When I was a kid, my brother and I would sit at the old law library book case that housed my dad’s medical text books, and ironically, now houses my daughter’s ashes. We would take turns finding the most disgusting photograph to gross out the other. Diseases of the eye, skin infections, massive wounds and burns. I couldn’t bare to look for more than a second before slamming the cover shut. Cold, graphic, ugly images.
Once, tucked between those medical journals, I grabbed for a book titled Diane Arbus. It was a book of black and white photographs. Portraits. Images I couldn’t put down. The photos were so strange. It was Portraits of people I didn’t really understand, the fringe of society, but the images were so beautiful. Captivating. That ugly beautiful has captured my being. I’ve long since carried a camera, seeking out the beauty that others might not choose to see.
There is that ugly beauty with cancer. Especially childhood cancer. I saw it up close and personal while watching my 2 year old fight for her life and then succumb to cancer. Pain and suffering entwined with innocence and trust and love. I snapped away as we sat through her treatment, praying that these images would be something that she could look back on to prove that once upon a time she had cancer. Those images now serve a much different purpose.
I came to know Shutterbugs after coming to know Jo Ann and Jeff, founders of The Pablove Foundation, because of the ugly beautiful we share. Shutterbugs is a gift to these children in the cancer community and a gift to their families. It’s a gift to the bigger community and the one beyond that. A camera can be a voice when it’s too hard to speak and that little box can hold a story that is too big to tell any other way. Shutterbugs is a collective visual voice for something most people don’t really understand, but can agree is utterly, painfully beautiful. A first person story that, as a cancer parent, I want everyone to know.
Jessica Whitt knows less about photography than she’d like, more about childhood cancer than she’d like and just enough about everything thing else to get by. She’s smitten with Pablove and honored to be a small and humble voice to spread the good word. You can find her in Colorado, camera in hand, taking it all in.
Photo (titled Identical Twins) by Diane Arbus