Project Endo. Some words.no photos.....
ENDOMETRIOSIS Photo project - call out!
It was a few weeks ago now that I got the pleasure of meeting with Helen North, the CEO of Endometriosis UK. In their small but cozy office in Central London we discussed with animation, over a cup of (herbal) tea, all topics endometriosis and the personal impact we have felt from being involved with this condition.
I was meeting with Helen to discuss my new photographic project about women with endometriosis, but firstly for those of you who don’t know anything about the condition, Endometriosis is a chronic gynecological condition that is thought to affect over 1.5 million women in the UK alone.
It is a condition where bits of tissue (like that in the lining of womb) are found in places outside the uterus where they shouldn’t be. Most is found in the pelvis on ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, bowel and appendix. And most interestingly, while some women with endometriosis can have no symptoms at all, others suffer excruciating pain either during their period, at any time of the month and/or during and after sex. I cannot emphasis enough how this condition can impact women’s lives, in extreme cases full hysterectomy’s are done to often, young woman as they cannot hold down a job or go about day to day life the pain is so extreme. More recently, endometriosis featured in an NHS article as one of the top 20 most painful conditions.
The main concern for endometriosis sufferers is there is no cure for it, although there are ways to treat it and lessen the impact. However with a staggering 1 in 10 women being affected by the condition, it is a relatively low profile disease. Probably because only keyhole surgery (which is expensive) can diagnose it for certain, and often it is over looked as ‘period pain’.
The photographic project I am starting is a series of portraits that depict the faces of endometriosis; they will not be glossy magazine type shots but more reflective of the people in them and their personal take on endometriosis and the impact it has had on their lives.
Each image will be an environmental portrait in a location that has been poignant for them personally and their journey with endometriosis. All the women participating are being asked to summarise their experience of endometriosis in one word, which is not an easy task! And that word will feature somewhere within the photograph.
As endometriosis is so variable between sufferers, the project will attempt to capture the wide spectrum of emotions women feel at different stages of their experience with the condition. They don't need to feel negatively towards it, and perhaps have even beaten the condition. Maybe they have just been diagnosed, or are suffering a particularly bad time. Anything goes! But the over riding idea is to show the breadth of woman affected and feelings that accompany the condition.
The photographs are going to be taken over the next 6 months, and the images will be used on the new Endometriosis UK website and marketing material as well as being exhibited in London.
The thing that strikes me most when talking to Helen is that the subject is still considered taboo. People don’t want to talk about their ‘women’s bits’ and many certainly don’t want to discuss this with their employers, partners, friends or relatives.
I should therefore probably mention at this point that I was diagnosed with endometriosis 7 years ago. Hence my personal interest in this debate. And in those years I have had 5 operations, been through the forced menopause (its as fun as it sounds!), taken copious amounts of painkillers, had acupuncture, cupping, faith healing, numerous trips to A&E, pain management and homeopathy. All to varying degrees of success.
And if I’m honest, it’s something I don’t talk about that openly. Even writing this now I am considering the impact of being so open. I do worry what people will think, whether they will judge me, think less of me or consider me less capable. But I think that is exactly the problem, which is why this project is so important. We need to help raise awareness.
If you are a sufferer of endometriosis and would like to get involved, I am still looking for volunteers so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d love to hear from you!
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