In 2010 I started this project out of the hope that I would be photographing a few friends with cancer, so that someday they could look back on these images and remember what they have overcome. Like having a medal or award on your wall from a marathon - a reminder that you beat it. I always thought each and every one of the people I photographed would be holding these images in their hands in 50 years, thinking about when they beat cancer back in 2010. I never intended on any of these images being used at memorial services. Yet, sadly that has become reality.
I remember all of my project photo sessions... I remember each and every one clearly. Even the single tear that rolled down Cindy's cheek when I asked her to look into the lens. I remember how it felt to stand before these project participants, myself feeling healthy and strong... but looking at them face their future with nothing but hope. And asked them to let me photograph their faces, their emotions. I feel so honored to be let into their lives in this way.
A photograph is a personal thing, something we've let become as commonplace as watching tv. We snap photos endlessly without thought. How often do we even look at them again after the 24 hours they have received likes and comments. Do we even bother printing our photos anymore? So, I have a challenge for you... Print your favorite photos this year. Cherish those moments that are your life's memories frozen in time. And once in a while, try to photograph someone's soul, emotion, and true personality.
When I started Facing Hope I just called it my "cancer project". I thought it would be an uplifting set of photographs to show others going through the same struggles. To show them that they too are beautiful, strong, and as elegant as they were in earlier, healthier days. That's as far as it went for me, admittedly slightly superficial. Then one of my first project participants, Jaime Vick-Moran, suggested that we make it more into a recipe book of sorts. Something that others would be able to *read* in addition to *see*. We took that and ran with it. Jaime, Ellen, and Nicolina were the first three women I photographed for the project. Then came several more, making it 15 in total. Now we've completed a book.
But, today, four years later....What has the project become?
I've seen the project unfold into something better than I ever intended. Something special, and even more thought provoking than I thought it could be. It grew organically. Today, Facing Hope is:
A beacon of hope for others with terminal illness who view the photographs.
A symbol of pride for the project participants, that they were not defined by cancer. It was merely a speedbump in the road of life. Proof of their "marathon".
A remembrance for those in the project who we have lost here in the physical world.
A reality of where the project participants once stood... the space between just "living" and living with hope that the future still exists for them. That moment captured in time.
And on that note, I will end this blog with something for you to ponder. Put yourself in that "space" I just talked about above. Think about how life would be different for you if you weren't sure you had a future to plan. How would you spend those days? Would you tell someone you loved them? Would you plant a garden you always wanted to have? Would you take the time to let go of your stress? Would you give up your job you don't enjoy to open your dream art gallery? move to the beach? make a scrapbook of your family tree? Would you skydive? Travel to Nepal? Go skinny dipping with your spouse? Whatever you feel you would do if you were in that "space" .... Do it now.
More photos can be viewed here.
The Facing Hope: Cancer Project book can be purchased here.