This is what can happen when an artist decides to push himself beyond his original “beauty image idea and run with a storytelling inspiration. SLR Lounge editor Hanssie recently published this article on DC photographer Jonathan Thorpe‘s image, inspired by a Renaissance painting. Jonathan talks about his friend, Heather, who was being treated for a second bout of leukemia. The interview article tells us the initial concept, and goes on to talk about its development and execution.

I had initially reached out to Heather regarding a beauty shoot, but when I started thinking more about it, I knew I could tell a better story. I then reached out to my art director Andi, and she mentioned the painting Birth of Venus.

Thorpe and his close colleagues analyzed the famous work of art and considered how to re-interpret it in a modern way, using a contrasting bleak background to help tell the story of a chemotherapy patient’s struggle. He then goes on to describe how he shot this image in 20 minutes (really, 20 minutes), speaking of both the conceptual process and the technical information. How do you accomplish a mind-altering work of art in 20 minutes? Thorpe says that when he got the image, he knew:

because as soon as I saw it, I knew THAT was the one.

For the first time in my professional photo career I knew what it felt to make a picture that actually moved people…. It wasn’t about how much money I was going to make, or how many magazines the photo ended up in….What mattered was showing that in any situation, any at all, beauty can be found not in fancy clothes, or makeup, but in simply the strength in determination of an individual with zero desire of giving up.

Photo copyright Jonathan Thorpe. Published with permission.

About The Author

Heather Nilson was editor of from August 2012 until November 2014. She has a background as an academic geek, with a degree in biology and work history in biology research. This was followed in 2010 by a complete career switch from laboratory research to writing, photography, and travel. She specializes in travel and fine art photography, and loves spending her computer time continually learning more about photography and creativity. Heather lives in Denver, Colorado, when she is not traveling. Like her Facebook page at:

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