October 1, 2008

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I have the privilege of individually photographing 31 breast cancer survivors. The photos will run in the Chronicle as a(n almost) full page portrait every day in October. They trickle in every half hour two or three days of the week and I coax each woman, some whom are much more willing than others, to have fun with the camera and their prop.
When the photo department first heard of our last-minute responsibility for filling a page every day of this month, we all laughed at such a task and hoped we wouldn't be the photographer responsible for it. After sitting in for a test shot with Michael Holahan, a co-photographer, we played off each others' ideas and I decided the central theme should be much more simple than the suggestions we'd heard, and that I would use only one of several pink props we were given. A pink scarf.
I volunteered to do the portraits, excited to get more use out of the dreaded studio, and have only done less than one fourth by today. My brief encounters with these survivors is a gift. Some twirl the scarves, some peek out from it, some drape it across their chests.
My step-mother had breast cancer not long after my little sister was born. I wasn't old enough to truly grasp the fear and strength that comes with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. I was amazed to discover in conversations in the studio that of the seven women I've photographed so far, two have had two bouts with breast cancer. It's hard to imagine overcoming something so scary and trying and then having to do it once again.
I hope I make these women (and possibly men--haven't found one yet) proud.
At the end of October, I will share my favorites images.
(Towards the end of the month, I'm betting I'll be wracking my brain for ideas for what a person can do with a scarf. It should be interesting to see how desperate, er creative I get.)

And, in the meantime, this is the lovely Sarah Day Owen, an excellent features and teen writer at the paper, who kindly sat in while I fiddled with lights and poses.

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