Middle school is hard. Its probably the worst three years of childhood for most everyone. But for some, middle school can become an absolute hell.
Bri is a quiet, introverted, gentle child. She is the perfect target for a bully and when she started middle school this year, she immediately became the victim of vicious bullying. She was bullied for the deep color of her skin and was mocked and ridiculed daily.
Bri found the inner strength to speak out and wrote about her depression and suicidal thoughts in a class assignment. Unfortunately, the school jumped into action, but only to involve mental health services for Bri- NOT to address the bullying.
Bri’s mother spoke out and put her story on social media. Her story reminded me of my own struggles with depression and anxiety at her age and I instantly knew I could help.
I contacted her mother and the amazing Mikaya Dionne joined as my partner to make this portrait session something that would help Bri heal and embrace the body that God gave her.
My vision was to make an image composed of all darkness so the highlights of Bri’s skin would become the subject and I could show her the beauty in her darkness. Mikaya was AMAZING with her makeup artistry and brought my vision to life. You could see Bri transform not only through the makeup but you could see her whole expression and body language change as she saw her own beauty.
Mikaya, Bri’s mom and I all fought back tears the entire time. Watching this girl smile and be proud of herself and her color is one of the most rewarding moments I have experienced behind the camera.
Bri’s story has inspired me to continue helping others heal and I am now launching The Phoenix Project for 2020. I will photograph one session each month completely for free to help someone heal and love the body they are in. Whether its healing from bullying like Bri, or healing after a cancer battle, or any other struggle, I would love to help give back to their recovery process. To nominate someone or to offer your help for any Phoenix Project sessions, please go to: https://www.longsphotography.com/phoenix-project/