Every weekend, Deborah Dominguez would return home to find patches of her mother’s hair missing. After her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dominguez not only discovered the strength of her mother but her eye for photography.
“At first it was just a few photographs I had taken of my mother but then I really wanted to show people how I felt about my mom’s sickness,” she said.
Today, Dominguez has two semesters worth of photographs that will be put on display in the Lowman Student Center at Sam Houston State University until Friday, September 28.
The collection of photographs entitled Scarred Beauty show Dominguez’s mother throughout various stages of her battle with cancer.
“People have a negative perception of cancer. Yes, it is sad and yes, it can kill you, but finally I could show people how strong she is through the whole process,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez’s mother was first diagnosed with stage four breast cancer last May and underwent surgery last September.
“It was difficult for me to leave her during that time but I had to go back to my classes. I tried to disconnect from it and focus on other things but it really affected my classes,” Dominguez said.
For the past three semesters, Dominguez has been enrolled in Rebecca Finley’s photography class at Sam Houston State University.
“For every assignment, I would take pictures of her and turn them in,” she said. “I like to photograph people and capture who they really are. I like to show people how I see things in that moment.”
The idea for a photo gallery came about with some encouragement from Finley.
“She is very powerful with her photography,” Finley said. “It’s a hard subject to take on but she put her heart and soul into it and it shows.”
The first photographs Dominguez took show her mother with the fresh scars of the surgery and the early stages chemotherapy.
“I wanted to show that she is still beautiful,” Dominguez said. “She’s so strong. She lost her breast, her hair. She became so weak I had to feed her. My mom was vulnerable but I wanted to show that she is still beautiful.”
Though her mother is now cancer-free, Dominguez says that the earlier pictures were harder to take.
“The very first picture I took was probably the most emotional for me,” she said. “There is a picture of her with the scar on her chest, looking down on it like ‘what is this?’ I usually don’t get emotional with my photography but when I printed them and actually held them in my hands, that’s when I started crying. That’s when it became bigger than life.”
While Dominguez’s mother was enthusiastic about the project, her father was not always so sure.
“At first, he didn’t want to see the photographs. He was kind of separated from the project. Last semester he saw them and now he’s even decided to take part in the project. I’m glad he did because it was really important to me that I show the relationship they had,” Dominguez said.
According to Dominguez, many of the photos on display are meant to not only portray her feelings during that time, but how relationships were strengthened after her mother’s diagnosis.
“I wanted to share the relationship between me and my mom, my dad and my mom and especially God and my mom. They all show how important it is to have relationships with people, just to have someone there,” she said.
Dominguez says she hopes that students are able to take something from her photos.
“It’s not all pretty, but it’s not all ugly. Either way, I’m really glad I did it. It brings up memories and it’s emotional but now everyone can see how strong and beautiful she is. If I give one person hope and give them encouragement to stay strong, then I’ve done my job.”