Friday, June 26, 2009

five shoots in...

Gifts of Life has gone global! Click here to read an article which was published on a very popular newsy Canadian website this month. Glance to the right and you'll see a little picture of me and Oli in hospital and also a photo of Sarah's gorgeous son, Wills. I also have an article coming out in a French magazine too soon, which I'll post up once it's been published....get your translators at the ready!

I'm five shoots in to my Give and Let Live project and I have loved each and every one of them. There is something really amazing about meeting people that have been through very similar experiences to you - there's a natural bond there and already so much to talk about. I could have sat around chatting all day with my lovely subjects (hate that word - makes it sound like a science experiment but not sure what else to put!). I've also noticed many similarities with the couples that I photograph. Whenever I start a shoot I never really direct to begin with as I like the people I am photographing to get used to having a camera shoved in their face (ok, so I'm not that aggressive) but it allows them to relax a little and get used to being photographed. The first thing each couple does when I whip out my camera is react to one another in a very tactile way - where ever it be playfully, loving or just a simple arm around the shoulders. I am fascinated into the relationship between kidney donors and their recipients and it's little things like this that I have started noting.

In the next few months I have at least another twenty couples to photograph. I sent out a group email yesterday asking the question 'What can you now do that you couldn't do post transplant?' I'm hoping to base a few portraits around the answer to that question and I'm looking forward to receiving the answers.

In other photography news I have just been away to a wedding in Palma where I snapped away happily for a week. I took some shots using my favourite film - Fuji Velvia 100 which basically makes things all colourful and vivid which I am very pleased with. Here's a little sampler.

I have a marvelous world inside me.
I have a marvelous world inside me.

hey wait for meeee!
Hey, wait for meee!

And I also took some with my Canon 5D...


And have been fitting in a bit of street photography too!


Recently I have also been asked to write and photograph for a new London blog which is being launched in July. I can't say much more than that but it's something I am super excited about and am already planning posts. I love writing and photography - so the two things combined is awesome!

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

GOL shoot 5 - Sarah and Sue

Sue and Sarah (left to right)
Sue and Sarah (left to right)

Sarah and Sue

Spot the PD boxes...

Sarah hasn't had the best of luck when it comes to hospital treatments so I can't blame her at all for feeling apprehensive about having a kidney transplant. Sue in comparison is calm as a cucumber when it comes to the subject of donating her kidney and is very happy to help her friend out.

As a result of lupus Sarah's kidneys failed and she has been doing peritoneal dialysis for the past few years and looks very well on it. Unfortunately back in 2004 a living donor transplant failed due to a bad botch up by the surgeon (luckily he is no longer operating in the UK...phew.) I can't imagine how hard that must have been to go through the whole transplant process only to have to have the kidney removed as it wasn't plumbed in correctly. Anyway, luckily Sue is a perfect much so that they could be sisters. They are just waiting for Sarah to gain some more antibodies so she is an even better match for Sue (there is a much more complicated way of going into this but am sticking to the simple explanation!) and then they can go ahead with the transplant.

I really enjoyed meeting them both. Sarah came along to the Donor Day photoshoot so we had met briefly before but hadn't had the chance to have a proper natter. And Sue seems like an amazing friend and an incredibly selfless person.

Sarah and Sue

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

GOL shoot 4 - Liz and Jan

Around about this time tomorrow Jan will be going down to the operating theatre to receive a spanking new kidney from her best friend Liz.

Meeting them both just three days before the transplant there was a definite feeling of nervous excitement in the air. Jan has suffered from polycystic kidney disease for her whole life and has been on peritoneal dialysis for the past five months so naturally she can't wait to feel well again and no longer have the nights tied to a machine keeping her alive.

I met Jan and Liz at Jan's home in Epsom, and they kindly treated me to lunch (with the most yummy scones, strawberries and cornish clotted cream..yum yum) and we had a really good chat about our experiences with dialysis and transplants. Jan's bedroom was full up with Baxter boxes (PD equipment) which brought back many memories for me. The amount of equipment that is needed to do peritoneal dialysis is immense. I used this method of dialysis for three years and every two weeks the Baxter van would toot it's little horn and then proceed to fill a room in my house full of boxes. In these boxes went fluid bags, drainage bags, cassettes for the machine, alchowipes, tegaderm...I could go on and on and on...

I spotted the PD machine next to Jan's bed straight away and was faced with flashbacks of nights struggling to get it to work...whilst I was on PD I seemed to just look at a machine and it would break! I lost count of the many times that the New York Baxter office would be faced with my paniced squeaks from London over the phone. But in a matter of hours they always kindly dropped a new one off, which would no doubt decide it didn't like me and break again within weeks.* I also found myself instinctively picking up bits of equipment and feeling like I should be setting the machine up which was a strange feeling. Somehow I don't think the skills to set the machine up will ever leave me...

I'm going to be thinking of Jan and Liz a lot this week. My fingers and toes are crossed that everything goes well. I'm sure it will do. I'll be photographing them both after the transplant, so look out for the 'after' pictures soon, with a heroic Liz and a happy healthier Jan.

Liz and Jan

A bit of Photoshop tampering here...not something I usually like to do but thought it was quite appropriate!?

Liz and Jan
Jan leaning over one of her many PD boxes in her bedroom. Won't be needing those anymore!

*I'm sure I just had bad luck with PD machines as I don't think it is very common to go through as many as I did.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

GOL shoot 3 - Paul and Rebekah

Rebekah is thirteen years old and received a kidney from her Dad, Paul, three years ago.

The Wagnell family actually live in Milton Keynes but decided to come down to London for a day out, so we met bright and early in Regent's Park on Saturday morning...the weekend of Father's Day, so very appropriate. Regent's Park turned out to be a great setting for the shoot - Rebekah was full of ideas for photos and even climbed a tree at one point - bet she wouldn't have been able to do that before the transplant! We all had a lot of fun and it was really lovely to hear Rebekah and Paul's story.

I had never met anyone as young as Rebekah who'd had a transplant so it was really interesting to hear her point of view. There were so many things that I hadn't even considered with children having transplants - for instance Rebekah is treated at the Evalina Children's Hospital but Paul had to be treated in St Thomas' so poor Tina (Rebekah's Mum) had to run between the two hospitals during the transplant looking after them both! Think I took it for granted that Oli and I were in next door beds! We also chatted a lot about the upcoming Transplant Games which sounds amazing and I am hoping on coming take photos and meet people, not to participate in the sports I may add!

Rebecca is a lovely person and clearly has a very close relationship with her Dad. I hope these photos convey this.

Rebekah and Paul

Rebekah and Paul

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

GOL shoot 2 - Bill and Sheila

I had never been to Wales. Shocking, I know. So when Bill and Sheila invited me down to Cardiff to take their photo I brushed up on my best Gavin and Stacey phrases and hopped on the train. Tidy.

Bill and Sheila have just celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary. 11 years ago Bill donated his kidney to Shelia after she had been on dialysis for four and half years. They never let dialysis stop them from doing anything, going on lots of holidays and essentially not letting dialysis rule their lives. Whilst on dialysis I felt very similar to Bill and Shelia and travelled, worked full time and fitted in dialysis somewhere between and so it was great to hear that they did the same.

Their transplant was the first non related living donor transplant to happen in Cardiff and they have since maintained a very good relationship with their surgeon, who has now retired.

I had a lovely day with Bill and Shelia, they took me out for a lovely Italian lunch and then a whistle stop tour of Cardiff.

They chose to have their photos taken at the Donor Stone in Cardiff which is a stone dedicated to all those who had donated their organs. It is located in a lovely quiet park full of other memorial stones, plaques and statues and was a very appropriate setting for the shoot.

View the images on Flickr (they look prettier) here
Bill and Sheila, Cardiff

Bill and Sheila, Cardiff

Bill and Sheila, Cardiff

GOL shoot 1 - Doug and Julia

Last week I hopped on the train to Letchworth in Hertfordshire where I was met by Doug and Julia - my first couple for the Gifts of Life project. Doug gave Julia a kidney a few years ago, after she suffered from polycystic kidney disease. She is now is feeling a whole lot better due to Doug's generous gift.

The sun was shining, there was Banoffee cheesecake and a cute little tortious called Arnie... A lovely shoot with fab people.

Here are a couple of shots (unedited as always) from the day. I won't be posting up the ones I am planning to use in the exhibition or the'll have to wait for those!

Doug, Julia and Arnie the tortious

Doug, Julia and Arnie the tortious

You can view these photos on here and here on my Flickr page where the colours look slightly better.

Kidney Research

The lovely people at Kidney Research asked me to cover a parachuting event in aid of their charity a couple of weeks ago up near Shrewsbury.

Louise Edge's husband Roger has recently had a kidney transplant after quite a few years on dialysis and she decided to jump out of an aeroplane to raise money for Kidney Research and also show her support for Roger.

The shoot was mostly documentary based with me and Dan following Louise and her huge team of supporters round snapping away, capturing all the emotions involved. It was hard not to be blown away by the incredible supportive atmosphere that flooded through the air field. Louise was amazing - she was very nervous but acted like a complete pro and once back on the ground admitted that it was the most incredible and exhilarating thing she has ever done.

The shots are going to be used in a poster campaign for Kidney Research, which I can't wait to see.

Here are some shots from the day (these are unedited or colour corrected)...

Louise and her daughter Milly before the jump

Getting all kitted up

Asking last minute questions

Watching the first lot of parachutes come down

Watching Louise go up in the plane
Louise's husband Roger and son Callum

And parachute down

Milly waving as Louise get's off the plane

Back down on the ground, relieved and proud.