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Facing Chemo: A traveling gallery show of larger than life portraits with a corresponding fine art photography book.
116 backers pledged $22,289 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$22,289

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Facing Chemo is a project that began with this photograph of a woman about to undergo a bone marrow transplant. The shoot was extremely moving, for both of us, chronicling her fight with cancer, while creating images that could serve to put a face on the experience itself.  The project has now grown to include close to twenty portraits, with plans to photograph another ten to twenty people - women, men and children. 

Facing Chemo :: award winning photograph selected by Communication Arts
Facing Chemo :: award winning photograph selected by Communication Arts

This photographic project explores the emotions present in people as they are undergoing chemotherapy. Chemo treatment targets cells within the body, yet the outward effects play a simultaneous role in the way people both view themselves and are viewed by the world. 

As someone who has spent over twenty years specializing in portraiture, I am overwhelmed at the power and emotion present in the faces of these individuals, unadorned by hair and day to day accoutrements. It's that intensity, that uninhibited presence that I am aiming to present with this project. In essence - putting a face on the effects of chemo - and revealing in that - the raw beauty, strength, fear and resolve these subjects have embraced.

So why Kickstarter?

My goal is to present these photographs in an extremely powerful format, printed larger than life, in both gallery settings and cancer centers throughout the country for others to experience. In addition to the printed pieces, the show will include a series of video excerpts revealing the subjects discussing their experiences. A gallery has been reserved and the initial opening is set for September 20, 2013.  In addition to the show, I will be custom designing a hard cover fine art book which will incorporate even more photos, as well as excerpts from the studio sessions with these individuals. 

A project of this magnitude comes with a cost.  Up to this point I have donated all of my time and the studio's time and resources to developing Facing Chemo, and I am committed to seeing it through.  Printing costs for the show, however, are beyond my reach, as is the cost to print what will be a beautiful photography book.  Funds raised will go to cover the costs of printing the two dozen large format prints, framing, professional retouching, transport, insurance and site booking, art book production and marketing for the events.  These costs, an estimated $22,000, represent a mere fraction of the total as so many people involved with this project have donated their time to make it happen.

Please help support Facing Chemo on any level that you can.  Help to bring the impact of this project to others who could benefit from experiencing it first hand.  Contribute in honor of a loved one, a friend, or yourself, and make these people's journey with chemo an even greater inspiration to others.  And in the process, please share the project with friends, family members and colleagues who you think would be interested in learning about it.

Here's what people are already saying about the project: 

"thanks to your project, it was so much easier for me to take my hair off yesterday...thank you."

"it's a long journey... but ultimately you find out how strong you really are."

"I think what you are doing is phenomenal; thank you for taking the time to help these people think about what it is they feel most at that moment.  I too am going through chemotherapy."

"Stunning work."

"beautiful... strong... heroic... inspirational. thank you."

As this project continually evolves, I am more and more invested in telling the stories of these amazing people.  While they all hold the common thread of 'facing chemo', each one of them is unique in their setting, their diagnosis, how they are coping with this challenge in their lives, and how they choose to outwardly express themselves.  Not one of them wishes to be defined by chemo, the disease or the hair loss, and this is evident in the photographs whether they've pushed their true emotions to the fore, or made the effort to hide them.  If you, or someone you know, is interested in participating in Facing Chemo, please contact the studio: katie@roberthouser.com.

About Me

I've been a professional portrait photographer for over twenty years, shooting worldwide on location for advertising, editorial, corporate and pro bono clients.  My work has been featured in such magazines as Wired, Forbes, CFO, Barron's, Business Week, Outside Magazine and WebMD.  My client list is long and varied, including names like PG&E, Visa, Yahoo, MobiTV, Genentech, BioMarin Pharmaceuticals, Safeway, Sanofi, Bell Sports, BioRad and Title9.  I shoot people, whether it's a model for an advertisement or magazine cover, or the head of a Stanford Medical Division. For me it's about making connections, being acutely aware of the details and common threads that allow me to create ease for my subjects. It's about building a level of trust, getting them to open up to the idea of the photograph, and then capturing the essence of the personality.  I have photographed everyone from the toughest of subjects like Milton Friedman, celebrities like Steve Jobs, athletes and models to the youngest of rare disease patients.  However, this experience, Facing Chemo, has been unlike any other.

It’s been fascinating to witness the change in persona in the brief time we spend together, for example, when a person removes their head scarf for the camera. For some, that simple covering provides a level of comfort and security that, when removed, can immediately go with it.  One can almost read the thoughts, the purist of emotions that surface on a chemo patient's face. This dramatic change is like nothing I've witnessed in all of my years photographing and studying faces. Does it overshadow or detract from the cancer itself, to only view the effects of the drugs used to treat it? For me, these portraits serve as windows into the inner thoughts, concerns, hopes and wishes, of those undergoing this treatment. The emotional engagement that occurs while photographing these images is remarkable and it's that experience that I want others to feel. This project is meant to look beyond the disease, with it’s daunting and clinical attributes, and take aim at the human, emotional, real time presence of each individual subject. 

Risks and challenges

I have photographed over half the people we will photograph for this project. Each month we have been able to add 4-6 new people, and I feel confident that we will be ready to begin printing this project over the summer in time for the September show date. As another level of precaution we will be printing and framing additional images for the show - this will enable it to travel to more than one location after the initial opening, and it will also protect us from, um, dropping one at the gallery.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    You will receive a printed 4x6 postcard from the photographer thanking you for your contribution, regular updates on the project, and an invitation to the show's opening reception in September 2013.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    You will receive a personalized handwritten thank you on a professionally printed, 5x7 card featuring an image from the show; recognition on the FACING CHEMO website; regular updates and an invitation to the show's opening reception in September 2013.

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $55 or more About $55

    You will receive everything in the $25 level above, PLUS the FACING CHEMO e-Book emailed directly to you in either ePub or PDF format.

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    Pledge $95 or more About $95

    You will receive everything in the $55 level above, PLUS formal acknowledgement as a supporter in the FACING CHEMO Book OR the option to list a name on the book's DEDICATION page. (Note: this level will receive a copy of the e-Book version).

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    Pledge $225 or more About $225

    You will receive everything listed in the $95 level above, as well as a copy of the HARDCOVER, 60 page, 13x11 custom printed BOOK - FACING CHEMO, signed by the photographer as requested.

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    Pledge $595 or more About $595

    You will receive everything listed in the $225 level above, PLUS an 8x10 fine art PRINT matted in 8 ply 16x20 museum board. Select image from: http://roberthouser.com/kickstarter/1/

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    Pledge $1,600 or more About $1,600

    You will receive everything listed in the $595 level above PLUS a 90 minute Family Portrait Session with the photographer, including resulting images on disk - worth $1,200 alone! (Agreed upon date and location w/in 50 miles of San Francisco)

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    Pledge $4,500 or more About $4,500

    You will receive everything listed in the $595 level above, and instead of a 90 minute session, you will receive a 3.5 hour Photography Session with the photographer, with resulting images on disk, as well as three professionally retouched high resolution final images of your choosing. (Agreed upon date and location w/in 50 miles of San Francisco; or additional travel expenses to be paid by backer).

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    Be THE PATRON supporter of this project. You will receive everything listed at the $595 level, special recognition in the book AND at the opening, PLUS a coveted "DAY in the LIFE" of Photography Session with the photographer and his assistant. This level will receive up to a 6 hour Family Photo Session, a disk with all resulting images, five professionally retouched high resolution final images of your choosing AND a custom designed hardcover photo book documenting the day. (Agreed upon date and location w/in 50 miles of San Francisco; or additional travel expenses to be paid by backer).

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Funding period

- (30 days)