Picture the scene: a carefree, attractive Brazilian couple strike a series of playful poses for a memorable set of professionally taken photographs, just one week before their wedding in 2009. Fast-forward eight years, and one of them is missing, but the pictures have proven to be enduring images – continuing to live on in a way that no-one could have expected.
Rafael del Col, a 37-year-old man from the city of Maringa in southern Brazil, was fortunate to marry the love of his life, Tatiane Valques. But, sadly, the couple were only able to enjoy four years of married life together.
In 2013 the 27-year-old Tatiane was tragically killed in a serious road accident, leaving heartbroken del Col a grieving widower, and their baby girl, Raisa – who was yet to turn one – motherless.
Left by himself with a tiny infant, the bereft del Col knew he had a long road ahead of him. So the young father turned to the internet for solace, and searched for people in similar positions to himself, and ways to help him deal with the terrible loss of his wife.
“Shortly after I lost my wife, I was seeking help regarding early widowhood and also paternity without the presence of the mother and found almost nothing,” del Col later wrote on his blog, “O Diário da Raisinha.”
Translated from Portuguese, “O Diário da Raisinha” means “Little Raisa’s Diary,” and del Col began the blog in an attempt to reach out to other people in the same sad situation. It was while online that del Col found the inspiration for an amazing project that would help him cope.
The creative spark was lit when del Col read about a widower who did something remarkable after he lost his wife to cancer. The mourning man decided to recreate their wedding photographs – only with his daughter in the pictures instead of his late partner.
He thought back to the happy photo shoot he took part in with his darling Tatiane in the week before their wedding back in 2009. So, he booked a photography studio. By this point it was 2015, and Raisa was now three years old.
Del Col was determined to meticulously recreate the memorable set of photographs with his daughter. And to this end, he enlisted the help of a whole team of professionals to get every detail right in the studio.
The first step was to dress as close as they could to the original outfits – little Raisa was even able to wear some of her late mom’s jewelry and high heels. The father-and-daughter team modeled a series of poses and facial expressions replicated from the first shoot, while the professionals took care of styling and the technical side.
Del Col had also decided to make a behind-the-scenes video to show the work in progress. In the film, Raisa is seen having her make up done and standing proudly with her dad in front of a wind machine as some shots are taken.
The family dog, Raul, also makes a cameo appearance in the video. The pooch was yet another member of the de Col family that Tatiane left behind when she died in 2013. The short film comes to a poignant conclusion as before-and-after images of both shoots are shown at the end.
British newspaper the Daily Mirror reported that both father and daughter said they felt “closer” to Tatiane while they were having the photos taken. It would seem that the photo shoot has given them both a degree of closure.
There is no doubt that the resulting images are very touching and powerful, so it is no surprise that del Col’s video compilation swept across the internet in a very short time frame. In just 12 days, the film of the photo shoot garnered an impressive 18,000 views.
Shortly after the new set of photographs were taken, Del Col spoke to the Daily Mail about how the whole process helped him. “Now, thank God, things are adjusting slowly – my daughter is well, and is growing, developing normally,” he said.
“But beside my responsibilities with my princess, I need to deal with feelings of grief, and the loss of my partner with whom I lived for ten wonderful years,” the still mourning widower went on.
Sadly – and almost inevitably – the photographs he made with his daughter haven’t had exclusively positive responses. One Daily Mail reader commented on the story saying, “I don’t think this is very healthy at all!” However, the reaction in general has been kind and supportive.
Now, two years on from the shoot, things have changed again for the father-and-daughter combo – Rafael del Col has found love again. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he described his new woman, Magrelinha, as a “beautiful girlfriend… sent from God.”
Del Col has also racked up an impressive 21,000 followers on his Instagram account. It is festooned with photos showing del Col enjoying a happy life with his girlfriend and gorgeous little girl, despite the tragedy they went through.
There is no denying that the recreated portraits are poignant – if not heartbreaking. It was a brave decision to do it, but del Col has ensured that his little girl will always have a beautiful set of photographs to remember her mother by.