Broken and Beautiful: A Photo Journey of Chronic Illness
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When we live with chronic illnesses, like COPD, sometimes we feel like we’re broken. We feel like our vibrancy, our beauty, our vitality is gone. Our limitations, pain, fatigue, all of what we go through can seem like that’s all we are. We feel like our sickness has become all that we are and all that others see.

We are broken.

And we are beautiful.

Let me show you.

My hobby is nature photography. It gives me purpose. It keeps me active and creative and allows me to reach people in a visual medium. I want my photos to not only look pretty and cheer people up, but to make people think and feel. Sometimes that means taking photos that are uncomfortable to look at, or photos that symbolize something that is uncomfortable.

So I’ve put together this series of photos that symbolize us, the chronically ill, through nature’s example. I call it Broken And Beautiful.

Since I’m very limited in mobility and can’t hike or travel to exoctic locations – okay, okay, I can’t walk much more than 30 feet – I take photos close to home. Like my front yard. Sometimes my back yard. Even my garden. I like variety. I use closeups and macros because there is a whole miniature world out there and I want to show it to people. These are the important things in life. They should be noticed.

For this project, and since being diagnosed for COPD, I’ve been interested in blooms or plants or fauna that are no longer in their prime, no longer whole, but still striking. I’ve taken photos of seasonal flora and fauna that is past its prime, dying or indeed dead, but still beautiful in its way. This is very symbolic for me having COPD and being a mom of a special needs kid. I feel a kinship with these parts of nature.

For this series I used vibrant color to remind us all that we are still vibrant. I used unusual angles to remind us to look at life differently and to convey my hope that society will learn to look at us and the world differently. To remind society to appreciate us even though we’re different. I used macro shots to show the fine, small details that are captivating but which most people don’t see.

So here they are.

BROKEN AND BEAUTIFUL

FADING

These asters are starting to fade at the end of day during the end of summer. As they perish they curl up into gorgeous ribbons of color.

THE SKELETON

The bare branches of this baby cedar tree symbolizes pain and joints and bare bones. The life giving raindrops make them shine and their colors come through.

THE DYING OF THE LIGHT

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
–Dylan Thomas

BROKEN AND BEAUTIFUL

We feel broken, but like this butterfly with tattered wings, we are still a beautiful part of the world. Still active, still surviving.

GOLDEN

This choke cherry has died just like our old healthy selves. But it’s golden lacy remains and the sun shining through the raindrop at its end point reminds us that a new plant will grow in its place, different than it was but still amazing.

BREATHE

Just breathe. A dandelion looking ethereal, giving us COPD and asthma patients wishes for our future.

CANCER

Treatment may leave us bare but we are like a firework, giving off light.

NEUROPATHY

The delicate web reminds us of the communication of the brain to the nervous system, and the randomness of the seed fluff shows the randomness of illnesses that can strike at any time. It also reminds of the communication system we have with each other.

FATIGUE

We are so very tired.

BLOOD

Life giving blood, and blood that carries disease at the same time.

VIBRANCY

This rose of Sharon turns even more vibrant colors as it fades.

RESPITE

As this battered swallowtail takes respite under the bloom of a flower so should we take respite from our sickness wherever we find comfort.

DEPRESSION

Even the sunflowers weep.

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