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/


Photography by Long’s Photography

Top Ten Photographer!

Many of you already know that I am very active in photography competitions both as a competitor, a mentor and as a judge.  I adore the competitions– they are a personal challenge to always try to out-do myself and to push my creativity.  I have been competing in the photography categories for several years, but this year I entered my first art case ever at the Southeastern Professional Photographers (SEPPA) competition.

Art cases are judged a bit differently than the photography, in that not only the final image is judged, but the judges also view the starting image and the digital work done to the image is also considered in the score.  It is a hugely daunting endeavor to put work in to be judged by experts in not only photography but also in digital manipulations like Photoshop and Painter.

The SEPPA competition includes photographers in thirteen states, so there is not only a LOT of competition, but there are a LOT of amazing photographers and artists who enter every year.  This was my first year entering a case in both photography and art… and drumroll please… my image scores placed me in the Top Ten for photography AND the Top Ten for art!  I can hardly believe it myself!  I am officially one of the Top Ten Photographers in the Southeast and the Top Ten Artists in the Southeast for 2016!  Holy Moly!

I can’t wait to share the images I entered, but I have to keep them top secret until after national judging this summer.  So, just stay tuned!