How a national cancer campaign was created with an old camera and no photography experience

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by Nigel Atherton

Lorraine Milligan had just taken up photography when her partner was diagnosed with male breast cancer. With little experience and only the most basic gear she created a national awareness campaign. She tells Nigel Atherton the inspirational story

In March 2018, Lorraine Milligan’s father gave her his old Nikon D40 for her birthday, with its kit lens and a 70-300mm zoom, after people had commented about what a good eye for composition she had, taking pictures on her iPhone. Although Lorraine had spent 16 years as a hair and make-up artist in the music, fashion, film and TV industries, working with some of the top photographers and artists in the business, she had never used an SLR herself. But she learned a lot from watching the photographers at work and how they used light, and she increasingly felt the desire to give it a go. She did not know it at the time, but this gift would change her life.

‘I didn’t actually use the camera until July,’ Lorraine recalls. ‘One of my long-term clients offered me a paid commission to take some portraits of her, saying that because I knew her face so well from being her hair and make-up artist that she trusted I would have the correct eye to photograph her as well, despite my inexperience with a camera. I also knew that my previous career as a dancer would help me understand posture and body positioning.

‘Just before the shoot I literally just picked up the D40 for the first time and took a couple of pictures to check that it worked, then off I went to her house. I photographed her against a blank wall, and the light was perfect. We had already discussed styling, hair and make-up and had put the perfect wardrobe collection together for her. I gave her a large variety of images, all unretouched and ready to use, and she was delighted with them. She recommended me to her clients and before I knew it, I found I was earning an income as a portrait photographer, creating an entire imaging package, with the USP of real, raw but artistic images, with no retouching’

Then, on 12 November 2018, four months after that first shoot, Lorraine’s partner Richard was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which had spread to his lymph nodes, lungs and liver. He had just turned 40. Their lives changed forever.

‘Richard had a lump under his right nipple since the age of 11 and had visited his GP on several occasions over the years, only to be told “I can categorically tell you that will never turn to cancer”. Sadly they were wrong. Around 400 men per year in the UK, are diagnosed with Breast Cancer, compared with around 55,000 women’.

After Richard’s diagnosis, Lorraine was plunged into trying to juggle caring for him, keeping all her client commitments and being mum to her nine year old son. But she found solace in her work. ‘Being creative and artistic was an outlet. It was like meditation,’ she recalls.


Lorraine Milligan with her dad's old Nikon D40

Lorraine Milligan with her dad’s old Nikon D40

Then one day, sitting in the chemotherapy ward with Richard, Lorraine had an epiphany. ‘I caught the eye of a lady sitting opposite me who was wearing a pink woolly hat with a nipple on the top. We smiled and she said “Do you like my nipple hat?”

I asked if she had one in blue for Richard, and then we just started chatting. Amanda looked beautiful and I told her so. She didn’t have any hair, but she looked fabulous in her hat. She asked what I did and I said I was a hair and make-up artist and photographer and straight away she said “I’d love you to take some pictures of me for my personal journal, scars and all.”

‘Suddenly I thought, “This is my purpose! This is why this camera was placed in my hands.’ I immediately had the idea for a campaign, because there is nothing out there for male breast cancer awareness. I visualised the final poster in my head, in every detail.’

Lorraine shared her idea with Amanda and asked if she would be part of the campaign ‘It was a big deal for her because she had originally asked me for some private pictures and suddenly I wanted her to be part of an awareness campaign, but she agreed. So between Amanda’s Breast Cancer friends and mine, I had a full line up of ladies I call my ‘breast friends’ and my Richard’…


F. Kaskais Web Guru

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