.” Lukman continued, “You need to stay optimistic and push yourself through.”
With photography, many young students see the world through the lens of optimism, where their identity is not dictated by cancer.
“There’s more to us than just having cancer, that we have more of a story to tell besides cancer. We want people to see what we see even if it’s through the lens,” said Morales.
“Pablove helped me understand more about the struggles of cancer and has given me a small chance to actually assist in the world a bit with photography, I’d say, to express my story and allow it to hopefully to reach other kids so they understand how to deal with it hopefully,” said Lukman.