Nancy Borowick: Cancer Family
It’s safe to say that we are all affected by cancer. It has tainted our lives through personal experiences or through connections to those we love. No one knows this in a more profound way than photographer Nancy Borowick,who watched two parents suffer the ravages of the disease simultaneously. She is an innate storyteller and for the last decade, she has “narrowed the focus of her work, telling stories of illness and personal relationships, using compassion, humility, and trust as tools to connect with and explore the lives of her subjects.” Nancy created a Kickstarter to fund a book project on her series, Cancer Family, which was successfully funded, but she is hoping to raise additional funds for a traveling exhibition. Please consider supporting this project.
Nancy Borowick is a humanitarian photographer currently based in New York City. She is a graduate of the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography and holds a degree in Anthropology from Union College. Nancy is a regular contributor to the New York Times, Newsday, and Corbis and has also been featured in the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times Lens Blog, CNN, National Geographic PROOF, Time Magazine, Photo District News, the Washington Post, Stern Magazine, and Newsweek Japan.
She was recently awarded 2nd place in the World Press Photo competition in the Long Term Projects category. She also won the Arnold Newman Prize in New Directions in Photographic Portraiture and the Eddie Adams Workshop Award in Innovation in Visual Storytelling. In 2015, Borowick earned an Honorable Mention in the NPPA Best of Photojournalism competition in the Contemporary Issues Story category. In 2014, Borowick was named one the Best of ASMP featured photographers as well as one of Lens Culture’s Top 50 Emerging Talents. Her Cancer Family, ongoing project was presented at the Visa Pour l’Image in Perpignan, France in 2014 and the following year, 2015, was exhibited at the festival. Her work has also been exhibited at the Look 3 Photography Festival in the USA, the Obscura Photo Festival in Malaysia, the Angkor Photography Festival in Cambodia, the Guatephoto Festival in Guatemala, the Oberstdorfer Fotogipfel Photofestival in Germany, and the International Photo Festival Leiden in Holland. In 2016, Nancy presented at the Norrlandsdagarna Photo Festival in Sweden and the work will also be exhibited at the Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism in Germany.
Cancer Family is the story of family, looking at the experiences of two parents who were in parallel treatment for stage-four cancer, side by side. The project looks at love, life, and living in the face of death. It honors their memory by focusing on their strength and compassion, both individually and together, and shares the story of their final chapters, which came to a close just 364 days after each other.
The initial photographs in this story were made out of necessity. I was often at the hospital helping my parents, and knew that I needed some kind of distance from the reality of the situation. Here were both of my parents, hooked up to beeping machines, with poison coursing through their veins for hours. I was terrified. Being a photographer, my camera was the obvious tool with which I created a space where I could be present but also protect myself.
I realized very quickly, however, that the story I was seeing unfold was not just about illness. It was much more than that—it was about getting the most out of the days we had left, as a family, and about my recording of this beautiful and complicated time we spent together. I hoped to capture the essence of who they were, the lives they lived, and the lessons we learned in the process.
I’ve decided to create a book that will encompass and embody the story of my parents and the experience that my family went through. It will tell the story of my parents’ journeys through their illnesses, but just as important, it will also look back on their lives before they were sick — from the moment they met to life with kids. They did not want to be defined by their diseases; they were many other things other than cancer patients. When cleaning out the family home, we discovered clues about our parents and gained amazing insight into their love for the family and for one another. Love letters, old photographs and the advice found within these mementos were just some of the many amazing surprises uncovered and I plan to weave these found items into the narrative of the book.
My hope is that this book will not only help people to connect with my family’s story, whether they are going through something similar or not, and also, perhaps, inspire people to think differently about their lives. Why do we only begin to have this awareness and appreciation of time when we or the ones we love are on their deathbed?
I launched a Kickstarter Campaign to fund the production costs around the book and in the first two weeks we reached our goal! With almost a whole month remaining in the campaign, I want to keep building the outreach for this project so that we can have the financial backing to support a traveling exhibition of the work as well as facilitate the donation of books to libraries, hospitals, care centers and schools around the world.
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