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Taking Pictures Helps Young People Living With Cancer

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At 15 years of age, American Madeline Morales has lived through experiences most young people do not have to deal with.

Morales has faced cancer. She has used anti-cancer drugs and radiation treatments to fight the disease. But she is hopeful about her condition and tries to find beauty through her camera.

Morales takes her camera everywhere she goes. She is always looking for something interesting to shoot.

Today she will see something most people will never see in their lifetime.

Morales was one of 23 students who shared their experiences with cancer through pictures at a show in Los Angeles, California. Their photographs can be seen at the offices of the Pablove Foundation in Los Angeles, California. All of their students attended its advanced photography class.

Improving lives with photos

The Pablove Foundation tries to improve the lives of children living with cancer through its Shutterbugs photography program. The group also provides money for children’s cancer research.

Madeline Morales taking pictures with the Pablove Shutterbugs program.
Madeline Morales taking pictures with the Pablove Shutterbugs program.

Any money made from sales of the students’ photos will go to cancer research.

The Pablove Shutterbugs program offers photography classes in eight cities across the United States.

Ashley Blakeney directs the program in four of the cities, including Los Angeles. She said, '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.'

Blakeney said the photography classes give students living with cancer a feeling of community at a time when they often feel very alone. Photography also helps the students feel better about themselves and their abilities, she added.

She also said the program helps the young people think about things other than their condition because it takes them out of the hospital.

'Because they are able to build this skill set and to be the really great photographers that they are… 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’,” she said.

A photo on display at a photo gallery for the students of the Pablove Shutterbugs program.
A photo on display at a photo gallery for the students of the Pablove Shutterbugs program.

Looking for beauty through a lens

The photos of Bayu Lukman, another student, can be seen at the show.

Lukman learned he had cancer after finishing elementary school. He found the emotional part of living through cancer and its treatments to be difficult. But he said that most of his photos are about hope.

'You kind of get really depressed and you don't want to live anymore.' he added, 'You need to stay optimistic and push yourself through.'

With photography, many young students see the world with hope, where their identity is not only controlled 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...reach other kids so they understand how to deal with it hopefully,' said Lukman.

I’m Phil Dierking.

Elizabeth Lee wrote this story for VOANews.com Phil Dierking adapted her story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Do you know of other people with cancer who use art as a form of treatment? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

impactful - adj. having a major impact or effect.​

lens - n. a clear curved piece of glass or plastic that is used in eyeglasses, cameras, telescopes, etc., to make things look clearer, smaller, or bigger​

positive - adj. thinking about the good qualities of someone or something​

optimistic - adj. having or showing hope for the future​

elementary - n. of or relating to elementary school​

comfortable - adj. not causing any physically unpleasant feelings​

advanced - adj. beyond the basic level​

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