My camera is the size of a deck of cards and is easy to carry with me in a pocket. I find that I notice more details of nature when I have it with me. While I observe the broad sense of my environment being in it, when I have my camera, I feel the urge to capture the beauty of individual details to hold to them to view later. Maybe it is the morning mist that changes minute by minute, or the vibrant color combinations, or the softness of an evening sunset.
I found that during the healing from cancer, I had a greater need than before, to document information I wanted to share with my family. If my life was shorter than expected, I wanted to share the stories. Or use my talents to create photo collections, not only to document life, but also tell stories along themes.
I have a photo collection of park benches. I am currently working on an art journal of my photographs of park benches and poems about them. I got the idea when I was on a trip and saw a beautiful park bench dedicated to the Popcorn Man, who sold popcorn on the beach in Santa Barbara, California. The bench was so beautiful with inlaid mosaic tiles; I could not help but capture it with my camera.
Then I began to notice other benches. I saw their unique designs and how they fit into their environment. There was one made of snowboards in Buffalo, New York and another dedicated to a now deceased park lover on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, California.
I photograph the benches and then photograph the view of what someone might see when sitting on them. I write poems about the people and critters that might stop to rest on the benches. This specific interest in photography has opened new doors of joy and inspiration.
The Creative Center in New York City has a program for cancer survivors to document their life and experiences through art including photography. Check out www.TheCreativeCenter.org. Their book, Still Life documents the stories of twenty-five cancer patients as they were introduced to photography as a healing practice.
Family Story Collections
My mother was the storyteller of our family. She shared with us lots of stories of her younger years and relatives. We asked her to write down the stories, as well as our favorite family recipes. She included photos and gave each family member a copy of the album for Christmas. It is a wonderful treasure. Someday soon, I’d love to create my version of this book with my favorite recipes to give to my children.
Older children or adults might enjoy using their own photographs to create a story. My daughter left me with her cat when she was traveling. I was sick at the time and as I lay on the couch, I noticed this cat did some really funny things. I photographed his antics around the room from my vantage point. This humor (and the cat) was great for me and I began to feel better. Later I put the photographs in a little book, with comments, as if the cat was narrating the story about his vacation at my house. I gave the book to my daughter when she returned. These little books pick up your spirits, as they provide the reader with humor or comfort.
On key birthdays for my mother, our family created a scrapbook of birthday wishes. Each family member was given a loose-leaf scrapbook page to create a message with photos, poems, or collage art. This is also great for sending healing messages to both adults and children.
Additional Resources - photograph collections
Hodel, Page Monday Hearts for Madalene (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009)
Solomon, Linda The Key: Celebrated People Unlock Their Secrets to Life (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2007)