Capturing Life After Cancer

by Anna Forbes, Head of Art

A chance email from a teacher at St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School in Oakville, Ontario brought to my attention the organization PhotoSensitive, which uses the medium of photography to draw attention to major issues, using the work of both professionals and high school students. They were soliciting submissions on the 2010 topic which was Cancer Connections.

I relayed the information to the student body at large and we had several responses, but students were somewhat concerned as to how they would tackle such a sensitive issue. The idea we had been given from the organization was that students would have a connection with someone who had, or was still suffering from, cancer, and take photos of the person or of artifacts connected with the disease or its treatment. One or two staff members who have had experience dealing with this disease came forward and with the invaluable help of Roslyn van der Wal (SMUS parent and service co-ordinator), we made the connections. One student was able to use a close relative for her photography, but the others interviewed one of our teachers, Mr. Douglas Manson-Blair, who very graciously allowed his name and personal details to be used for the project.

The four students involved were Kaylynn Purdy, Maryann Watson, Min Ha Kim and Alicia Pawluk, all in Grade 12. They submitted their photos to the website, and eventually we heard that three of the four had had their work chosen to be featured in the National Exhibition which started out in Vancouver and is at present travelling across the country. We were also invited to the opening but sadly, school commitments prevented us from attending. This project was quite low key, but for the students who took part, it proved enormously enlightening and I would like more of them to be involved in next year’s initiative.

The stunning work of all four students can be seen on the project website.

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