In 2010 professional photographer Jana Cruder lost her mother to a 22 plus year battle against breast cancer – a battle that spanned most of Cruder’s life.
That same year, as part of her grieving process, Cruder started working to create Something to Remember to offer professional portraits to families whose lives have been affected by cancer, a disease that claims some 1.6 million new patients a year.
“When a loved one passes all you have are the memories and the images from their life. And, when a patient is going through treatment the last thing on their mind is scheduling a portrait. When I was putting together the pictures of my mother and our family for her memorial, the last family portrait we had was from when I was about ten years old. I wanted more pictures so, this is a passion project for me, one way for me to donate to the community,” said Cruder. “My mom didn’t want to keep taking photos and video to document her battle against cancer but as her daughter and a visual artist, I wish she would have.”
And for Cruder, it’s about more than the image that is produced at a The Something to Remember Event. “I produce these photo shoots at the same high quality that I produce all of my professional shoots at; we hope to make everyone who participates feel like a celebrity for a day. I want to give families both the joy of the experience and the images to remember their loved ones.”
On Saturday, December 7, 2013 Cruder and her crew – along with volunteer make-up artists and hair stylists – did that and more for the 27 families – solicited through the Cancer Support Community – Benjamin Center in West Los Angeles – who came to The Focus Studio in Venice, CA.
As each family entered, a warm member of Cruder Photography and Motion’s team would greet them and direct them to the hair and make up professionals who doted on the participants as if they were professional models. Cody, the well-behaved and beautiful pooch who accompanied one family, bypassed hair and make up and simply made everyone smile as he waited for his turn in front of the camera with his humans.
When the Finer family was escorted to the ‘set’ for their sitting, Cruder shook everyone’s hand (and paw) and had the whole ensemble at ease in moments. As the Finers were photographed, other participants were prepping for their turn, chatting amicably post shoot or sharing their journeys with cancer on video. The warmth of the studio was palpable – and a lovely contrast the cool drizzle outside.
“My goal with the video – so far I have about 40 stories –is to be able to edit into a piece that will give cancer a personal face. I remember being in a treatment facility with mom – there were 100ish people there in Greensburg, PA – I witnessed her being treated like a number. No, she’s not just another cancer patient – she’s my mother, she’s someone’s sister, a daughter – patients are more than just their disease,” said Cruder
Cruder, who has shot for fashion magazines (including Harper’s Bazaar and Elle’s China editions, and Ocean Drive Magazine) and counts Wells Fargo and Discovery Networks amongst her corporate clients, has exhibited at galleries across the Southland and acros
s the country in New York City, is using her talent to create lasting memories and mementos for families — and to honor her mother. But she is also fighting a larger battle to up the awareness of nutrition in illness prevention and treatment.
My mother was never educated about the value of nutrition in battling cancer. More and more research is showing that cancer loves sugar, especially processed sugar. When my mother was ill, I would come home from California with my organic, vegetarian diet and I’d cook for her and she’d say, ‘this has no flavor’. No doctor ever told her that live food equals a healthy body,” said Cruder growing more passionate.
“It’s important for me to have healthy food that is fresh so that participants can be exposed to good, healthy, yummy food. Thankfully, Venice’s own Seed Restaurant provided food for the event – it left an impression, everybody thought that the food was great. I also believe in the importance of juicing to keep healthy and so was grateful that Salud Juices participated as well.”
With growing awareness and increased funding, Cruder hopes to launch this program in multiple cities each year, “I hope that Something to Remember will grow into a large network of photographers so that together, we’re able to do multiple events in multiple cities in order to benefit more people.”
I’m sure Jana Cruder’s mother is smiling down upon her with pride – I know that I would be.