I made these photos recently, portraits of my sister and my brother-in-law. They've been through a pretty heavy stretch of life lately, with Kent on orders to deploy to Afghanistan for a year, when Amanda discovered that she has a cancerous growth on her tongue. Long story short, the Army let Kent out of his deployment to stay home and take care of Amanda, and found him a job in San Diego working with the Navy. Amanda has been undergoing some more naturopathic, non-invasive types of treatments, and doing a lot of her own research to find a way to fight this that will be the most harmonious with the increasingly fragile immune system she has. All of these factors combined to put them in a strange place where new developments were at turns ambiguous, scary, a relief, or a nuisance, with still no solid prognosis yet as to how long the ride will last, or where it is heading.
For this project, I wanted to document this stage of their lives with a simple approach, and above all, an honest approach. I told them specifically not to get dressed up, because in so much portraiture, we tend to put on our best clothes and biggest smiles, which often hides what's really going on. For these I simply wanted to capture their at-rest facial expressions, and for those that know them, I think these photographs show the pain they've experienced, and at the same time, their tenacity and determination, which ultimately comes from the hope they have. So many people would fall apart under these circumstances, and no one would blame them, because they're hard. I shot them with a softer focus look, lit them with softer shadows and printed them with a soft developer for a lighter, more charcoal kind of look, to emphasize the fleeting and ephemeral nature of not just our lives, but also our health. We have both of those things for such a short time, and then they're gone. There was no photoshopping of skin imperfections, you can see small light leaks from the old film holder I was using, but I love it, because it's real, and as I was hoping for, I think it communicates with honesty and authenticity who my sister and brother-in-law really are.
I shot this with an old Deardorff 8x10 camera, with nothing more than window light and a little light bounced into the shadows from an old piece of white foamcore. These are scans of the prints I made.