You know what I love to do? Meet over a cup of tea. Meet friends, family, clients, colleagues . . . meet and drink a big steaming cup of tea. So can you guess what I just did? 🙂
This morning at the local Starbucks here in the west end of Ottawa, I was lucky enough to meet, chat and drink tea (though I think she had a latte; for sure caramel was involved) with photographer Lou Truss. Lou is a professional photographer who, along with travelling the world and raising a family, has captured a wide range of issues and conversations through her lens. She snaps documentary pics, weddings, campaigns, and causes.
Anyhow, a little while ago there was some buzz in the ‘young women who’ve had breast cancer and live in Ottawa’ community, (You might think that sounds ridiculous, but we’re here and there are far too many of us.) where Katie of Lovely Katie Lumps was telling us about this photography project that was going to raise awareness about breast cancer in young women. And it got me wondering, ‘who is this woman who wants to show our story and raise awareness – and why should we pay attention to her exhibit amongst the plethora of cancer-awareness raising activities?’ Which sounds harsh, but I think is also fair to ask.
I wasn’t sceptical about her intentions being genuine, but part of me was nevertheless uncertain in general. I put off joining the project – getting distracted by job stuff and travel stuff and other work stuff. Eventually the exhibit slipped my mind, until about a month ago when the first photographs were released on Facebook and Twitter.
TRUE: I know several of the ladies in these pictures. So yeah, I’m a little biased in my approval. But also TRUE is that in seeing the photographs released to the public to build attention for the exhibit, I was fixated by their beauty, by their approach, by how these women (my peers in the Y.W.W.H.B.C.A.L.I.O community*) were choosing to represent their stories of dealing with cancer.
Lou doesn’t bother writing long captions and explanations. The photographs – stark in their black and whites – tell their own stories. These women whom I’ve known, talked to, found support from, suddenly seemed different. Even within the cancer community we so often wear our ‘brave’ faces for one another, you can forget that each person’s experience is unique. . . and when we’re asked to represent those stories, those unique experiences manifest very differently depending on the person.
Therefore, impressed by the sneak peek, I clicked the Facebook icon that said “attending” to the event.
And then I received an email from Lou – inviting me to meet for tea (What? Did she know my weakness for coffee houses?) and to model for this exhibit. So today, just a couple hours ago, we met and chatted for a while, swapping stories about cancer, about England, about health care, about immigration, etc.
Lou lost her father to cancer. It was very, very quick. She’s had friends diagnosed with cancer too– she has friends right now (yeah, that’s plural) who are going through chemotherapy. Cancer, once arriving on the scene, has reappeared far too frequently in her life. “We’re fragile,” she said to me at some point half-way through our drinks. But of course, when we’re younger we don’t realize that do we? Many young women don’t check their breasts routinely – most people don’t expect to get sick.
And nor should they. I’m not suggesting we live in fear. But to have an awareness that translates into a practical ‘good health’ routine, a proactive approach toward your body – that can save your life. It sure as heck saved mine.
So yes, raising awareness is a very good thing. And yes, not draping the stories in ribbons or colours or copywriting is a very good choice. Let each person tell their own journey – and Lou will capture their fragility and their strength through her camera.
Actually, it sounds pretty great; with the best thing being how genuinely she wants to make a difference. This Saturday my own story gets captured by Lou’s camera, and then there’s the exhibit on September 14th right here in Ottawa. If you’re in the area, please come by and check it out – it’s well worth seeing and meeting the women behind the images. It’ll be a Friday night with impact.
See you there!
Friday, September 14th, 2012 from 7:30-10pm at Ottawa Studio Works which is 160 Preston St. – between Gladstone and Somerset. Funds will be raised for “Young Adult Cancer Canada.” It’s FREE to get in, though donations to YACC are happily accepted. Also!! The Photographs will be for sale in raising funds.
*P.S. I’m just joking. We do NOT call ourselves by that name, or any name at all.