A Privileged Portrait

One of the cherished aspects of photography is when a client gives you permission to document a traumatic, personal and harrowing moment.  DSC_2588

Such a opportunity has been given to me in recent months.  Susan Leway is an artist, a mum and a photographer; ooh, and she has had a brush with cancer!

Susan posed for me way, way back in the 1980’s for an Exhibition Anonymous Torsos.  This was shown at Imagery Gallery run by mother and son co-directors Ruby and Doug Spowart.

When Susan approached me late last year to document her medical crisis I was of two minds.  I had had experience with the commerIDP537_aa_bb-2cial coverage of medical insurance claim photographs, and worked in a number of hospitals recording operating theaters and assorted pieces of large equipment, but to deliberately, and with an art intent, record the damage wrought by chemotherapy and radiology was a totally different story.  I had my own, wasted, opportunity to document a personal moment lying on an operating table, my body containing two Valium tablets, and a Cardiologist inserting a catheter into my heart; and thinking that a 20mm lens over my right shoulder would record my cold shivering naked body, the surgeon and the television screen showing my beating heart.  BUT, no I didn’t take my camera with me!_DSC0957_BW_aa

As Susan and talked through her need to have this traumatic process documented as a cleansing process, it dawned on me that a before and a here and now reproduction of the original Anonymous Torso was possibly another way of marking the moment.  Susan bravely agreed.  Maybe the time had come for me to make a very small statement about my photography,  but a very large statement about Susan’s courage in confronting her demons via the use of photography.  Such moments are gifted by understanding clients – Oh that there were many more of them.

The original pose didn’t record the damage done to Susan’s body, so a series of other shots were taken to serve as illustrations for her surgeon as well as for her personal record.

We photographers sometimes forget that some of our skill is only realised when a client gifts us an opportunity.  The collaboration between subject and photographer is as great as our understanding of light, and process, and technical skill.

Thank you Susan Leway.

5 thoughts on “A Privileged Portrait

  1. Thank you Ian, you have proven to me that Great photographs do require not only Great subjects to be captured by Great photographers – but truly GREAT stories sometimes need words as well, not just captions, but words that are strung together that are reflective and from-the-heart.
    Cheers Doug


  2. Susan has been a model for me as well and I remember her beautiful long black hair. But your current portrait of her with no hair is even more beautiful than mine.


  3. Wow Ian. What a privilege that Susan has trusted you with her personal request. Your photographs are truly sensitive and respectful.

    Well done my friend.


    Sent from my iPhone


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