It is the day after the night before…when the UK shut down its restaurants, cafes, pubs and gyms as a measure against coronavirus (the other ‘c’ word), joining many countries across the globe. Phrases such as ‘unprecedented times’, ‘social-distancing’, and ‘self-isolating’ have become the norm, and we find ourselves all thrown into unexpected isolation and facing many new challenges relating to family, work and of course, our personal and collective health. For those with breast cancer (or any other serious illness), things are extra tough. You may be worrying about your immune system, or access to treatment, or to your support services and networks. Those of you in recovery may have had things you’ve been looking forward to, a holiday perhaps or even getting back to ‘normal’ at work, temporarily ripped away. Emotional well-being and mental health are something we all should be taking care of all of the time, but perhaps now more than ever.
The Breast Cancer Art Project has always been about promoting psychological and emotional wellbeing through the use of art and creativity. Luckily, it is something that is perfect for if you are stuck at home and on your own. You don’t even need art supplies to be creative (although on-line shopping can widen your choices). So, to help through this pandemic, we are presenting a set of challenges, with some associated tips, to get you tapping into your creative talent. For each challenge, you can – should you wish to – email me in your creation and I will pop it up on our website and social media pages. There’s no judgement (nothing is ‘not good enough’), no skill level requirement, it’s open to women and men, at any stage of diagnosis, any location, all free, and it’s also open to those indirectly affected by breast cancer (loved ones, medical professionals etc). The only criteria is that it should relate in some way to your breast cancer experience.
So, over the coming weeks and months, we will be here more than ever, encouraging and sharing creativity, to help support you through breast cancer (wherever you are in it), through these unusual and difficult times.
With love, as always,
1: The Photography Challenge
Our first challenge is something hopefully you all can do from the comfort of your home (or park, if you are allowed out): take a photo, or a collection of photos, that represents something of your breast cancer experience. Then, give the photo(s) a title.
Tip 1: You can choose unstaged or staged. If you look around your home and find something that speaks to you, and take a photo of it, this would be something that is unstaged. Perhaps it’s a plant a friend bought you during treatment that represents friendship through crisis. Maybe its a pill box. Maybe it’s a photo of yourself. A staged photo would be one where you deliberately arrange something. For example, maybe you fill a glass half with water- to represent a struggle with trying to see the glass half full, when actually often you feel it is half empty. Anything goes.
Tip 2: If you are finding it hard to get started, break down your breast cancer experience into possible categories to help focus the mind. They could be ‘relationships’, ‘well-being’, ‘diagnosis’, ‘change’, ‘uncertainty’, ‘hope’ … you can come up with your own, and then use them to help you choose what to photograph.
Tip 3: You don’t need to create one perfect photograph, just start taking some pics and then you can review them and reflect. Save them somewhere in their own folder and then give your favourite photos titles, helping to give them more meaning and weight. You could write down a few sentences about them too. The photos can be individual, or you could create a story or narrative through a series of photos (see here for an example). Or you can express one feeling or emotion with a collection of different photos. There’s no rules, and nobody but you has to see them if you don’t want.
Tip 4: You can always do some editing to your photos too. This could be simple cropping, but you could turn them black and white, or another colour (I made one photo red, reflecting blood), and some others I turned into negatives, such as my picture ‘Back to Front‘. You don’t need special software or skill – you can do quite a lot of editing just from your phone.
Tip 5: You can also look through photographs that you have already taken – these could be directly related to breast cancer, such as in the hospital, but could be something else entirely – and see if any of these can become part of a creative expression of your breast cancer experience.
If you want to share your photographs with us , just email Adriana at firstname.lastname@example.org – with the photo(s) attached along with titles, your country, and any additional information you’d like to include either about your photos or yourself (no deadline- you can submit whenever you want).