Sometimes, all it takes is a simple game of dress-up to make a 5-year-old girl happy.
That’s exactly what Arianna Taft, a child battling an aggressive form of kidney cancer, did two weeks ago.
Arianna recently participated in a photoshoot that allowed her to live her Disney princess dreams for a day. Ryan Taft, her dad, said it was a surreal experience seeing his daughter take part in this once-in-a-lifetime photoshoot.
“To see her dressed as her favorite magical princess and all the other ones is just incredible,” he tells PEOPLE. “I look at the photos and I know it’s Ari, I know it’s my daughter, but it literally looks like she could be starring in her own movie, which is just super special and amazing.”
The magical photos showed her as Snow White from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Elsa from Frozen, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Merida from Brave.
The photographer behind the stunning results is the wonderful Ashley Richer, who has been donating themed photoshoots to kids with cancer since 2018.
She thought of sponsoring photoshoots for these children when her son’s best friend, Lia, passed away from cancer in 2017.
“She lost her battle right before she turned two. And after that, I just knew I had to do something like, what can I do to help these kids when they’re sick?” Ashley recalls. “I decided to do what I know best, which is creating magic from a camera.”
When she started doing these sessions, she realized she had found her purpose.
“Just make other people’s lives better by something so simple as taking a photo and then just being creative with it,” she said.
The little girl was diagnosed with kidney cancer earlier this year when tests revealed she had a 13-centimeter tumor on her kidney. Although doctors have successfully removed the tumor and the kidney, she still had cancer “on her other kidney, her lungs, her liver, her lymph nodes,” according to Ryan.
While undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Arianna began losing her hair. To show their support, Ryan and his girlfriend, Taylor Seaboyer, got rid of their hair, too.
“Taylor was actually the first one,” Ryan says. “And Ariana got to cut her hair and do all of that, and she loved the process.”
Ashley learned of Arianna’s story through a client of hers. She reached out to Ryan and asked him which princesses were his daughter’s favorites. She then bought all the outfits needed for the magical photoshoot.
With a green screen as a backdrop, Ashley snapped photos of Arianna donning her princess outfits and doing different in-character poses. After the session, she edited each image and gave them the appropriate Disney movie background.
Although Arianna was shy at first, she was undeniably a natural in front of the camera.
“Instantly like she was a model, like having so much fun, smiling the entire time,” Taylor recalls of the shoot.
“She just looks like Elsa, when she gets her magic powers and she’s just conjuring up a storm. That is everything that Arianna’s embodied since that movie came out,” Ryan adds.
Arianna enjoyed the photoshoot so much that Ryan says it’s “one of the big bright spots throughout her treatment process.”
The day was just as remarkable for Ashley as it was for the kid and her family.
“She is just the sweetest little thing,” she says. “She is now a friend for me for life. She’s awesome.”
Ryan feels so proud of his daughter for being an epitome of strength, especially for little girls around the world who are going through the same ordeal.
“You hear cancer and you think all the bad things that are associated with it, but… she hasn’t allowed a single day to be difficult,” the proud dad explains. “You can’t look at her and see what she’s going through and not feed off of that strength.”
“To see her do something that’s really like a once-in-a-lifetime experience just puts into perspective to enjoy all the little things, but also the big things, and to really focus on the positive,” he adds. “She’s just representative of bald is beautiful and bald can be a Disney princess, and she’s loving on every minute of it.”
Indeed, Arianna is such an inspiration. Looking at these pictures and seeing the smile on her face just tells us she’s the sweetest and bravest girl in the world!
Follow photographer Ashley Richer on Facebook to see more of her beautiful work for kids with cancer.