How we safely photographed and interviewed people impacted by breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic

Each year, BCRF features stories from people impacted by breast cancer as part of our annual storytelling initiative, Research Is the Reason.

As BCRF’s New York City–based team was planning the 2020 initiative, the word “coronavirus” started popping up in news headlines. It became clear very quickly that in-person plans needed to change for the safety of participants, some of whom were in treatment, and BCRF’s staff. John Keatley photographed 15 women and men from their homes via FaceTime. Our longtime partners at Maiden Creative, breast cancer survivor Krista Liney and Josh Zimmerman, wheeled sanitized carts of video equipment up to participants’ homes and virtually directed on Zoom.

To pull of 2021’s Research Is the Reason initiative, BCRF again partnered with John and the Maiden Creative team to safely capture photos and videos.

John, who had experimented with virtual portraiture even before the pandemic, photographed this year’s participants—11 in total—with a new app, CLOS, that produced significantly higher-resolution images than FaceTime.

John was thrilled to use his talents on behalf of BCRF’s mission.

"The people I have met have been so gracious and inspiring," John said. "There was a lot of laughter on the calls, and I felt a connection with all of the subjects. Just knowing these images have the potential to play some part in funding research, bring people hope, and help find a cure is fulfilling."

To film video for this year’s initiative, Josh, Krista, and the Maiden Creative team were able to coordinate a safe experience. Though 2021’s initiative again demanded creativity and patience, Josh said any hurdles were worth it, knowing they were supporting breast cancer research.

“Every person who shares their story has a unique perspective and a different experience that demonstrates how deeply breast cancer is felt in our families and communities,” Josh said.

You can find our #ResearchIsTheReason stories as we post them here, and follow us on Instagram at @BCRFCure for more “behind the screens” content.

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