Friday, 18 September 2009

A Visual Record

My friend Issy is a talented photographer. She offered to take some photographs of me to document my Chemo Chic journey.

I know that this is an important thing to do. I know that in a few years or even months I will kick myself if I don’t have a record to look back at. I assume that I will always remember everything about an event that is as significant and traumatic as breast cancer. But I have started to forget details already. Nonetheless I haven't attempted to make any kind of visual record of this time. I don’t have any photographs of me with a bob, nor of Kell Skott’s amazing short haircut. Those moments are lost forever. I can describe them but I can’t show you, or my friends or even remind myself. I don’t know why I haven’t been taking photographs. Maybe I feel that breast cancer is somehow ‘inappropriate’ subject matter for a photo album. It’s hardly a wedding. More than that, I’m probably afraid that the photographs will be just too confronting for me to look at. And too revealing for me to happily show to others. And too upsetting for others to see.

But I’m aware that if I don’t take any photographs I will regret it in the future. So I said “yes please” to Issy and today is the day.

Issy is a very sweet and unobtrusive person. I’m sure that being kind and empathetic is some kind of trick that photographers use to put their subjects at ease. Well it isn’t fooling me. I’m as wooden as a plank and as wary as a cat. Poor Issy, it must be wearisome having to study my neuroses close-up through a viewfinder. She is incredibly patient. Not only have I stiffened up, I’m talking non-stop in some kind of automatic stream-of-consciousness deflection strategy. I know as well as she does how difficult it is to get a good photo of someone when they are talking.

Issy does her best and gets a few frames of each of the different Chemo Chic looks that I have put together. Eventually we’ve pretty much covered all the permutations of wigs, scarves and hats. “Would you like to do some just as you are?” asks Issy. “No!” I gasp. “I mean maybe,” and then after a moment, “Yes.”