If you don't look at the Boston Globe's The Big Picture already, you should. Daily. Alan Taylor posts LARGE photos with a central theme, usually a current event, and the blog gets 400,000 to 800,00 hits daily. With media transferring energies into the web, it's nice to see photos displayed big, for a change.
I was excited to get an email from Alan a couple days ago requesting to use some images from a photo story I did on Diana Floyd, during her bout with Wilm's tumor, a pediatric kidney cancer, in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I'm thrilled for this story to get exposure because I worked on it with that purpose in mind for Children's Chance, a South Carolina group that raises money to help family's of pediatric cancer patients.
This was my first outside-of-college, real dive-in-to documentary project and in a lot of ways I think it is my most successful. I witnessed such true moments between the whirlwinds of chaos I found in her family's small trailer.
The second time I met Diana was at the hospital for a chemotherapy session. She was nervous about the chemo and I was nervous about figuring out her family's limits with me. In the small room, Diana sat on an exam table and her father asked, "You're gonna be brave, right?" Diana replied with "Right" and they put their foreheads together. I took the photo feeling as if I'd stolen something from their bond and the intimacy of the moment, yet I was amazed that they didn't even question my action, they didn't stop and look up.
I was talking to David about my favorite photo I've ever taken (and lemme tell you, I have a lead shutter finger, so there must be hundreds of thousands) and I think it's the image (below) of Diana looking in the mirror for the first time right when her hair started falling out. Her mother had brushed it as Diana watched cartoons, putting the clumps of her thick ebony hair into a sandwich bag. Then Diana got up and ran to the bathroom. With her baby sister Rebecca watching, she said matter-of-factly to her reflection "Yep, I'm already bald. You can see my skull," and with that ran back into the living room and danced to a country song. Witnessing 5-year-old Diana's innocent and incredibly brave process of coping with cancer was such a blessing.
After doing only two rather brief documentary stories (rather than essays) since, I've come to understand much better how incredibly important and rare it is for your subjects to really give you true, unlimited access to their lives. It's a bold gift to give a photographer and the viewers of the images.
and we are so very grateful.
Good news, by the way: I'd slipped out of contact with the Floyds after Diana had her chemo port removed. I no longer had a way of contacting the family and as time passed I figured I would never talk to them. Out of the blue, over a year since our last encounter, Diana's mother called me two weeks ago to check-in. She told me Diana has thick hair and is in school. Cancer-free.