High School Yearbook, through the book, it’s website, and social media is about the empowerment of teens with cancer, having them get that they are beautiful, powerful and alive with possibility, connecting young people with cancer and their families with others going through similar circumstances throughout the world, and having the world get these young people as the extraordinary human beings they are.
Why would a Los Angeles photographer start a project about teens with cancer when he had not personally been touched by it? My name is Brian Braff, and I did not have a child diagnosed with cancer, nor did any of my friends. I did, however, see a story on television about a teenage girl who was diagnosed, given chemotherapy treatment, and lost her hair as a result. Because of that and how she felt, she decided not to go to the senior prom. Her best friend, a boy in her class, had other ideas, however. He told her that she was going, and he was taking her as his date. He was determined to fight for her, and so she went with him. In a beautiful gown, with a corsage on her wrist, and strikingly beautiful under her bald head, she went to the prom with her proud date. I loved that boy for standing up so powerfully for his friend, and wanted to know more about these kids whose lives have been so altered by cancer.
Out of that, I created a collaborative photographic project between me and the teens with cancer with whom I work. For it, portraits of young people dealing with the disease in the prime years of their young lives are paired with photos taken by the teens, themselves, documenting their experience of cancer. These young people and their families are also interviewed and encouraged to write about what cancer has been for them.
High School Yearbook began with a couple questions – who are these kids, and what is life like for them? When all of their friends are worried about exams, going to parties and games, agonizing through the ups and downs of relationships, and planning for their futures, what is it like for these teens and their families to get a diagnosis of cancer? When being part of the group is so important, what is their experience of going into treatment and being separated from almost everything that matters to them?
The project has grown, and is now steered by a team of extraordinary people who work together to bring these stories to the world through a book, website, social media, and a documentary film.