With advances in medical techniques and increased life expectancies, many people are living longer with progressively degenerating diseases, while others are taking on the role of giving end-of-life care to someone they love. What does it mean to live with terminal illness or to become a caregiver for a family member?
“Unexpected Journeys” offers a thoughtful contemplation of these questions, pairing stunning view camera portraits with written interview excerpts and audio from women with metastatic cancer, and family caregivers, who have lived these journeys firsthand.
Photographer Susan Alancraig created this body of work in response to the final months of her parents’ lives to, in her words, “understand more about what they were going through—both to better care for them and to gain a handle on death within the context of my own life and my breaking heart.”
To that end, Susan interviewed and photographed six women with metastatic cancer. Each shared her experience of what living with an expanding cancer – sometimes after many years – had been like, and how it had changed her life.
Later, after being a primary caregiver for her parents during each of their deaths, Susan also interviewed and photographed other family caregivers in order to hear the stories of their experiences with their loved ones, families, medical community, their own identities, and with death.
Susan’s motives speak to the soul of our exhibit program, the pressing need to see, hear, and feel the experiences of others, to achieve empathy and understanding so that we may ourselves lead fuller lives while truly caring for one another. Susan’s research “subjects” were her teachers, and there is much we can learn from her work with them.
As Susan observes, “To tell our stories can be a powerful tool. It can help us gain clarity and insight into our own lives, and can serve as a means of passing on our learnings to others. Most importantly, sharing our stories can be empowering by giving voice to who we are and what we have gone through. To be heard means that we are important, that we are of value, and that we have something to offer to others.”