In the summer of 2017, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune condition that was connected to the one word nobody ever wants to hear: cancer. Following many scans and blood work, a splenectomy, a bone marrow biopsy, and chemotherapy, a year later, and my lymphoma is in remission. One of the things that helped me to cope with such a life-changing transition was photography — particularly self-portraiture — and thus Dwell came to fruition.
I began photography in my 30s, using friends as models in my earlier darkroom days. But gradually I turned to self-portraiture when I needed a human to fill in my landscapes. I found freedom in being storyteller, director, and model — I loved having complete control over the orchestration of my work — and I haven’t stopped since. Now self-portraiture has become second nature to me, a way to not only tell stories, but to document aging, and explore emotions through art.
Dwell developed organically, out of what I normally do with self-portraiture — except this time, I had the mother of all illnesses looming over the process. How do people with chronic illness create — or more importantly, move forward with life? I explore this in the Dwell project, which served as an escape from the fear and drudgery (yes, boring: waiting for test results, the extremely focused, rigid medical routines) of the cancer experience.
The photos were shot with a Polaroid Spectra on integral Spectra film, sometimes using an F101 Spectra motion filter to create a blur effect. The unpredictable nature of instant film mirrors the waxing and waning in cancer: Will the tumour shrink? How did this happen? When will I be “normal” again? Dwell is rooted in the physicality of the present, and the uncertainty of the future.
There is a middle ground between present and future, one where we float in the wings, waiting for answers. In the meantime, we create.