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!
When Susan approached me late last year to document her medical crisis I was of two minds. I had had experience with the commercial 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!
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.