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Camera Ready: Photo shoot helps boost girl's self-esteem

Brooke Sazama, 12, models Monday in Fargo's Lindenwood Park for photographers Kari Barchenger of Memories Forever Photography and Brian Walker of Cherie's Photography as part of a fashion shoot to build her self-esteem. Several local photographers and a model helped Brooke build her portfolio. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Brooke Sazama was 3 when a dog bit her in the face.

The Moorhead girl is now 12, and unless you're looking for it, you might not notice the scar on her cheek.

But some of her classmates have.

"They call her 'Scar Face,' " said Stephanie Sazama, Brooke's mom.

She said children call her daughter other names, too, which would be hard enough.

But the sixth-grader is dealing with some tough things right now, including a relative's health problems.

Realizing her eldest daughter needed a pick-me-up, Stephanie Sazama got an idea after taking her 3-year-old daughter to have photographs taken.

Why not set up a photo shoot for Brooke, who harbors hopes of a modeling career?

"Brooke has younger siblings, so I think it's awesome to do something just for her," Sazama said.

With help from several members of the Northwest Professional Photographers Association, that's just what happened on a sunny day this week at Fargo's Lindenwood Park.

Stephanie Sazama said her daughter was all for the idea, but there was one surprise when they got to the park.

Jess Erickson, a professional model as well as Brooke's former baby sitter, was waiting to offer her expertise.

"Everybody deserves their time in the limelight," said Erickson, adding that her former charge may have the right stuff to be a model.

"I think she has the drive," Erickson said. "Honestly, it takes dedication and it takes personality."

Besides giving the youngster a taste of the fashion world, the photo shoot also was intended to counterbalance nasty things she hears from some classmates, said Kari Barchenger, a member of the photographers association.

"Kids at that age are really cruel. This (scar) is something that's not in her control," Barchenger said.

"It could happen to anybody," agreed Jaime Conrad, of Imagine Photography and one of the people who set up the glamour shoot.

Brooke Sazama clearly loved her time in front of the camera as she tried on hats and splashed her feet in the park fountain.

Asked if the experience reinforced her desire to become a model, she answered with a simple "yes."

Stephanie Sazama said her daughter had to have 37 stitches in her cheek and nine in her nose following the dog bite.

A financial settlement is waiting in a bank account in the event she one day selects to have plastic surgery.

But in the eyes of her mother, the youngster is already perfect.

"She's a very beautiful girl to us," Stephanie Sazama said.