This photo series focuses on my friend Megan, who, like myself, is challenged by chronic pain and fatigue. Our conditions forced us both to give up careers that had been central to our identities -- Megan was an emergency room nurse.
Megan suffers from many of the same conditions as I, and a few others, including Rheumatoid Arthritis, which has caused much swelling and deformation in her joints. We both cope with fibromyalgia and Sjogren's Syndrome.
Despite her health issues, Megan has been creating an amazing garden in a huge sloping yard she has at her home in Pittsford, New York. Megan isn’t a gardener...she’s an artist working outdoors in stone and plants. Like me, Megan has a bit of a problem with sleep. You may find her out working in her garden at three in the morning. She will be huffing and groaning with pain, but she will keep going. And little by little, the garden takes shape.
This series began as a project for a class in story telling with pictures at the Rochester (New York) Community Darkroom with photojournalist Will Yurman. I had met Megan a few months earlier as we were both participants in a warm water exercise therapy program called Ai Chi.
Megan and I began relating to each other in a more intimate way through this project. She was very self-conscious at first, worrying about how she would look. So I had her just go about her gardening while I took other images. Then I went back to her when she lost track of me. After a while, I downloaded the images onto my laptop and showed them to her. She was thrilled with them and immediately saw the value of what I was doing. It is healing — both for us, and for others who might see this work and know the story behind it. For Megan, gardening is a spiritual experience, a meditation, a way to connect to the life force within her and around her.
Like Megan’s garden, photography is a form of meditation for me, a means of coping with the stresses and anxieties of my life. As I learn to see the world through the camera lens, I find moments of peace and spiritual growth.
Phase I: Early images from this series were exhibited at Image City Photography in Rochester, New York, in August 2007. That exhibit was in part supported by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.
Phase II: Due to the sudden tragic death of my son-in-law in June, 2010, I uprooted myself from the 20-year-life I had grown to love in Rochester to join my daughter and my five grandchildren in Madison, Wisconsin. While I love the city of Madison, it meant starting over with my efforts to establish myself as a photographer in a new community. However, thanks to the Center for Photography at Madison (CPMAD) and all the various means it has for bringing photographers together, I have begun to connect again.
In April 2012 I will be the featured Photographer of the Month at The Center for Photography at Madison. In addition to giving a presentation about my work, I will have an exhibit of selected images. I have chosen to focus on the Megan's Garden series for the exhibit. There will be many new images not shown at Image City — about 14-16 images in 16x20 frames. I am seeking funding of $750 to help cover the cost of printing, matting and framing of those images.
The future: Phases III and IV
Any monies raised above and beyond the $750 will go toward Phases III and IV, and I will return to Kickstarter for assistance with these as well. Phase III will involve an update on Megan's Garden and her life. In 2010 Megan left her home in Pittsford for her father's home in Manhattan, where she is caring for him in his final years of Alzheimer's. In 2011, Megan also lost her mother to cancer. In addition to photographing Megan I will be interviewing her regarding how she copes with such difficult conditions and losses while still suffering her own physical pain and exhaustion.
Megan is also a wonderful photographer and I hope to incorporate some of her work into the final project. The ultimate goal is a larger exhibit, a printed book, and a multi-media extension of that book with voice, video, and digital still photos.
I ask for your support now for Phase II. The exhibit will help me to establish myself as a photographer in Madison, and that in turn will help me to complete the final phases of this project and many others I also have waiting in the wings.
Thank you all for your generosity and support.
- (45 days)