Photographs and a Book and Community
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
MAY 10, 2017
Some years ago, I remember reading about this project. Nancy Borowick, a photographer, had taken an extraordinary series of pictures of the last weeks or months of her parents' deaths and the family's grief afterwards. Both her mother and her father were dying of Stage IV cancers, and the documentation was tender and loving and extraordinary.
Warning: these are not pictures or words for the faint of heart.
Now her book, The Family Imprint, is about to be published, and Boston Stat shared this story. In addition to a short recap of her work, she talks about the community that was forged during and after her parents' illnesses. Sometimes the power of the internet and our ability to connect with strangers is nothing short of a miracle.
Here is the start and a link to read more. Do follow the embedded link and scroll down for more pictures and words:
A community forged by loss and love — and photographs that found joy at
the end of life
By Nancy Borowick
Photos by Nancy Borowick
No matter how many times her cancer returned, Mom found a way to live her life and not take it too seriously.
The emails poured in by the dozen, day after day after day. They came from parents and children, from violin makers and doctors, from sisters, husbands, colleagues, teachers. Some were spare, just a line or two. Others went on for pages, full of emotion.
I read them all, absorbing the stories of grief, loss, hope.
All these intimate emails — from strangers around the world — flooded my inbox after a piece1 in the New York Times in late 2013 featured my photos of my parents, Howie and Laurel, and their parallel treatments for stage 4 cancer. They went through this final, sometimes brutal, stage of life side-by-side, and as a photographer — and their daughter — I documented every moment.
Photography gave me a familiar context and a language through which I could understand this terrifying and profound reality unfolding before me. It allowed me to be close to my parents, and at the same time, safe, at a distance, behind the lens.
Now, four years after my father’s death and three years after my mother’s, I’m preparing to publish “The Family Imprint,” a book of photographs, journal entries, conversations, and mementos from that period. As I reflect on that time, I’ve found myself returning to those emails from strangers — all those stories from people who went through similar trials.
I had never experienced this kind of connection before. Everyone had their own experience to share. And the more I heard, the more I began to understand what I had been through.