Jill

Shortly after launching Bella Forza in 2013 I had a personal situation that de-railed my life…including the work I so badly wanted to focus on with this very special division of Bella Faccia Photography.  I had to step away and tend to the more pressing priorities of life and this passion would have to wait.

Eventually, I started to feel like I could turn my attention back to this important portraiture…I immediately thought of a radiant woman I’d met through soccer when our daughters were on the same team.  During a practice one night we were chatting and she had told me her story of surviving Cancer…I was awestruck – this beautiful, young woman had looked her own mortality square in the eyes and fought – fought for her own life, for her husband and daughter, and for the opportunity to have another child, and, here she was in front of me – the picture of health and optimism and vibrance.  Her story was profound and I wondered if she would be willing to be a ‘re-launch’ client for me, now that a few years had passed since the original launch of Bella Forza.  I sent her an email, from a booth at BP’s, as the kids ate and I felt the enthusiasm of returning to this work, and, holding my breath, I asked.  I offered Jill the full experience – hair, makeup, studio portrait session, and framed print – with the hope that, in return, she might share her inspiring story of resilience with our Bella Forza audience.  I was THRILLED when she agreed!

_f8a0196-14-long72As we are both busy women and moms, the shoot wouldn’t happen right away…in fact, it was only in the summer of 2016, when Jill signed up to participate in The Birthday Book Project (a collaborative project I am a part of – look it up, it’s cool!), that we finally got our shoot on the calendar!

_f8a0384-12high72Below is Jill’s story, in her own words:

This is what we had planned, this was something we had wanted, but when I took a pregnancy test and it was positive, something just wasn’t right.  I didn’t know what, but my instincts were telling me that I shouldn’t be happy about this positive test.
About a week before my scheduled ultrasound, I started spotting and I remember thinking, this is it.  I went to see my family doctor right away and they checked and said there was no heartbeat, but it was still early.  I can’t really say that I was shocked by this, but still distraught, as I haven’t ever experienced a miscarriage before.
From there, they sent me to get an emergency ultrasound.  My mom was with me since Darrin was helping our friends move that day.  The ultrasound tech wasn’t able to tell me anything until the doctor had come in the room.  I remember the first thing the doctor said to me was, “are you here with anyone?” and that’s when my stomach dropped and the confirmation that my instincts were right.  My mom came into the room and the doctor told us that it was a molar pregnancy and that there was no fetus growing, but just tissue.   It wasn’t anything that could have been prevented, but something went wrong during conception and this was the result.  I had little time to process this before I met with our family doctor.  He sat me down and explained further what a molar pregnancy was, how rare this is, how complicated it could get and what our next steps would be.
I was in the Rockyview Hospital shortly after that, for a d&c.  I was to get weekly blood tests to monitor my pregnancy hormone levels (Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)).  This was supposed to be it.  Surgery to remove the tissue and then weekly blood tests and we would hopefully be able to try again to get pregnant.  I didn’t feel that I was recovering properly after the d&c and my doctor had called to tell me that my hCG levels had gone up since the surgery.
Back to the Rockyview Hospital to get another ultrasound, which confirmed that it was a complete molar pregnancy
(Gestational trophoblastic disease- Invasive mole) and that there was a mass growing in my uterus.  I received a shot of a chemo drug that would hopefully shrink and get rid of the mass.
I received another phone call from the doctor that my hCG levels had gone way up even after that chemo.
In the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, hCG levels would normally be between 3,640 to 117,000.  By this time, I had peaked at 500,000.
I was sent to the Tom Baker Cancer Center shortly after that to meet with the Gynecologic Oncologist.  We were overloaded with information about this foreign diagnosis and were basically given 2 choices.  I could get a hysterectomy or start on intravenous chemotherapy.  I was 28 at the time, and I knew another baby was something that i had wanted.  Even if they had given us less than 5% chance of conceiving again, I would no doubt try the chemo. The hysterectomy was out of the question unless it was completely necessary.
My chemo treatments would be every second Thursday, and the list of side effects from the chemo seemed to be endless.  I had a lot of pills to counteract the side effects, including anti nausea, a steroid, and sleeping pills.
The fatigue seemed to hit me the worst, and as soon as I felt like I was human again, it would be time for my next treatment.  Soon enough, my hair started shedding and running my fingers through my hair and pulling handfuls of hair out started to become nauseating.
After my 3rd treatment, I was feeling the chemo hangovers were getting worse.  My hCG levels were dropping, but my hemoglobin levels were also low.  After my chemo, Thursday nights were becoming worse.  I would begin spotting, which turned to massive hemorrhaging for about 2-3 hours on those nights after my treatment.  So much so, that I was back in the hospital for my first blood transfusion.
The chemo was doing what it was supposed to be doing, which was shrinking the rapidly growing tumor, but it was also attacking the rest of my body, causing my hair to fall out and causing my hemoglobin levels to drop, resulting in many blood transfusions.  If my hemoglobin was too low, I couldn’t receive my needed chemo treatment.  It was such a confusing and painful cycle.
Before my next treatment, the doctor had advised me to get a PICC line for my future blood tests and chemo treatments.  This is something that I hope I never have to experience again.  Somewhere along the way, my PICC was dislodged and was basically useless.
It was around my 6th treatment, and that will be a night that I will never forget (not for lack of trying).  Before I went in for chemo, my blood test showed that my hemoglobin was low, so I was given 2 units of blood that morning.  Again, that Thursday evening, I woke up and was hemorrhaging, a lot worse than it had ever been.  I was in and out of consciousness, and Darrin called an ambulance.  They rushed me over to the Foothills Hospital and everything progressed so quickly.  I was bleeding even more than before and I started to get contractions.  I ended up passing part of the tumor and losing a lot of blood.  Part of the tumor that had spread in my uterus was still there and the bleeding didn’t stop right after that.  I went to get an embolization of an artery in my uterus to help slow the bleeding and shortly after, I received about 8 more units of blood.  We were told that night that I was lucky to still be alive.
I had hoped that after that nightmare, my hCG levels would be significantly lower, but they were still around 20,000, which meant, more chemo.  The side effects still got worse as I went along, and the blood transfusions continued.
After almost 9 months of chemo treatments, bald, scarred both physically and emotionally, I was finished. Finished with that hospital, finished with my pills, finished with my anxiety filled days consumed by this turmoil that started with a positive pregnancy test.  We were told to wait a year after my last treatment to try again to get pregnant.  Of course, there was a chance of another molar pregnancy, secondary cancer diagnosis, early menopause, and again, the list went on.
Our daughter, at the time, was around 3 and we really tried to shelter her from this as much as we could.  She was there with my husband for my very last treatment in July of 2010 and it was so hard to believe that I wouldn’t be returning to that treatment area.
We waited, and waited and I became pregnant in February 2012.
He was quite overdue, and when they mentioned they could induce me on November 11, I cried.  That was the date of my d&c, 3 years prior, and it held that memory for me.  I didn’t want my baby to be brought into the world on a day that had such a bad memory for me.  Thankfully, I was induced a day earlier, and our little miracle was born on November 10, 2012.  With everything that happened, I wouldn’t change a thing.  We have two healthy children and a story of a battle that made me, our marriage and our family stronger.”

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In October, Jill came to my home studio where she was pampered with hair and makeup before a full studio portrait session (my special thanks to Jill McDavid for donating her time – and always warm personality – to assist).  We ‘played’ for a few hours – there was music, a fan, wardrobe changes, and even a glass of Prosecco 😉 …no doubt this was outside of Jill’s day-to-day and comfort zone (despite her supermodel looks!) but she was effusive afterward, texting me:  “This morning was incredible.  Seriously.  Plus your positivity and Jill’s presence…you both made me feel truly beautiful and at ease!_f8a0443-12mhigh72

_f8a0445-12long72Jill, and her story, are an incredible reminder that each day is precious and that we can find beauty, strength, and gratitude in every situation.  Thank you, Jill, for  your vulnerability, generosity, and candor in sharing your harrowing story of struggle and triumph.  It is such a joy to see you, with your beautiful family, healthy and enjoying your life together!_f8a0341-12high72

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It is my wholehearted intention to provide a compassionate service that uplifts my clients and that we, together, create portraits they LOVE.    It is also an immense privilege to share my clients’ stories, when circumstances allow, so that we all may be inspired by their Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xo Lori

HMUA: Trena Laine

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Nikki’s Story of Cancer & Photography

Since day 1 of writing this blog, as with the blog for Bella Faccia Photography, I have wanted to share honesty, inspiration, insight, optimism, photography, and the message that we are all connected.  I believe that our personal experiences shape us in immeasurable ways; I also believe that we can be changed by the experiences of others…this is the primary reason I have chosen to start hosting guest blog posts.

The first ‘guest words’ for Bella Forza are Nikki’s.  A month or so back I was honoured to be featured on oopoomoo.com’s “Inspirations” blog series (you can find it here: http://www.oopoomoo.com/tag/bella-forza) and Nikki commented on the post.  I was touched by what she wrote and contacted her to see if she might be willing to share her story of ‘cancer and photography’ with us, and I’m so grateful that she said yes!

It takes courage to speak your truth, it takes courage x 10 to speak your truth on the web.  What you’ll read of Nikki’s story is moving – both honest and funny. 

Nikki, I thank you.  My perspective is of a person whose loved ones have had Cancer diagnoses; it is with such gratitude to you that today I can share ‘first-person’ words that I know will inspire others.  xo

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

Here are Nikki’s words…

While on a trip to the states in September 2009, my life path was altered forever. I had noticed my breast changing shape in the months previous but attributed that to my weight loss program (60 lbs). I even kidded with my husband, ‘”it’s my cancer breast”. Oh, foolish me. I had tried to look for a lump but never found anything, however the day before we returned home, I found the lump I had been searching months for. That was Thursday, on Saturday I was at the walk-in clinic. I was told I’d need my first mammogram and an ultrasound. After those tests they told me it was likely carcinogenic. Not words you want to hear, ever. After that, things started happening quickly with a biopsy and then more waiting for the results. I knew what they would be but I needed to hear it from the doctor. Finally, on October 2 (after pestering the clinic all week), I went in at noon with hubby to meet with the doctor. He told me it was breast cancer and that I had a long road ahead of me with a 2.2 cm tumor. I was able to keep it together until we got outside. The next couple days were spent telling our friends and family and getting ready for the next steps. Devastating news that no amount of preparing can prepare you for.

My way of coping was to lean on my love of photography. It gave me a purpose when I went to each test and exam. I brought my camera to take photos of the equipment and myself. I’m sure the techs thought I was crazy but they allowed me to take my photos. The next month was busy as I went for scans and other tests to find out if the cancer had spread to other organs. A very scary and lonely time. Both my parents had dementia so I was unable to share the news with them. Luckily hubby was there for me and some close friends and relatives. We had a pre-planned trip to Las Vegas for Oct 29-Nov 1 to celebrate a friend’s 21st birthday. It was a good time, but hard for me to truly enjoy as I knew on Nov 4 I would be having a mastectomy (I really hate that word!).

Knowing that my body would be changing in ways I could never imagine, I booked a professional portrait session (first one since our wedding years earlier!) in mid-October. I wanted a record of my waist-length hair, something I had grown for quite a long time. I’ve always wanted long hair as a little girl. Perhaps part of me also wanted photos for hubby of us together, if things didn’t turn out well. I also wanted photos of my breast, soon to be gone, so had hubby do the honors of taking those photos. I’ve always loved photography and I was determined to document every damn step of this journey.

After surgery, I found out the tumor was twice as large (5 cm), had spread to many lymph nodes and was quite advanced (Stage 3b). Every time I seen the doctor, the news seemed to be worse. I had about 8 weeks to recover before chemo began on December 29. Merry Christmas! I was scheduled for 6 treatments every 3 weeks. The day chemo began, I was there with my camera, to document every moment of this treatment. Especially the awful ‘red’ medicine which would take away my hair.

Excited and nervous at my first chemo treatment, ready to kill all the bad cells!

Excited and nervous at my first chemo treatment, ready to kill all the bad cells!

Shortly before my second chemo treatment, I decided to cut my hair to shoulder-length as it was falling out and in a knotted mess. I arranged a night to do it and had some close friends over. I was sure that I would be a hysterical mess. I had one of my friends make a braid so that I could save that. Then she was ready to do the chop, but I was feeling confident and suddenly wanted to cut it myself. Cancer was not going to make me weak and helpless! So she handed me the scissors and chop chop went my hair, about 23 inches of it. It was very freeing. Hubby videotaped the whole episode and we took several photos after of my short ‘do’. Surprising myself, I didn’t cry or feel emotional. It’s amazing how your body and brain allow you to cope with all these sudden life changes.

Chemo was its own challenge, but again I was not going to let cancer get the better of me. I was usually down for close to a week and then I would have a couple decent weeks before the next treatment. I would force myself to go on walks in the park area every day. Even though it was January/February and -20 most of the time, I still went and would take of photo of myself each day as I arrived at the half-way point. A way to say to myself, you’ve made it this far. A lot of people are confident enough to go out bald-headed during treatment but not me. There was no way I was going to allow people to give me the ‘pity’ look, no way! I had a lovely wig that was shoulder length that I wore with hats and scarves. Some people even thought it was my real hair. It was hard enough being the youngest person in the chemo room, there was no way I wanted people feeling sorry for me.

Once chemo finished, I was ready for my hair to return. On my last day of chemo, I finally shaved my head myself and removed the last few strands of hair that had hung in there. I figured if cancer wanted to take my hair, it had to come and get it as I wasn’t handing it over. I started photographing my eyelashes, eyebrows and hair. I would set up my camera and then get hubby to take the photos every week. I even had a ruler I would use on my head to show how long my hair was getting. I was obsessed that it grow the ½” per month that it was supposed to!

Radiation was the next hurdle that began in May in Calgary, which meant driving about 3 hours every day for a month. I could’ve stayed over but I wanted to be home every night in my own bed. Radiation was not going to alter my life! I drove on my own mostly and had friends and my sister come with me sometimes. For my first treatment, I insisted on the techs taking a photo of me on the machine. I’m sure they thought me mad! But they humored me. On the last day of radiation, June 9, 2010, I brought a cake for the techs and we took more photos to celebrate the wonderful day.

I’d like to say things have gone smoothly since, but no such luck. I developed lymphedema in my arm during chemo (a life-long condition). Last year I had my first reconstructive surgery and developed numerous blood clots on both lungs which made recovery a little harder. This past January was surgery #2 and it went great. I have one more to go before my reconstructive journey is over … so close!

Photography was an integral part of my entire journey. Not only was I able to document every test, appointment but also the loss of hair/breast and then the return of those which brought me full circle. It gave me a purpose, almost a distraction that allowed me to focus on the procedures and not stress/whine and complain about the symptoms. When you go through something like this, it’s helpful to have certain goals in mind. Mine was going to see Bon Jovi a month after radiation. Sounds silly but it helped me through chemo as I would think, I cannot allow chemo to delay anything as I have a tight timeline!

@Bon Jovi!

A month after finishing treatment I was able to accomplish my goal of attending the Bon Jovi concert in Calgary.

This is definitely a life changing journey, but I never wondered why me, I just focused on getting down to business and getting through it. Considering I was the person who would rarely see a doctor once a year and only for something serious, it’s been a big adjustment. I still don’t like going to the doctor but at least I’m around to go!

Thank you Lori, for allowing me the opportunity to share my story with your readers.

 

Yep, it’s scary…do it anyway!

So, here we are…the day has arrived…tonight I will get up before the Foothills Camera Club and speak openly about Bella Forza Portraits and why it is so important to me.

Extra Oomph

Extra Oomph 😉

Being open about that which we care most about is hard…writing it down and hitting ‘post’ is hard, saying it aloud (in front of others!) even harder.  But isn’t that where true joy lives…isn’t it critical that we face our fears and banish the negative self talk that says that others might judge us – judge our words, our creations, our dreams? I mean, isn’t it also possible that they’ll think our words, creations, and dreams are amazing?  It took me years, YEARS, to work up my courage to finally follow my dream of providing compassionate portraiture…I’m sure not going to let a little fear over public speaking get in my way now, right?! 😉  (and sometimes we just need a little extra mojo…like a new blouse to add some oomph to our step!)

Whether it’s making an appt with your doctor because you fear something is wrong (my mom was scared of what the doc might say and so she left that phonecall until it was dangerously late), or if it’s making your own choices about your treatment plan even though it might differ from your family’s wishes, or if it’s as simple as a speaking engagement…go ahead and remind yourself that the beauty in life is in living it fully, everyday, based on your own heart and mind.  I’m certainly not saying it’s easy, any of it, but I am saying that in those moments that we are daring with our hearts, our hearts become stronger and our courage becomes greater.

Vulnerability is one of our toughest choices in life, but it is a choice…and choosing vulnerability opens us up to more love, more laughter, more adventure, more opportunities, more authenticity, more hope, more inspiration, and more joy.  Yep, I  pick vulnerability and I hope you will too!

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.    ~ Dr. Seuss

What are you going to do today that scares you a little, or a lot?

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xo Lori

PS It is worth mentioning that when this invitation arrived in my in-box last Fall I told my kids about it and pondered, aloud, if I’d say yes.  My kids asked why I wasn’t sure and I told them, ‘because it’s scary!’, to which they so aptly replied, ‘aren’t we supposed to do things that scare us a little to grow.”  Love those kids – I’m a lucky mom! ❤

Kudos for “Under the Red Dress”

If you have a Facebook account you have likely already seen news of the project “Under the Red Dress” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/14/beth-whaanga-breast-cancer-scars-facebook_n_4775901.html) by Beth Whaanga, the young mother of four and Cancer survivor, and Nadia Masot, the photographer.

Under the Red Dress - Beth Whaanga, by Nadia Masot

“Under the Red Dress”   Beth Whaanga, by Nadia Masot

The premise of “Under the Red Dress” is two fold…first it aims to show the ravages of a Cancer diagnosis and, secondly, it encourages us, society, to be mindful that we don’t always, or even often, know what challenges another person is facing (be it Cancer, depression, divorce, abuse, etc.).

Whaanga was diagnosed on her 32 birthday with Breast Cancer.  In subsequent testing it was also discovered that she carries the BRCA2 gene, which placed her at very high risk for both Breast and Ovarian Cancers.  She then had to make the devastating decision to have preventative surgeries.

I am so impressed by Whaanga’s courage to be photographed in such an intimate and candid way.  This is the type of work that changes perceptions, it is the tearing down of facades and hushed talk.  Cancer is very real, it doesn’t discriminate striking anyone at any time, and it involves invasive and destructive (but ultimately life saving) treatments.   The honest depiction of what Cancer ‘looks like’ is seen in this series – not unlike the SCAR Project – and I believe that showing this side of the subject can only empower us, as a global society, through gained empathy and acceptance.

When interviewed, Whaanga said:

“Your scars are a physical or emotional representation of a trial you’ve been through,” Whaanga told The Huffington Post in an email. “They show that you came through the trial and survived.”

I believe in the power of a photograph.  I believe it can change how we see people/circumstances/issues and, more importantly, it can change how we feel about them.

It is reported that upon Whaanga posting her images to her Facebook page she was ‘unfriended’ by 100 people.  Criticism included that the pictures were offensive and that Facebook was the wrong venue.  I’m personally blown away that anyone could see anything other than courage, strength, and beauty in these photographs and, if they are shocking – these images of truth – well, that just means we need to see more of them…war doesn’t go away because the photojournalist is told to put her camera down.  We must, as a group, stand up and against Cancer.  We must look it straight in the eye with a fierce determination that we will do whatever it takes to save lives.

I would like to add that it is also reported that Whaanga’s images were reported to Facebook as offensive but that Facebook has written Whaanga to say they will not be removed.  I credit David Jay, of The SCAR Project, with Facebook’s much improved stance on this subject.

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

A Toast to 2013 with Wishes for 2014

I was honoured to provide portrait services to this young couple who, with grace and humour, are facing the incredibly difficult journey of his Cancer diagnosis.  They were my last session of 2013, just last week in fact, and I cannot imagine a more fitting end to my business year than a Bella Forza shoot!

Elizabeth & Cam Collage with Logo

This opportunity came to me through a new friend and photographer, Sheila, whom I met while attending another friend’s workshop this Fall.  Thank you, Sheila, for your trust in me and also for so graciously and wholeheartedly assisting on the shoot!  (hugs to you, Beautiful!)

2013 proved to be an incredibly difficult year for me personally; however, professionally it was terrific!  I was asked by the good folks at oopoomoo.com to participate in a panel discussion during their Persistent Vision seminar, which I happily (with knees shaking a little) did!  It was a wonderful and humbling experience (there I was sitting between David duChemin, Dave Brosha, and John Marriott! :O) that has led to new friendships and opportunities, the likes of which are still unfolding!  Shortly thereafter I unveiled Bella Forza Portraits…a dream that had been quietly germinating over the course of years and which is now a reality!  I feel ever grateful and hopeful for this work that so profoundly stirs my soul.

My calendar already has entries for 2014 that I am both excited about and scared of (which is a recipe for wholehearted living to be sure!)!  I am also incredibly excited about a future announcement for something that came to me as a jaw dropping epiphany (as in, “why haven’t I thought of this sooner?!)…stay tuned for that!

As we all face our own challenges, may we also celebrate everything that goes right for us and for others on a daily basis.  We must acknowledge the difficult times and they must be spoken aloud and without shame; however, so must we exclaim with joy all the little wonders of our lives: a great parking spot, a proud child, a heartfelt embrace, a good book, a friend’s time and attention, an inspired blog post, a great shot we make ‘in camera’ ;), lucky pennies, a smile from a stranger, and the dawn of each new day that affords us the opportunity to smile, to hope, to dream, and to love.

I wish us all a year ahead that gifts us growth, joy, love, and health!

NYE Card 2013

Happy New Year, life is beautiful!

Strength.Beauty.Grace. 

xo Lori

The never ending circle of gratitude…

Anyone that knows me well knows that I love circles…to the point of having them inked on my body!  This afternoon I received an email that, to me, is further proof   that all is cyclical, including gratitude (I didn’t really need further proof but I will lovingly accept it with a huge smile!).

Last March I embarked on this hugely personal endeavour to create Bella Forza…I knew that it would require at least three women (more when you count those who referred my first clients) to help me show what I wanted to provide through Bella Forza.

My friend and fellow photographer, Sam Chrysanthou, was generous enough to see what I wanted to do and to trust why I wanted to do it; she spoke to her friend, Sharon, to see if she might be interested…she was and she became one of three very important people in Bella Forza’s journey.

Today Sharon wrote me with some thoughts on what her session, last March, has meant for her:

“Cancer knocked my feet out from under me.  I doubted my body.  I doubted my ability to cope.  I doubted my purpose.  I felt so vulnerable, so fragile.

Cancer tested everything I believed to be true, everything upon which I had built my life.  I struggled with the meaning of my experience, one that rearranged my career and my family life.  What remained after cancer’s destructive path through my life?

Gradually, I realized that beauty, truth and love remained, but there were many dark days on the journey to discovering this. Rebuilding my life in a way that incorporates what cancer taught me is my ongoing challenge.

Enter Bella Forza and its compassionate people.  Lori and Sarah heard my story, honouring me and my cancer journey.  They recognized my strength and gave “picture” to it.

I came away from my Bella Forza experience knowing that I had reached a milestone in my acceptance of my cancer-changed life.  Lori and Sarah heard and “imaged” me into being.

My beautiful Bella Forza portrait is in a place where it catches my attention every day.  I pause for a moment and remember–

I am beautiful.

I am strong.

Lots of people love me.

And I am reminded that today, I will Be.Here.Now.

© 2013 Bella Forza

Strength.Beauty.Grace. © 2013 Bella Forza

I felt infinite gratitude when Sharon walked through my studio doors, and I sat in tears this afternoon, in gratitude, that the circle was complete and it is beautiful.

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xo Lori

Lasagna and The Ripple Effect

How many times have we, in life, wanted so badly to help someone but been at a loss for how?  Inevitably, when a person faces a serious illness or debilitating injury, the first offerings, and longest lasting efforts, centre around food; which is, in my experience, wholly appreciated by the affected person AND their families (although we had one care worker who insisted on making trifle for us, daily…I can’t imagine every eating trifle for dessert again! 😉 ).  Given that this is the first thing that tends to come to mind when you are in the position of wanting to help a loved one, people’s fridges and freezers become full, quickly.  I remember feeling so awkward when my mom was sick and we had so many people wanting to help, but we really didn’t need any more lasagna!  It’s so difficult, as the grateful recipient, to say ‘no’ to these generous acts of kindness, especially when you don’t have any other suggestions of how they can help – people WANT to do something.

Well, what if there was a way to help that didn’t involve Tupperware?!

I’ve been through tough times, with both my mom’s illness and other life challenges…I know that prepared food, walking the dog, helping get kids to and fro school and activities, quiet games of Scrabble, and many more acts of kindness, are all incredibly important and provide unparalleled solace & relief.  I also believe that fun, uplifting experiences are needed too.  I recall spending the time painting Mom’s nails and doing her makeup, with chatting and laughter throughout, before friends would come to visit.  It wasn’t about pretending she wasn’t sick, it WAS about her not feeling that her role and as we saw her was as ‘patient’ only; it WAS about her having on her trademark red lipstick and feeling ‘ready’ for a visit.

I believe, deep in my soul, that a few hours away from ‘real life’, being pampered by a wonderful hair&makeup artist, having your portrait created, and then being gifted with a framed print from our session is healing.  I believe we all want to feel beautiful, we want to have fun, we need to feel alive…and I propose that this is one of the nicest things you could gift to a loved one.  I fully recognize that women facing health challenges may not instinctively seek out having their portrait taken; let’s face it, if you are fighting for your life a photo shoot may not seem an immediate necessity!  However, for any of you who are looking for a warm, loving, lasting experience to provide…I can’t think of anything nicer; and  please know that I’m speaking first as a daughter, sister, and friend and only secondly as a photographer.

There is also a bonus in this…the fact is that, as with all acts of generosity and kindness, there is a ripple effect for everyone associated.

The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect

The niece of my very first Bella Forza client had this to say about her aunt’s session, which she attended:

“…the experience was wonderful…this process has a real ripple effect – i can feel the positive response and gratitude amongst my extended family as they see what you did for my aunt and as they hear the story from an objective viewpoint – very powerful!! …actually, from my perspective I see what you are doing as amazingly therapeutic and healing for the woman and also for her nieces and siblings, extended family and friends…”

Another client, who is a young woman with a young family, told me that she had noticed the positive and heartwarming reactions of those closest to her with regard to her portrait session and that she felt it might take quite a while for her to really ‘see’ all the ways that this session was meaningful to her family…she told me that she felt it was as though they had a ‘tangible’ thing to hold now, evidence she had gone through something very real and life changing and that she had made it through the fire!

A fellow I follow on Twitter, Terry Alex (#TA), today posted, “A single act of kindness is like a snowball going down a hill. It starts small but grows larger & more powerful the farther it travels.”

The Strength Package includes hair and makeup (to whatever extent my client wants!), a portrait session, and a beautiful framed print (with its digital file for their personal use) for only $350.  I am also, absolutely, more than happy to customize the package…it is my wholehearted desire to provide an amazing experience to my clients and I am open to customizing the session and package to suit each person individually.  If she wants a portrait with her best friend(s), her kids, her mom, her beloved pet….the world is open to us and I am open to being your ally in making this an incredible experience.

…maybe your best friend is going through a difficult time and you’d like a portrait together….maybe your mom is ill and this could boost her spirits, and she’d especially love one of your family together…maybe you simply wish to provide a buoy to a coworker or friend to remind her that not every day has to only be about treading water.

Let me help you do something extraordinary for the extraordinary woman in your life.  I promise that your loved one will be met with compassion, support, a willingness to go above and beyond, and that I will do everything in my power to have her leaving my studio feeling bathed in strength.beauty.grace.!

Please visit Bella Forza on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bellaforzaportraits and share with your friends and family.  Let’s make some snowballs!

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xo Lori

Waiting for Butterflies

I am honoured that Sharon, who was our first client, is willing to generously share a little more of her journey with us…

It was during Sharon’s treatment that journaling had been a suggested method of coping, which is how she found her outlet in poetry.  There she was: a wife, a mom to a three-year daughter and newborn son, surrogate mom to two nieces and a nephew, and in isolation for intensive chemotherapy…the days proved long and lonely; writing, she says, provided an opportunity for her to cope, to process, and to, even if only a little, unburden herself of the myriad emotions that accompany a life threatening diagnosis and its treatment.

It is our hope that by sharing this aspect of Sharon’s story, together with one of her poems from that difficult time, we might help another.  We are all different and there is obviously no one “right way” to cope; however, if you are facing your own war today, and if you haven’t tried journaling, poetry, or writing music, perhaps now you will, and perhaps it will grant you some calm within the storm.

* Please click on the image to see the larger (easier to read!) version.

Waiting for Butterflies, by Sharon Meier MacDonald

Waiting for Butterflies, by Sharon Meier MacDonald

With my sincere gratitude to Sharon for her gracious offer to share her poetry with the Bella Forza community.  It takes courage and fortitude to share our innermost thoughts, especially those written during our darkest days; Sharon, I know that this post will inspire others and we are collectively grateful.

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xo Lori

And we call her, ‘Grace’…

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The remarkable Ms. G.!

Note: Due to my client’s work it was my initial preference to only use her first initial, “G.”; however, as I typed, “G.” lacked the vibrance that IS this woman; therefore, I will call her ‘Grace’ (and, trust me, it fits)!  🙂

After a lifetime of having ‘lumps and bumps’, Grace had become a pro at doing self exams, going for semi-regular mammograms, etc., all of which afforded her the knowledge, on the morning of August 1, 2012, to know that this time something was different.  Grace told me, “I just knew.”  She called her doctor that morning, with some gentle encouragement from a coworker to not wait, and made an appointment for the same day.  The doctor was as concerned as Grace and ordered a mammogram and ultra sound, which could both be done two days later.

At Grace’s August 3rd ultra sound she was told that she would need a biopsy; which was scheduled for one week later.  That interim week was spent, as previously arranged, visiting her elderly parents with her beloved dog, Chloe.  Not knowing what the final diagnosis would be, Grace told them nothing, to spare any unnecessary worry, and returned home for the test.

The day after Grace’s biopsy Chloe had a heart attack.  Grace was told that Chloe was in congestive heart failure and would need to be euthanized.  Grace and Chloe had the weekend to spend together; cuddling, visiting loved ones, and going for walks.  On August 13th Grace had to say goodbye to Chloe and then leave the next day for a conference in the U.S., which is where she vowed to present at the April 2013 conference in Europe.  She then arrived home to news that she had Invasive Ductal Breast Cancer that may have spread to her lymph nodes.

Due to the fast growing type of tumour, it was decided that they needed to slow/stop its growth through chemotherapy prior to proceeding with surgery.  With an incredible support network, which she refers to as her ‘A-Team’, Grace met chemo head on – and it was tough.  The cocktail she was given was known to be hard-hitting, but no one could have prepared for just how hard-hitting it was.  Through it all she has had friends around her constantly; she never attended a chemo session alone, and, during the darkest hours, her friends would rally with her at her home, staying overnight, providing care and laughs, and, as she puts it, “living around her”.  Grace credits this exemplary demonstration of friendship, this “life around her”, as a primary reason she is here with us; still on the journey, but getting stronger by the day!

Grace, in B&W

Grace, in B&W

At the conference that she was at last August, Grace had vowed, both to herself and others, that she and her colleague would present important and emerging information at an international conference to be held in Europe this April.  Grace credits part of her resolve to beat Cancer to her promise made during that tumultuous time in her life last summer: when her hair fell out she would think, “I’m going to that conference”; when she had a near fatal experience on chemo she thought, “I’m going to that conference”; on those days when it was nearly impossible to get out of bed she would think, “I’m going to that conference.”  Indeed, it has been Grace’s resolve, determination, and passion that has allowed her to accomplish AMAZING things in her life (things I so wish I could share publicly here…she’s done a lot for our society!), and which served her well during this battle for her life. Grace was in Austria two weeks ago, presenting to her colleagues, just as she knew she would!

Grace in Colour

Grace, in colour

One of the very difficult things about treatment for Grace was the loss of her long, blonde hair.  She was determined at the outset that ‘her hair’ wouldn’t fall out.  But it did.  The chemo also stole her finger and toe nails.  These things are poignant for us; while you are expending every ounce of strength into your fight, you must also, simultaneously, accept dramatic and often heart wrenching differences in your appearance.  When Grace knew that her hair was in fact falling out, she, with her friend, found Compassionate Beauty, a specialized spa and resource for women undergoing cancer treatment.  Compassionate Beauty provides support, products, post mastectomy products, medical hair loss solutions, and more, and was able to help Grace with the fitting and purchase of wigs (among other services) that allowed her the opportunity to maybe not feel quite so vulnerable during a very difficult year.  Nine months later, though, Grace is on the admirable journey of embracing her ‘new me’.  She’s rockin’ a wicked, platinum pixie cut and is looking outrageously awesome in some new black frames!  Grace told me that this session came at a perfect time for her…this is a time of change, growth, acceptance, fearlessness (I dare say something I can’t imagine she’s ever not rocked!), and a new-found confidence in a new look and outlook!

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Grace, the movie star!

Grace finished her nearly 5 months of chemo in January; had a lumpectomy (now being referred to as breast conservation surgery) in February; and is currently undergoing radiation.  Her sense of humour and unwillingness to back down from the fight are the stuff of legend.

G., it was my absolute pleasure to meet you, to hear and then convey your story, and to photograph you.  I sincerely hope that you see the beauty, intelligence, life, and vibrance in these images as I see in you!

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xoxo

Lori

The Strength Package: Your Framed Wall Portrait

What I LOVE about The Strength Package is that each woman will have a framed print from our session together, of an image that she has chosen!  I believe including the framed image in the package is important for myriad reasons; not least of which is my personal knowledge of how many people have portrait sessions, which they are thrilled with, but then, for whatever reason, never end up having any of the images printed (short on time, money, feeling overwhelmed by life, etc.).  I really believe in you having photographic record of your strength and beauty, which is why EVERY woman who passes through the Bella Forza studio door WILL have a framed wall portrait!  Love, love, love this!

I’ve already introduced you to Sharon, who was our very first client and who generously participated in our launch, allowing me to share her images and story (thank you, beautiful Sharon!)!  I’ve had her framed image for a few weeks; however, between life events for both of us, it was only yesterday that I was able to gift her with her framed wall portrait.

The Bella Forza Wall Portrait

The Bella Forza Wall Portrait

The portrait is printed on either lustre or metallic paper (a decision I will help with as lustre vs. metallic depends on the image itself and where it is expected to be hung) and includes a laminate coating (no reflective glass but your image is protected!).  There are a few frames to choose from, all of them beautiful and well crafted.  In addition, the framed image comes ready to hang with wire hangar…no fiddling; simply take it home, hang it, and be reminded daily of the beautiful, strong, graceful woman you are!

I also believe that if you have purchased a print from me, you should also have that image’s digital file, which I am thrilled to gift to you.  Each framed print will have a dvd envelope on the back (so you don’t need to keep track of it!) with the digital file(s) of your chosen printed image(s)!

Each framed print will also come with the digital file for that image!

Each framed print will also come with the digital file for that image!

And, finally, in providing what I wish to be a truly wonderful experience for you; each framed wall portrait will be lovingly packaged for you, by me.

Your wrapped, framed print...packaged with love and gratitude!

Your wrapped, framed print…packaged with love and gratitude!

Of course we can customize your package to suit your wishes…a larger portrait (maybe you know just the place to hang this and it screams for a 16×24!), or perhaps you wish to have more than the one image from our time together…I am always happy to discuss the options!  Be rest assured though that there are no sales pitches here…I will only address these topics if YOU ask!

With each post on Facebook, every entry here on the blog, my interactions with clients, and with every bow I will tie…it is all done from my heart, with my heart.  It is my absolute desire to provide you (or your mom, sister, friend, aunt, cousin!) with an unparalleled portrait experience that will leave you feeling beautiful, strong, and with a skip in your step!

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xo

Lori

The Peeps & The Deets of Bella Forza!

Super excited to have added some information to the blog site!  You will now find ‘about’ pages for both myself and my beautiful friend/fabulous makeup artist Sarah Byrne.  I have also added a description of what an experience with us will ‘look like’, the details of The Strength Package, and some kind words that past clients (with Bella Forza and Bella Faccia) have shared.

The Bella Forza Team

Lori & Sarah

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”  Dr. Seuss

I’d love to hear from you with any thoughts you might have…

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

Lori

Jackie

As I mentioned in a previous post; I wanted to have the opportunity to provide the ‘Strength Package’ to a few women prior to publicly launching Bella Forza and I asked family and friends if they knew of any women who might like the opportunity.  You’ve already met Sharon, and now I’d like to introduce you to Jackie…

One of the people I emailed early on was Cori, owner and instructor at Soul Health & Fitness in Calgary (www.soulhealth.ca), whom I know through my sister and who is, simply put, a wonderful person. Cori was quick to reply to me saying that she thought her Aunt Jackie would be perfect and that she would enquire with her…a few weeks later we were all together in the studio!

With Jackie’s permission I am sharing some of her story, which she shared with us as we sat around the table and she had her first ever makeup application, (which preceded her first ever professional portrait session!)…

Jackie has been married for 43 years and has shared the joys and challenges of parenting five children with her husband.  One of their children was born with serious health challenges and they were told that she wouldn’t live more than a few hours after birth.  Knowing that little ones need touch, Jackie cuddled her infant daughter for hours, which turned into days, then weeks….and her daughter is still with us these many years later!  It was during this very difficult time in her life that Jackie decided that she wouldn’t live her life in fear, and she wouldn’t let anyone dictate when a date of death would be “…because they don’t know.  They can’t know.  No one can tell me, with certainty, when someone is going to die and so we might as well get on with living!”  Jackie found freedom and peace once she made the conscious choice to simply live for the day.  Despite the doctors’ insistence that their daughter would not survive, Jackie saw a little girl who was surviving and proceeded to shift her thoughts and actions away from the terrible prognosis (not buying a crib, not preparing a room, etc.) and instead toward having her daughter come home with them from the hospital and all of the fun preparations that go into welcoming a baby into your family.  Jackie told me that she decided then that, “you can live to live, or you can live to die, and I choose to live to live.”   A decision that would ulimately inform her daily choices for the rest of her life and which has undoubtedly helped her in ways she couldn’t have foreseen those many years ago.

Jackie

Jackie

Flash forward to 1996 when Jackie was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  After an early treatment plan by doctors Jackie was given the opportunity to pursue further treatment (things like drug therapies, I understand, were suggested) but Jackie chose to not pursue any further treatments.  Sadly, the next year the Cancer was back and had spread.  Jackie then underwent a double mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy.  In 2012 Jackie was diagnosed with a recurrence and was told that the Cancer had spread to her lungs, kidneys, liver, and pancreas and she is currently undergoing treatment that combines both Western and Eastern medicine.  Through it all, Jackie maintains an upbeat attitude combined with humour and resilience.  She smiled and laughed as she shared with us her life truths and I could feel her words changing me as we sat around that table.

An impromptu shot of Jackie & Cori

An impromptu shot of Jackie & Cori

Jackie is living an existence that I am so humbled by.  She is the epitome of grace under pressure and, when it was time for her to leave, we hugged and I truthfully told her that I have never experienced a more rewarding session…it was moving, inspiring, meaningful, and hopeful.  I love this lady, I love her spirit and her determination, I love her example that you get to CHOOSE how you live your life, and I love that she was willing to participate in something that, by all accounts, was a fair ways outside of her comfort zone!  Thank you, Jackie, you have my abiding respect and gratitude.

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

Lori

Makeup by: Sarah Byrne

Sharon

One of the hurdles for me in launching Bella Forza was the thought that I needed to have something to show people…if I’m offering a photographic product I should have photographs to show.  I know this seems so basic, but it felt a little bewildering to me; in hindsight I think it stemmed from the early fear of starting something new, of failure.

In the email I sent to my trusted circle asking for their thoughts on logo design, I had also asked if they might know of a woman who could benefit from a Bella Forza session.  I offered to provide the first three clients with the Strength Package (hair, if appropriate, and makeup by Sarah Byrne, a one hour studio portrait session, and a framed print from their session (including its digital file) at no charge in exchange for the opportunity to use their images and stories in the Bella Forza launch and marketing.

A few days later my friend, Sam Chrysanthou, said that she might know of someone.  And a  few days after that I was in touch with Sharon, who would become our honoured first client!

Sharon, to her absolute credit, was excited about the opportunity but wanted to ensure that she ‘fit’ our criteria for the initial three complimentary packages.  In an early email to me Sharon wrote,

“…I am completely well after a cancer diagnosis and treatment from hell in 2006.  My recovery occurred in 2010.  I look great now, with a full head of hair and rosy cheeks, etc…”

My reply to Sharon included,”

“…I think showing women at all phases is important and I am equal opportunity beautiful!  🙂  I think your image, together with your story (which I am anxious to hear!) will be inspirational and full of hope.  I want for Bella Forza to show women who are beautiful and strong before, during and after serious illness…I keep thinking of a vision board and, if women visiting the site are newly diagnosed, ill, going through treatment, etc, just think of how your image, story, and resilience will buoy their hopes!…”

Sharon’s Story

Sharon was guardian to her two high-needs nieces and nephew and mom to a three year old daughter when she was pregnant with her second child.  During the last month or so of pregnancy Sharon was losing weight, amongst a few other symptoms, and only two days before the birth of her son did the doctor run additional tests and subsequently diagnose her with Cancer.  After the birth of a healthy son, Sharon was able to stay in the hospital with her son while the doctors ran further tests during the evening and night-time hours.  As though the first diagnosis wasn’t shocking enough, she was soon told that they’d been mistaken and that her new (and all too correct) diagnosis was even more serious.  Sharon had Burkitt’s Lymphoma.  She explained to us that this form of blood cancer is very aggressive and its tumours double in size every 48 hours!  Sharon described an excruciating four months of in patient treatment, when her daughter was unable to visit due to the stringent ward rules that protect the immunosuppressed.  During those long days in her hospital bed; Sharon spent her time arranging for new living arrangements for her nieces and nephew, and was also able to secure a government stipend that would help the families who were stepping up to provide a new home for her loved ones.  I can’t imagine the angst of being a thirty-something woman, having a three year old, a newborn, a working husband, and three high needs children all depending on you and you are laying in a hospital bed with Cancer.  Sharon credits many with making it through that difficult time including her husband and parents.

© Bella Forza

Sharon, Taken by Lori Maloney at the Bella Forza Studio in March 2013
HMUA: Sarah Byrne

Sharon, after what she described a ‘hellish 2006 to 2010’ is now Cancer free, healthy, energetic, and full of life and optimism (I expect that she has always been of the glass half full variety!)  She spoke openly of the struggles that she and her family endured, both during her treatment and afterward.  Her passion for wanting to convey to people to take care of themselves, to know that these diagnoses can happen to young people, and that it is imperative to listen to your body is profound.

Sharon’s quiet, hopeful, and open demeanour are an inspiration and her ability to rise above difficulties is something we can all learn from.  Thank you, Sharon, not only for the trust you placed in Bella Forza by being our first client but also for provoking in us a desire to be realistic with our health and optimistic with our approach.

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

Lori

A flamingo you say?!

Designing a logo for a business is both fun and daunting…you have the power to create something that really speaks to both the vision of your venture and of you, whilst also, hopefully, communicating something powerful to your clientele.  On the other hand, you have to create something that really speaks to both your vision and to you whilst communicating articulately to your clientele!  It’s like naming your child!

When I set about the early phase of logo design; I asked some people in my life if they had any ideas; these creatives and non-creatives are all people I trust and respect.  Many of the replies I received included the theme of birds.  I hadn’t thought of birds until then, but was immediately drawn to the idea.  I think birds conjure, for many of us, thoughts of freedom, beauty, and nature (and with ‘nature’ the more inclusive thought of connectedness).

I began to investigate which bird might best communicate my vision…some of the birds suggested by friends and family were perfect in many ways (the strength and stoicism of the Eagle, the beauty and fragility of the Hummingbird (which happens to be my favourite bird, so much so that I have a tattoo of one), the good tidings associated with the Blue Bird) but I wanted something different, I wanted something unique.  Enter the Flamingo.

Last fall I had begun sketching out ideas for Bella Forza, including key words that I thought defined the vision:  STRENGTH – GRACE – BEAUTY – BALANCE.  In February, while researching logo ideas with a focus on using a bird, I discovered that the flamingo symbolizes: strength, beauty, grace, and balance!  Wow, SHE WAS PERFECT!

One of my favourite colours (and stones) has always been turquoise.  In fact it is the accent colour in my studio (if you’ve seen shots of the Bella Faccia studio you may have noticed my awesome turquoise Buddha!).  Enter turquoise.

I was convinced I wanted to use turquoise in the logo but also knew it would be wise to Google it first (you can love something and think it’s lovely but if it has a different/negative connotation to others it’s good to know that upfront while you are still able to change things!)  When you Google turquoise you will find entries like: encourages inner healing; associated with flexibility, serenity, tranquility, wholeness, and openness; “you only have to focus on this colour and you will feel instant calm and gentle invigoration.”  Hooray, I could feel my ideas coalescing.  Enter Julie.

Julie Bough is a graphic designer in town, whom I found through our mutual friend (and extraordinary person & photographer), Kyla Gibson.  Julie helped me design Bella Faccia’s logo back in 2010 and I was hopeful she’d help me again.  To Julie’s credit and professionalism, I don’t think working on a logo design with a ‘creative type’ is simple, she said yes!  I have likened designing a logo to hiring someone to buy jeans for you (speaking to women on this one!): you think you want a deep wash, you think you want mid-rise, you think you want boot cut, and you think you know your size.  Well, if only logo design (and jean shopping!) were so simple…truth is that there is plenty of back and forth: I like this, I don’t love that, could we try it this way, hmmm, better go back to the other way, and on, and on, and on.  Through it all Julie was supportive, helpful, professional, and an ally in me getting to my perfect logo…

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I love everything about what Julie and I have created…and I hope that all that she, my Flamingo, represents will help communicate what Bella Forza is about.  I also hope that the fact that she is, ummm, unique, will also resonate with people – nothing wrong with a little quirkiness and levity in life, especially when you might be fighting for yours.

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

Lori

Bella Forza: Celebrating Strength.Beauty.Grace.

Sometimes we need to take our time, contemplate, ponder, dream, work, concentrate, and deliberate on things…sometimes we need to just take a leap of faith.  Today, after nearly three years of deliberation, I am taking that proverbial leap.  Bella Forza is officially launched and I am officially thrilled.

This story, seemingly, begins in May of 2010 when I was readying myself for a boudoir shoot.  Part of my session preparation included a professional mani/pedi.  The esthetician that day was this super lovely Irish woman who seemed part esthetician/part philosopher/part prophet.  We spent three hours together talking and, at one point, she stopped what she was doing and while holding my hands she looked in my eyes and said, “I see you working with people who are vulnerable; not everyone can do it but YOU CAN.”  I was blown away, I can’t convey in words how incredibly powerful that moment was between us.  In hindsight, I now see that she helped germinate a seed that I believe had been present for many years prior.

Following that encounter I confided in only a few people about wanting to photograph women facing serious illness.  My mom was diagnosed in February 1995 with fourth stage Breast Cancer and we lost her in the fall of 1997; sadly we don’t have any portraits of her that truly showcase her beauty, her fortitude, or her courage. I felt as though I could offer something real, an empathy borne of first hand knowledge together with a tangible piece of evidence conveying the beauty that resides within…but I didn’t have the required self confidence just yet.

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Mom with my sister and me, c. 1974

For nearly three years I have been thinking of this path but each time I gave it serious thought I would get hung up on fear: how would something like this be received, do I charge, am I good enough, am I compassionate enough, AM I ENOUGH???

Then, in October of 2012, I met the beautiful (and talented hair and makeup artist) Sarah Byrne.  We’d been ‘Facebook friends’ for a while and finally knew that we just had to meet in person (we felt like kindred souls).  During our very first meeting I confided in Sarah about my dream to help women facing serious illness and she confided in me about having the same desire! It was magical and motivating and real!  I am so excited that Sarah has chosen to be part of the Bella Forza team!

Who we are, truly are at our core, is evident in our eyes and smiles, regardless of our current situation and, perhaps, often in spite of it.  Yousuf Karsh, an acclaimed portraitist whose body of work I greatly admire, said, “There is a brief moment when all there is in a (wo)man’s mind and soul and spirit is reflected through his eyes, hands, and attitude.  This is the moment to record.”  I am not comparing myself to the brilliant Karsh, simply communicating my desire to be just as good.  My clients will feel both my absolute commitment to creating a beautiful portrait of and for them and also my compassion for their journey.

It is important for me to say to you that this is not a ‘pet project’ wherein women who are vulnerable will need to ‘fit my aesthetic’; rather, this is ALL about my clients and THEIR journeys.  If a woman is newly diagnosed with, say, Cancer, she may wish to have a beautiful portrait before her treatments begin and she potentially loses her hair, her breasts, or whatever is necessary to preserve her life; perhaps a woman is mid treatment and is recognizing her inner strength and wishes to have a portrait conveying that part of her journey; or, maybe a woman has stood her ground against the beast, has won, and wishes to celebrate HOPE.  All of these women are welcome in my studio and each will be met with my open heart and my continually improving skills.

Two spectacular women (whom I will introduce you to shortly!) have already had their portrait created with Bella Forza; another beautiful soul will be in studio as soon as she is recovered from her recent surgery.  These women’s stories are powerful and I am so honoured to be in a position to help share their stories, grace, and wisdom.

Since the inception of Bella Faccia I have felt as though I was pursuing my dream and passion; since my first shoot for Bella Forza I feel as though I am pursuing my heart’s path.

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

With gratitude,

Lori