process evolving . . .

in our first year of this project, kate and i were so grateful and eager to be meeting people that wanted to participate that we would schedule studio time and then jump in with cameras right away. it worked in the moment, but a more defined process began to emerge. we started to meet women who weren’t sure if they wanted to participate or not – so we started spending an hour or two just talking, hearing stories, and asking what motivated them to even be considering doing this. this seems so obvious now, and it has become an essential part of our process.

often in the course of that discussion, the photograph that i want to take of the person becomes very clear in my mind. sometimes i need more time to process before i talk about it, and sometimes i blurt out my idea in the meeting. when we met with our wonder woman, katy, she told us the story of having a double mastectomy on her 40th birthday. it occurred to me that we could help her reclaim her birthday – but that’s not how i said it. i get excited and all idea-bursty and just pounced on her with LET’S DO A BIRTHDAY PARTY!!  my words coming out hadn’t had time to align with where i was coming from in my mind, and it immediately didn’t feel right to her. we don’t ever want to push anyone to a place they don’t want to go, but i explained that depending on how we approached staging a birthday party it could be a chance for her to begin to replace a painful experience with a pleasant one. we did three photo shoots with katy, and we did end up doing the birthday party. she chose five of her dear friends to come participate and brought decorations and the actual birthday cards she had received. our mutual friend nicki baked a cake. people brought presents. we had the full spectrum of emotions. in the end, it wasn’t a staged birthday party, it was REAL. it was wonderful.

the photo that we chose for the october event was an interpretation of something that katy had told us in our first meeting: that she felt amazing support and friends and loved ones all around her, but still at times felt alone in her experience.

yesterday we met with an incredible woman named patty, and she went home and wrote about the meeting here. after the meeting my mind was racing with ideas that we want to try in the project. every single time we meet with a new person we learn something new, get inspired, and find our project growing wiser.

i wanted to write about our process because i want you all to know what we are doing behind the scenes, between events. i also want to let you know in case you are reading this and thinking of participating or meeting with us, so you start to get an idea of what to expect.

we are working on a plan to bring people together more often than in october. we are learning that though our project has a website, the real stuff doesn’t happen online. we want it to become more accessible, more often, and are moving slowly and surely toward that.

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3 Comments

  1. after reading this and after talking to you on the phone in November, i am even more intereted in meeting with you and being part of…of scars. i hope to be in the cities on a weekend in the near future. i will send you an e-mail or even call as soon as I know anything. i am finding that this six months journey has left me more emotional scars than i was aware of. wow! is there a normal for us when we have gone through this experience. thank you for all that you do and i promise to follow up very soon!

    Sincerely ~
    Katrina Dohm
    Spooner, Wisconsin
    High School Art Teacher
    …double mastectomy last June…reconstruction completed in November…

  2. Katrina! i was just thinking of you this week and i have you on my list of people to get in touch with – we very much want to schedule a new time to meet with you. email when you can, nice to hear from you.

    -elli

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