Nancy Borowick is a photographer based out of New York. We've never met, but I went to school for a few years with her brother, Matt, a talented photographer in his own right.
Nancy has gained a lot of attention in the last few years for her Cancer Family work, which chronicles the cancer treatments of both of her parents, and their subsequent passings.
I often reference Nancy's work when people ask me for influences and inspirations. The images are striking, the story is poignant and emotional, and it's an important story to tell.
I get resentful, sometimes, that the majority of sick-parent narratives out there are cancer narratives. It's not that I don't think they're important or worthy stories, it's just that the visual markers of the story have become so ingrained in our culture that for any narrative about a sick person, we make presumptions about the images we're going to see. Hair loss, chemotherapy treatments and the hospital scenes that go with them, the IVs, the list goes on. I get resentful about people asking why I don't have those photos in the work I'm doing about my mom, about people suggesting specific images they think I should make when in reality, those images don't exist in her story.
ALS is not cancer, Some days, I wish that it was. I said that to a friend this summer and they looked at me like I'd just shot their dog. It's true- I wish my mom had cancer. I wish people understood what she's going through without me having to explain it, I wish there were treatment options, I wish there was the hope of remission to hold on to. There aren't any of those things- there is no rising action here, there is no upswing to this story. Scientists don't know what causes ALS, why people develop it, or how to cure it. There is one course of treatment for it: physical therapy and muscle relaxers. Sure, there are markers of the sickness- her neck brace, her wheelchair, her garden sitting untended, the pile of bills from John's Hopkins.
I've picked a lot of work to do lately that doesn't already exist in the world. They're important stories, stories worth telling. Sometimes, I just get tired.