An acquaintance from my support group recently shared that she was hiring a photographer to do a “cancer portrait.”
That surprised me. I hate having my picture taken, so suffice it to say that it would never have occurred to me to hire a photographer during chemo.
Yet, as I thought about this woman, I began to see that this portrait might be her way of saying lots of things, such as:
“I am strong, even though I have cancer.”
“I am beautiful, even though I have cancer.”
“I am hopeful, even though I have cancer.”
As I began to do a bit of research, I found that lots of cancer patients respond to the challenge of cancer by having their portraits taken. And many artists seem interested in doing portraits of those who have, or have had, cancer.
• The Illini 4000, a non-profit run by students at the University of Illinois, sponsors an annual ride across the country to raise funds for cancer research and patient support services. Through their “Portrait Project,” they collect portraits of people whose lives have been affected by cancer – 239 so far.
• Childhood Cancer Portraits Book collects the images and messages of hope from 101 kids with cancer.
• Isis Charise, a Kingston, New York, photographer, is doing a series of portraits of women post-mastectomy. She calls it “The Grace Project“, and hopes her work will help women to see themselves as beautiful and whole.
• Each December, Help Portrait enlists photographers, stylists and makeup artists to take portraits of people in need, including cancer patients.
• Tokyo photographer Erena Shimoda takes underwater portraits of breast cancer survivors all over the world.
• The documentary project “Humans of New York” collected portraits of kids with cancer earlier this year and raised about $ 4 million for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.
Would you want to photograph your cancer experience? Share your comments here.