Week 16, Cancer Reflected. Photographed Week 12
I asked photographer Bill Purcell and makeup artist Lily Hutchins to collaborate on a session and left the concept completely open. Via email they both began down this path of the emotions of cancer and my feelings during chemotherapy written in red lipstick and shown on a mirror, as if I were in my dressing room staring them in the face. I was right on board with their ideas. They asked me to write down what it felt like, perhaps after each treatment or in stages. My writing was full of every emotion, many contradictory. For example, overwhelm and acceptance. Some expected, like “angry, worried, frustrated.” Some were perhaps not expected, but more relatable: “joyful, playful, interested.” Yet others were more unexpected and those were the words Bill wanted to go with. They were not what he thought he might feel if he had cancer and therefore more complex to understand. I liked that this deeply empathetic man wanted to go deeper into the nuances of emotions cancer has brought up for me.
The set was constructed in my studio, using the space like it’s never been used before. Both Bill and videographer Dan Sadowsky came in with props three hours prior to the shoot to set the stage and create the perfect lighting. A heavy desk and several lamps where brought up the red door freight elevator and rolled across the long wooden floors into the studio to design this set. Since Bill would be shooting into a mirror to get my reflection what was behind him mattered and would be in the shots. His positioning, to stay out of the image, as well as a second set and lighting behind him, was important. Technically, this was a difficult shoot. Bill’s forethought and preparation as well as the assistance of Dan, Lily and my mother, helped bring all the abstract details together.
Whereas many of the other Finding Beauty in Cancer shoots have been “pretty” fantasy style concepts, Bill wanted his shoot to be darker. I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of showing this side at first, but then realized that by being more vulnerable with all of my emotions someone else might be helped in their process or in understanding what a loved one is going through. Cancer has been a bit of all emotions for me. I don’t want to deny the fact that I feel afraid and in despair, yet I try not to stay in those places longer than I need to. I try to move through them to a place that is more beneficial to me. I want to be happy most of the time, but I feel all of it regardless of what I want. Knowing that I will transition from the darker emotions, that “this too shall pass,” helps me keep moving forward.