Finding “normal” through a camera lens

November 17, 2014

Self Portrait
To our family, Pablove Shutterbugs has meant happy times, smiles, hidden talents revealed, and union. We first heard of Pablove at the clinic where Nella was being treated. She was too young at the time for the Pablove Shutterbugs program so we waited a whole year. The wait was worth it.

The very first time Nella participated in the program, we knew it was quite special. It was a real photography class! It wasn’t just a bunch of children being entertained with cameras. We were very impressed with all that she was learning. The students learned how to use a camera and take beautiful pictures—they were so original and full of beauty!

Bluebell by Antonella 2014
The gallery exhibition that took place after the program made the whole experience even more special. To have family and friends enjoy the fruit of the children’s hard work is very exciting. Seeing the little photographers’ faces light up when someone is looking at their work in the gallery is priceless.

The classroom environment is a key example of how the program impacted our lives. Our family, especially Nella, loved the fact that when she got to the classroom she saw smiles and heard encouraging words. Even though patients are going through so much, and family members are at times struggling to keep positive, the challenges of cancer were not present in the classroom.

In Pablove Shutterbugs class, it was all about learning and developing your talent. Students talked about their homework, their favorite pictures, and any special places that they may have visited to take pictures. Pablove Shutterbugs provided a sense of “normalcy” in our lives and an environment full of compassion, strength, and positivity. Photography was a special hobby that Nella got to share with people who understood her situation. Many of the pictures taken by students have left me open-mouthed. The attention to detail at such young age, their point of view, and what they portray through their camera lens is very telling.

Woodland by Antonella 2014
I know that Pablove Shutterbugs is designed for the patient, but it wasn’t just Nella who benefited from the program. Her siblings benefited, too. Now, Nella has finished treatment. As a family, we are all very grateful that that stage had passed, but…the impact that cancer brought to our family of six at the time, now seven, didn’t end with treatment.

Cancer didn’t just make our child sick. For my other children, it didn’t just mean that their sister was sick and now healed, so let’s get back to our “normal” lives. I noticed that Nella and her siblings’ relationships weren’t the same after cancer. I had heard about how the whole cancer experience affects siblings, but none of my children have ever expressed feelings of sadness or jealousy or doubt. At least not verbally.

So, I took the opportunity to have Nella do her photography homework with one of her siblings. It gave them the opportunity to work together on something they both enjoyed doing. The result was quite incredible. They took beautiful pictures together and they bonded.

Siblings through a Shutterbugs lens
I can safely say that her life has been impacted forever through Pablove Shutterbugs. Not only did she enjoy her class with super teachers and assistants, and bonded with other children undergoing similar experiences, but Pablove Shutterbugs has forever impacted all of us at home.

– Zulaika, mom to Pablove Shutterbug Antonella
New York City Fall 2013/Fall 2014 class

Family by Leslie Parrott

Photos (from top): Self Portrait, Bluebell, Woodland, and Untitled (Siblings) all by Antonella, age 8; Graduation day family portrait by Leslie Parrott

Want to read more?

Learn how you can support Pablove Shutterbugs – “25 Ways to Pablove
Read Marcy’s story – “Today, I am happy


3 responses to “Finding “normal” through a camera lens”

  1. Elizabeth Rinke says:

    Wonderful! Thanks for sharing your story, Zuly. I love you and your wonderful family!

  2. Yanira Toro says:

    Wow! Zuly, beautiful testimony and beautiful photos. Definitely Pablove Shutterbugs is very special in your life. They helped you to go through this stage. It was a blessing. I’m very proud of all of you and of our Little God’s Warrior.

  3. Sarah Wells says:

    So beautiful !

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