“Nusha Loubser” ~ Photographed by Tracey Derrick
50 years old, | Hairdresser | Vredenberg
Diagnosed: 1st November 2005 – mastectomy, chemotherapy and tamoxifen for five years.
“The worst was losing my hair and being so tired, yet we believe all things are possible like the Word of God reminds us in the Bible.”
“Cassiem Rayghanah” ~ by Tracey Derrick
50 years old | Liaison specialist | Heideveld
Diagnosed: 5th August 2005 – lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation & tamoxifen for five years.
Second diagnosis: 15th June 2009 – cancer lesion in breastbone. Radiation, chemotherapy and femara estrogen suppression. Liaison specialist. Heideveld.
Member of amaBele Belles breast cancer dragon boat rowing team!
“We like to think of ourselves as a floating support group because we’re fighting a communal battle with dignity and commitment.” 2009
From Tracey’s 1 in 9 seminar paper, continued from yesterday’s post:
“I agree with his [Richard Avedon] sentiments but it is also about directing the photographic situation and the challenge is still to try and capture a moment, the communication between myself – the photographer – and the subject. As Kuhn says, “The face stands in for the person’s whole being, the subject’s essential humanity is seen as inhabiting the face, the ‘window of the soul’.” (1994:37).
Photographs function in constructing and encouraging particular ways of viewing and telling about the world. The photographs of breast cancer survivors – Alicia and Suzanne (above), Cassiem and Siona (not shown) – are woman that I have met during my breast cancer process. My projects have always developed over a period of time, influenced by the people that I have met along the way and interacted with. These photographs reflect in part my relationship with them.”
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT THE AMABELE BELLES!
Friend them on Facebook here!
TITLE: “Hang on? – come unstuck, detach, unfasten, free. Why reconstruct, whose ideals?” 2009
This particular photography by Tracey Derrick simply refused to fit into our graphic designer’s template – so it was decided the photograph would be most powerfully appreciated shown – purely – on its own.
How do you feel looking at this image?
How does it resonate with your own experience of mastectomy and the decision to opt for either reconstruction, prostheses or go completely breast-free?
Within the South African public health space, the bare minimum of breast cancer treatment options are very often not even managed – so how do our public health survivors navigate their post-mastectomy recovery where even one breast prosthesis costs R700?
Reach For Recovery is “a breast cancer support organisation with a unique focus on breast cancer support and one of the only organisations that provide a patient support service on a national basis. It is built on a simple yet universal principle: that of one woman who has experienced breast cancer herself giving freely of her time and experience to assist and support another woman with breast cancer.
Well-selected and trained volunteers, who each have experienced the breast cancer journey, render an emotional care and practical support programme to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and their families.”
The Ditto Project aims “to help these women who come from very low income groups to feel confident again after the traumatic diagnoses and surgery through our Ditto Project… and aim to assist them with a silicone breast prosthesis.”
For SUPPORT: get in touch with Reach For Recovery by clicking here!
To VOLUNTEER, click here!
To help support The Ditto Project, click here!
“My treatment on chemotherapy drugs was called CAF, a common cocktail for breast cancer. The regime combines cyclosphosphamide, doxorubican (andriamycin) and fluorouracil. Adriamycin is one of the most toxic chemotherapy agents available, notorious for its drastic side effects. It is a fluorescent red and when one sees the fluid flowing into one’s veins, nausea begins and a feeling of helplessness takes over – the body produces a violent reaction and fights it.
Nausea becomes a way of life, also vomiting and extreme fatigue.” ~ Tracey Derrick
READ MORE ABOUT THE WHAT, WHY & SIDE-EFFECTS OF CAF HERE
TAKEAWAY: Listen in to ABC’s Project Manager, Salome Meyer, chat with Kfm about why she’s determined to make her fight against breast cancer count!!
Click here to tune in!
“As Jo Spence stated in Cultural Sniping, “It is not easy to make your journey through trauma and disease the subject of your own camera. I am literally putting my trauma on the wall. It isn’t an interpretation: it’s the trauma itself or an extension of it.” (1995:139-214).
The photographs are a mediated rendition of the event and through photographing and editing, the photographs have two dimensions – having the trauma and then photographing it. Consciously working with my trauma through photographs and exploring depictions of the body has helped the trauma to become real and acceptable.
Photographs often imaged Hannah Wilke naked, and as she happened to be accepted by the media ‘norm’ as beautiful, she was constantly accused of narcissism by critics. Yet, it is the critics and the media who had put her looks on a pedestal. She exposed a truth, which is like nudity, uncovering the raw experience, and this is our site of original subjectivity.
What I share with her work ultimately is a celebration of the body as opposed to a commiseration of suffering or abjection. We both seek to empower ourselves and others by laying bare the truths of disease.” ~ Tracey Derrick
“BELIAL”: from the Hebrew meaning ‘fallen angel’ and without + usefulness
“In one half of the project, I have photographed myself, changing my role from photographer to subject. I was no longer in a comfortable position behind the camera observing others but was now the subject of my investigation. This has felt like putting myself into a certain relationship with the world that feels like taking some control, even though I do find it uncomfortable.
Sontag* talks about the fact that with the invention of the camera the public have come to accept photographs as vivid witnesses to ‘reality’ and how photographs transform, make the image beautiful, terrible, unbearable – as it is not in real life. Are they thus an illusion? Photographs are evidence not only of what’s out there but of what an individual sees, not just as a record but an evaluation of the world (2003:76).
Growing up, we learn to think of our bodies mainly in terms of how we look (men and women), which is enforced by the media around us, for example, photographs, films, TV, magazines and billboards. These photographs objectify, turn an event or person into something that can be possessed, something viewed as a transparent account of reality.
Yet all these images fail to reflect the tremendous diversity among us. Profitable businesses are set up to convince us that we don’t look good enough and to play on our insecurities and fears of imperfection. The media define ‘looking good’ so narrowly that few of us ever feel that we have made it. Women who do not ‘fit’ the image experience negative judgments, which in subtle ways make it hard for nearly every woman in our society to love and accept herself as she is.
When I was a matric pupil (1979), I was ‘plucked’ from the street by Gavin Sorger, a make-up artist, who worked with fashion photographer Gavin Furlonger at the time. Sorger prepared my hair and made me up ready for a photographic shoot. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking that I looked like a clown. This was the beginning of a three-year relationship with the advertising media world. Practically, it was a job and was separate from the rest of my life. It paid for my university, my flat and my first Beetle – it gave me independence. However, it had at that time and until more recently subtle ramifications in my life…”
*Read more about Susan Sontag’s Illness As Metaphor here!
Continuing the thread of thought from Tracey’s seminar paperwe quoted yesterday, read about photo therapy/therapeutic photography and how Tracey made it work for her!
Spence uses the term ‘photo therapy’, which she explains is using photography to heal ourselves. It is about transformations and change and thus challenges the fixity of the photographic image and the search for an ideal self.
Spence and Martin use a kind of internal permission giving: permission to change, to re-view, to let go, to move on.
“Ways in which I have used the camera therefore include taking naturalistic photographs as things happen to me and around me; staging things especially for the camera; using old personal photographs and re-inventing what they mean. The whole technique depends upon expecting photographs to help us to ask questions, rather than supplying answers”.
This helped her with breast cancer and she says, “As a result I see myself neither as a ‘heroine’ or ‘victim’, but merely as a person in a struggle, changing and adjusting daily, and trying to keep a state of equilibrium which will allow me to function optimally, at the same time as I strive to regain health”. 4
“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.”
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The exhibition catalogue for Tracey Derrick’s 1 in 9 project begins with these words:
“One in nine women contract breast cancer in South Africa. This statistic takes
into account the high prevalence of HIV and TB.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2008 and this project was undertaken
in response to my illness, its treatment and my survival. I am ‘one in nine’ and
as the active subject of my own investigation, it helped me understand my own
condition and integrate it into my life.”
How do you feel about photographs of yourself taken before your diagnosis?
Amidst October’s frantic flurry of *P I N K* in all its well-intentioned glory, we’ve instead chosen to unleash the provocative power of portraiture to get all sorts of balls rolling — whether in the arena of self-therapy or advocacy & awareness!
Selfies aside, the digital era is perfectly poised to make self-portraiture accessible to anyone with a phone — empowering us to make art from our lives, stripping away the need for formal fine art training or an expensive camera!
Check out Australia’s The SCAR Project here! What do YOU think a South African version would look like — and would you participate?
The Self Portrait, a Powerful Tool for Self-Therapy*
“Facing the camera lens and releasing the shutter immediately takes us to our first essential process of the definition of the self: the recognition of our image in the mirror.
By objectifying our ‘dark side’ in a photograph, we can separate ourselves from what we dislike and open up a space for catharsis or renewal.
During a self-portrait session we can start a dialogue between our thinking mind and our ‘gut’ to draw from an inexhaustible source of meanings, which must be expressed. The self-portrait can be incredibly empowering.
By forcing us into the Now, it can help us perceive and express our essential humanity in a photograph. The decision to represent oneself can provide what is termed here a ‘state of grace’: the feeling of centeredness that occurs in moments of creative work in which the emotions are naturally retained because our higher self is in command.”
APERTURES & ADVOCACY!
Additionally, self-portraiture holds incredible power to transform entire societies — making it an extremely effective breast cancer advocacy tool!
“The outcome implies that a reflective practice of self-portraiture focused on imagination is a valuable method of assessing the present and past, FREEing one up to reclaim a desired future, which is a powerful tool that can promote transformation in our society.” ~ Luciana Vasques Barbosa
(*wink* Yes! We have something up our advocacy-sleeve! Are you keen to know what it could be?)
*~ by Cristina Nuñez : European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling Volume 11, 2009 – Issue 1 | Phototheraphy and Therapeutic Photography
Our one blogger, Lisa wrote:
I was supposed to write a post for today about diagnosis – and how it affects our partners… And though I discovered many incredibly useful articles and began jotting down key points for today’s post, I stumbled upon this video of a man telling the love story of him and his wife, and how her breast cancer diagnosis changed their lives… As I type, (tears; I try to blink them away before anyone walks into my office) I have decided to abandon the very practical blog post I’d mapped out and rather post it tomorrow — because right now, this man’s story will give you so much more than my blog post ever could.
TAKEAWAY: (Maybe worth sharing with your loved ones?) Read Angelo’s blog: The Battle We Didn’t Choose and see how he photographed their cancer journey. He says: ‘I created to suvive.’