When Ashley Larson’s mother Diane Willoughby was diagnosed with cancer, she immediately paused her career.
The 27-year-old photographer based in Niceville, Fla. says, at that time, she stopped working with clients.
“The only photos I was taking throughout the journey was of my family,” she told Global News.
But because photography had always been an art form for her, she used this opportunity to start taking photos of her mother, in particular. And when Willoughby was officially cancer-free earlier this month, Larson knew she had to celebrate through her lens.
“These photos were done to show the strength that women — and little girls — have! Women aren’t delicate and dainty. They are tough and can do anything. I needed to learn that just as much, or more, than [my daughter] did,” she says.
In the four-part photo series, Larson’s three-year-old daughter, Scout, is seen wearing matching T-shirts in one shot with her grandmother. The shirts read, “A real woman is whatever she wants to be,” alluding to how strong women are, Larson says.
In a celebratory shot, Scout is seen “partying” with her nonnie.
“I thought it was a wonderful creative way to work through what [Ashley] was having to do deal with,” Willoughby told ABC News. “It seemed to be affecting everyone more than it did me.”
“Ashley is an amazing photographer,” Willoughby said. “It took her a matter of seconds.”
The initial diagnosis
When Willoughby was first diagnosed with cancer, Larson says her family went into autopilot mode.
“We knew that giving up wasn’t an option. We all had our hard days, but we had our happy days, too. We are so glad it’s all behind us now. There aren’t many things worse than watching your mom, or your [grandmother], battling cancer.”
And while photography became a healing mechanism, it wasn’t always picture-perfect.
“This series helped me to centre myself and keep my focus on something else while dealing with everything. I couldn’t change my reality, but I could change the way I dealt with it. Of course, I still had my days when I absolutely refused to leave my bed,” she says.
Larson adds working and creating content with Scout, however, kept her going.
“She loves to look at them and tell people about them. Of all the photos, the ones with her nonnie are her favourite. She likes those photos even more than the one with Moana… and that’s truly saying something.”
Shooting her daughter
And Larson’s daughter, Scout, is no stranger to the camera either.
Earlier this month, the three-year-old went viral after dressing up and posing as important icons in pop culture.
In the series, Buzzfeed reports, Scout dresses up as everyone from Princess Leia to Frida Kahlo to Ellen DeGeneres.
“I had seen some amazing recreation photos a couple years ago, so I decided to take a stab at it. I wanted ours to encompass strength and love. We chose each person that we shot for a reason,” Larson says.
“The end goal was to make a book for Scout and my mom, but we can’t seem to wrap the project up because we keep thinking of more people. Scout has decided that Disney is next.”