Washington DC-based portrait photographer Jonathan Thorpe captures an incredible image of his friend and model Heather Byrd, in which the young woman (who also happens to be a cancer patient) is at the center of a thought-provoking recreation of Botticelli's Birth of Venus. Standing in as the Goddess of Love and Beauty, Byrd is in the nude, exposing a deep sense of vulnerability amidst a cold, unforgiving hospital-esque environment.
Thorpe, who typically shoots comedic portraits, knew he didn’t want to photograph his usual sort of beauty shot of his friend, who was undergoing chemo treatments for her diagnosis of Leukemia. Instead, the photographer and his team came up with a concept that took a classic painting and reinterpreted it with a powerful twist that resulted in a shot titled The Renaissance of Heather.
In his blog, Thorpe explains the thought that went into the shoot: “Instead of the beauty of the forest and water behind her, it would be replaced with the coldness and drab colors of an old hospital room and bed. Instead of a woman draping Venus in beautiful cloth, a nurse would be covering her with a hospital gown. Instead of the two wrapped in love to her side, two doctors would be there, one with oxygen mask, the other with syringes and a chart. And finally, instead of her being presented on a shell where she is born, she would be standing on a pile of her own clothes, and wig.”
The photographer devoted his absolute attention to this project, making sure to take up as little time of everyone’s day as possible by being immensely prepared. Despite being met with a few unforeseeable setbacks, the entire shoot took a total of 20 minutes! Thorpe says, “The picture we used was actually the last frame we took. Why was it the last frame? because as soon as I saw it, I knew THAT was the one.”