Angel BEHIND THE LENS: Brandy Hayes Angel, a local photographer in Madison

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By Tia Lynn Ivey managing editor

A local photographer’s touching wedding photo went viral last week, striking the hearts of millions and rousing the interest of national and global media outlets, such as Time Magazine, BBC, The London Times, The Huffington Post, The Today Show, and Good Morning America. Over 3,000 articles have been published about the unique photo, which features a newly wed couple, their two surviving children, and a superimposed see-through image of the couple’s eight-year-old son, Lake Bozman, who died six months earlier from leukemia.

Anna Bozman Thompson, and her now husband Travis Thompson, had asked Madison-based photographer Brandy Hayes Angel to somehow include her late son in their wedding pictures. Brandy, 36, enlisted the help of a graphic designer, Paul Woodward, to Photoshop in the spirit-like image of Lake beside the family. The result was a beautifully tragic depiction of a life lost too soon, while loved ones left here on earth continue to carry the memory and spirit of the child with them always. “I think it’s because everyone can identify with losing someone and how comforting that would be to look at a picture that,“ said Brandy of the viral spread of her photo, from across the country all the way to Germany, the UK, and even China. “It’s been insane. This was totally unexpected,” said Brandy. Anna Bozman Thompson is incredibly grateful for Brandy’s work.

“Although I felt [Lake’s] presence that day and I was actually happy, it was almost unbearable to take family pictures without him,” wrote Anna on Facebook. “I needed this picture more than [Brandy] or anyone could ever know. This is my family. And we will be together again.” Anna posted the wedding picture to Facebook on Nov. 1, and within a single day the image was shared thousands of times over and picked up by various media outlets. But this isn’t Brandy’s first experience with viral success. Last year, Brandy photographed a police officer from Greensboro, Ga., Raleigh Callaway, who was in need of a kidney transplant, to help find a matching donor through the power of social media. The image went viral and Callaway received a new kidney just ten weeks later from a complete stranger in Texas who saw Brandy’s portrait of the officer in need. Jack Meyer, a photographer and friend of Brandy’s, is in awe of both Brandy’s talent and heart.

“She is an amazing person and an amazing mentor to me,” said Meyer. “She is ultimately the person with the photography skills that I want to be in a few years.” Brandy is married to Will Angel and the couple has two girls, Alora, 7, and Alden, 5. Brandy is youngest daughter of Mac and Judy Hayes, of Watkinsville, and she has three older sisters: Tammie Hayes, Cathy Savage, and Ginger Tewksbury. After spending ten years as a surgeon’s assistance traveling all over the country, Brandy moved to Madison to be near her sister Ginger and to be closer to her parents in Watkinsville. “We just love Madison. We love the city and schools and we are planning on staying here for a long time. I’m not going anywhere,” said Brandy.

Brandy always knew she wanted to use her abilities to benefit others, inspired by the example set by her father, Mac Hayes, who worked for a government non-profit, the USDA, as a conservationist. “He always did the same kind of stuff—always reaching out and helping the community,” remembered Brandy. “I always saw him in the newspaper for doing these things. He always inspired me and hopefully I am doing the same thing for my children.” But it was only four years ago when Brandy finally figured out how she could put her talents to good use for others. It all began when she learned of a mother with terminal cancer named Rhonda, with two daughters, Meghan and Morgan, who were staying at the Ritz Carlton a month before Christmas. Brandy learned a community had paid for the mother and her daughters to stay at the Ritz Carlton to celebrate Christmas early, as the mother was not expected to live until Christmas. Brandy immediately offered to spend a day taking pictures of the family. The result was a cherished album for the surviving daughters, who lost their mother that Christmas Eve. “They were my inspiration,” recalled Brandy.

“Pictures are so important to people and they are so important to me. When people find themselves in these awful situations, when they are in it, they don’t realize right away that pictures will be all they have left to hold on to. That’s why I do this.” Since, then Brandy has used her photography skills to help a myriad of people in need and in suffering—from those in need of medical treatment to those in need of transplants, to those searching for lost family members to those in need of funding. Brandy doesn’t just take photographs, she also sponsor children and arranges special events for them. Last year, Brandy sponsored a child in need of a kidney transplant during Christmastime. She arranged for “Santa” to come to the child’s home to deliver all the items on the child’s Christmas list. Brandy has now launched the “Be the Change” campaign, as part of her non-profit organization, the Brandy Angel Foundation. “I work with anyone that I am able to help and use social media to start a campaign or raise awareness on their behalf,” said Brandy.

To find out more about Brandy’s work or to donate to the Brandy Angel Foundation, visit: “These things I do seem so small, but you never know how big they are to someone else. Everyone has something they can give no matter how small it is and we all need something in some point and time and you get just as much back.,” said Brandy. “I get so much joy from being able to help people. I almost feel I get more out of it than they do. I can’t believe I get to do this while doing what I absolutely love to do and help people in the process.” long for hope. Politicians promise hope. Infomercials promise hope. Workout gyms promise hope. And on and in the list of promise makers goes. The problem is they all offer an “I hope so” promise. When they stake their resources behind their promise, the best they can say is “I hope to be able to follow through.” God is our only hope.

When He stakes His promises on His resources Ge is able to say, “I AM more than able.” God is sovereign. He is in full control of everything in the entire universe. The rain does not fall apart from His authority and the sun does not shine apart from His power. Everything that God allows in our lives is for our good and His glory. Whatever brings Him the most glory is my great Therefore, apart from God there is no hope. The corollary is this … By God, through Jesus, there IS real hope. We will become a slave to the object of our hope. God provides hope that is based on His goodness, mercy, grace and faithfulness. All others enslave us to the work of our flesh, Know this. Death has been defeated. Sin has been conquered. Hope lives and His name is Jesus.

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