A five-year-old girl fighting cancer got to realize her dream this month by starring in her very own Disney princess-themed photo shoot.
Arianna Taft dressed up as her favourite princesses: Snow White, Elsa from “Frozen,” Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” and Merida from “Brave.”
The idea came from Ashley Richer, a photographer on Rhode Island who regularly does free photo shoots for children with cancer. She has photographed kids as princesses, as mermaids, and as superheroes, she told HuffPost Canada. Richler connected with Arianna’s family after hearing about them from a client.
Arianna has a rare form of kidney cancer, her father Ryan Taft told People Magazine. She had her kidney removed after a 13-cm tumour grew on it, but still had cancer on her other kidney, her lungs, her liver and her lymph nodes.
“I just wanted to do something to honour her,” Richer told HuffPost Canada.
Richer bought the costumes and set Arianna in front of a green screen. She later altered the photo backgrounds on her computer, adding Chip the teacup to the Belle picture and a very realistic bear for the “Brave” photo.
Arianna was most excited about being Snow White, Richer said.
“I asked her dad if she already had a Snow white costume, and he said ‘no,’ so I got an extra one she was able to bring home,” the photographer said. “She went home that day dressed as Snow White. It was really cute.”
Richer started doing photography after her own health issues derailed her original plans. She was just 24 when she tore her carotid artery, which affected the entire left side of her body and resulted in about a dozen TIA strokes. She had to leave her teaching job, which caused her to re-evaluate her priorities and ultimately choose to build a photography business.
She shares her stories with the kids she works with who are old enough to take it all in, she said.
“I really struggled with having to give up all the sports that I loved, and not really being able to live the life that I was used to,” she said. “So I’II share the story just for a little bit of hope, while they’re going through this.”
When Arianna started losing her hair after starting chemotherapy, both her dad Ryan and his girlfriend, Taylor Seaboyer, shaved their heads in solidarity.
Arianna was shy at first on set, but she warmed up pretty quickly, according to Richer.
Her dad saw a lot of similarities between Arianna and Elsa from “Frozen.”
“She just looks like Elsa, when she gets her magic powers, and she’s just conjuring up a storm,” he told People. “That is everything that Arianna’s embodied since that movie came out.”
Richer said she would have provided wigs if Arianna wanted them — but in the two years she’s been doing these fantasy photo shoots for kids with cancer, no one has ever asked for them.
“My perspective as the photographer is seeing that natural beauty and just really helping them to be comfortable in their skin and getting used to this new look, being bald and beautiful and brave,” she said. “I love to see their natural beauty and to watch their face light up when they’re in their magical costumes, and they just forget about that aspect.”
Richer said Arianna loves the photos and is thrilled with the response they’re getting. “She feels like she’s a real princess,” she said.