This week I had the opportunity to share my story in a new way on Narrativel.ly, focusing on my personal perspective about this experience, and that of my siblings, over these last few years. You can read the piece here: Putting My Camera Down, and Finally Mourning My Parents
Cancer Family is the story of family, looking at the experiences of two parents who were in parallel treatment for stage-four cancer, side by side. The project looks at love, life, and living in the face of death. It honors their memory by focusing on their strength and compassion, both individually and together, and shares the story of their final chapters, which came to a close just 364 days after each other.
The initial photographs in this story were made out of necessity. I was often at the hospital helping my parents, and knew that I needed some kind of distance from the reality of the situation. Here were both of my parents, hooked up to beeping machines, with poison coursing through their veins for hours. I was terrified. Being a photographer, my camera was the obvious tool with which I created a space where I could be present but also protect myself.
I realized very quickly, however, that the story I was seeing unfold was not just about illness. It was much more than that—it was about getting the most out of the days we had left, as a family, and about my recording of this beautiful and complicated time we spent together. I hoped to capture the essence of who they were, the lives they lived, and the lessons we learned in the process.
If the Kickstarter campaign is successful, this project will be developed into a beautiful book of photographs, journals, found items, and personal anecdotes. There will also be a traveling exhibition to follow. It will tell the story of my parents’ journeys through their illnesses. It will also look back on their lives before they were sick, from the moment they met to life with kids and finishing with their final chapters. They did not want to be defined by their diseases; they were many things other than cancer patients.
If we surpass our goal, this will allow for extra copies of the book to be printed and donated to schools, support groups, and hospitals. The book will be used as a tool, and as an example of comfort, community, and strength for those experiencing illness or loss.
If you have suggestions regarding groups, hospitals, schools, and other organizations we should connect with, please email CancerFamilyProject@gmail.com.
Example layouts from the book:
“For my three angels- Courage isn’t the absence of fear, its knowing that you are afraid and doing it anyway. Don’t spend your days avoiding risk and being fearful. Act, live your life on your own terms. Life is precious—spend it without regrets in your precious voice. IF you want to talk or feel my love, look up in the night sky- I am always watching over you.”- Mom
We found these words scribbled on small, square Post-It notes in the depths of our parents’ room as we begin the exhausting process of clearing out the house. Mom had only died two months earlier, but we knew that if we didn’t start the process, we might never finish it. Dad had died a year earlier, also of cancer, and one of mom’s greatest fears was that she would die before having a chance to share with us, her three kids, how much she truly loved us.
Selected Awards and Exhibitions
- 2016 World Press Photo: 2nd Place Winner in the Long Term Projects Category with upcoming exhibitions in Amsterdam, France, and Spain.
- The Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture: Winner, presented by PDN, Maine Media Workshops and ASMP.
- Visura + National Geographic Proof Contest: Winner of the Assignment contest, "The Story Behind The Photographs."
- NPPA Best of Photojournalism: Honorable Mention, Contemporary Issues Story
- Eddie Adams Workshop Award: Innovation in Visual Storytelling by Storehouse
- Emerging Photographer Magazine: Winner
- New York Photo Festival: Photo World Winner
- Lens Culture: Top 5 Emerging Talent
- Best of ASMP 2014: Winning photographer
- Visa Pour L’Image: Exhibitor, France
- Photoville: Exhibitor, USA
- International Photo Festival Leiden: Exhibitor, Holland
- International Center of Photography Take Ten: Exhibitor and Curator, USA
- Guate Photo Festival: Exhibitor, Guatemala
- Norrlandsdagarna Festival, Speaker, Sweden.
- Shots and Works at Look 3: Projection, Virginia
- Angkor Wat Photo Festival: Projection, Cambodia
- Oberstdorfer Fotogipfel Photo Festival: Exhibitor, Germany.
The New York Times:
- Cancer Family: Documenting Life Before Death
- In Sickness and In Health: A Wedding in the Shadow of Cancer
- Side by Side, Battling Cancer and Sending Off the Bride
- Life, and Death, with Cancer
- A Mother’s Illness, A Daughter’s Duty
National Geographic Proof:
Daily Mail UK:
- Daughter’s touching photographs chronicle her parents’ joint battle with cancer and the poignant moment they walked her down the aisle on her wedding day
- A Photographer’s Intimate Account of her Mother’s Cancer Ordeal
- Lightbox Photojournalism Links July 2014
The story also ran in the print editions of Stern Magazine (Germany), Newsweek (Japan), Photo District News (USA), Le Monde (France) and XLSemanal (Spain) and is soon to run in Sweden.
For the $100 or more rewards, please choose an image below for your print. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Nancy at CancerFamilyProject@gmail.com.
1. His and Hers
2. The Embrace
3. The Getaway
Risks and challenges
Unfortunately in today’s publishing environment, a photography book can be a risk. As a result, the current reality is that I will need to pay for the book to be designed and published, so if we meet our pledge, things should go smoothly. There is always the possibility of delays, but we will do our best to keep things moving, and keep you updated!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (49 days)