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Answering Adversity

Bonnie Rae Mills, Team San Francisco

Blood and Water

Growing up, I cut my teeth preparing myself to exist in the adult world. My main teacher was and still is my mom, my hero. She taught me how to get the best deals, mend my socks, respect tradition but be open to new things, and most importantly, to be my own person in a world that wants you to end up as anything but.

This connection to strong individuals is mirrored in all my photography, and Debi LaBell is no exception. She battles her own demons, and all the shit life throws at her, finding her own answers to adversity everyday. She is an ordinary person, dealing with extraordinary challenges- and sticking it out. That alone makes her pretty damn special.

Her family is evidence to her strong spirit. Her children are learning what it takes to survive by watching mom, holding onto childhood as long as they can, and Debi works hard to give them a few more years of innocence. Her brother in law acts as a father figure, stepping in for his brother called to serve his country, and her mother in law forges new bonds with her grandchildren. Everyone steps up in hard times because blood is thicker than water.

With this project I seek to communicate strength, stress and perseverance, all for the sake of love. Look at these portraits and see the nature of lost childhood, mistakes made and remedied, and the flaws that make us human. With every portrait I make, I put a little of myself into it, and take a little of the sitter into me.

One thing I have learned from photographing families is that there is an intangible connection between people who grow together, make mistakes together, and love together. This is what it means to have family.

“If you had asked me 5 years ago if I ever thought I would be able to do what I am doing now on a daily basis without my husband, I would have laughed and said no way in hell. But when you have no choice but to do it, you just do it.”
—Deborah LaBell

© Bonnie Rae Mills
All images in this article © Bonnie Rae Mills

© Bonnie Rae Mills

© Bonnie Rae Mills