Behind the camera

Children fighting cancer pair up with photographers so they can focus on the things that make them happy.

May 11, 2008|By Sue Thoensen

In spite of an almost five-year battle with cancer that began when he was 4, Sam Guinane, 8, has spent the past few months behind the camera, taking pictures of the places and things that make him “say cheese,” the popular expression a photographer uses to get the subject to smile, Those things include the ocean and sand at the beach in Corona del Mar.

Local photographer Barbara Higgins is one of six photographers who became a mentor/photography teacher, and in her case, developed a special friendship, with a child fighting cancer.

“I just feel like a really good friend of the family. This makes you think twice about kids and illness and how important each day is,” Higgins said.


The memories she’s helping create, and the idea for the project, “Things That Make My Face Say Cheese,” came straight from the heart of a man who is a photographer himself, with a talented pool of photographer friends to draw from.

Al Nomura, owner of Reflective Images Studio in Santa Ana, came up with the idea to give kids a camera, catchy theme and their own personal photographer when he was required to complete a community service project for a leadership and development class he was taking.

Deciding to specifically focus on kids with cancer came about because Nomura remembered a Christmas card he received last December, designed by a child with cancer, then sold as part of the fundraising arm of the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, a local organization based in Irvine.

“Part of the process of creating the project was to find something that would move, touch and inspire people to join,” Nomura said.

Getting the photographers was easy.

After making a call and connecting with Scott Evans at the foundation, so was bringing the children on board.

Six children, ranging in age from 5 to 14, were chosen.

All the cameras, including extra digital cards for each child, were donated, as was the developing, matting and framing of five photos from each child that have been selected for an exhibit that will be shown in a variety of Southern California venues through the end of the year.

An added bonus is that all the kids get to keep the cameras they were given.

“These kids have gone through more than most of us ever have, and we wanted to focus attention on something joyful that makes them happy,” Nomura said.

The beach has always been a special place for Higgins, who was thrilled to discover Sam shared her love of the sea and sand.

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