The Teddy Bear
The photo shows a teddy bear at the end of a long hallway. The photo is taken from low down, and from the darker end of the corridor, and the bear is in the light.
Composition and Technique:
Originally I was going to use my wheelchair as the focal point, but I realised that’s a bit cliché. The teddy bear seemed the perfect symbol of comfort and love.
Placing it at the end of the hallway, in the light, and shooting from down low, with the leading lines of the tiles drawing the viewer into the photo, and towards the bear emphasises the distance of the hallway. The vertical walls frame the scene, and also elongate the hallway, making the bear seem even further away.
I wanted the teddy bear to be centred in the image, to be the clear focal point. It’s round, soft edges also provide great contrast to the stark straight lines of the hallway walls, and the lines on the tiled floor.
I wanted to show distance, isolation and loneliness and how very far from comfort one can feel when suffering with an invisible illness. The teddy bear is a universal symbol of comfort in childhood – a person with an invisible illness often needs a ‘teddy bear’, particularly because their pain and fear is so often unseen, and therefore not acknowledged. No comfort is offered, as it might be with a visible injury and illness. But that teddy bear can be hard to reach, and feel very far away, when every step causes more pain.
The photograph is a closeup of a syringe loaded with strong medications to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, that I used to self-inject weekly. The focus is on a droplet of medication at the end of the syringe.
Composition and technique:
I have used the Rule of Thirds to draw attention to the drop of liquid medication, and it is also the point that is in sharpest focus. I have used a shallow depth of field to blur the background, and a varying gradient of shadow to make the syringe pop out more from the background.
Many people do not realise that Rheumatoid Arthritis can be a severe and disabling disease. ‘Arthritis’ is considered a mild ailment that everyone has to deal with at some point. A few aches and pains, ‘nothing serious’, as is often said to me.
The reality is that when severe, Rheumatoid Arthritis can destroy almost every joint in the body, cause agonising pain and be completely crippling. Even more seriously, the disease can attack internal organs, including the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, liver and eyes.
Some of the medications used to treat RA are also used in chemotherapy, albeit in far lower doses when used for Rheumatoid Arthritis. The side effects are potentially very serious, including liver failure, kidney damage, increased susceptability to serious infections, increased risk of several cancers, cardiovascular disease, along with more ‘minor’ side effects, such as persistent nausea and fatigue.
This photo aims to shock people a little, as most people are a little squeamish about needles, and the idea of self-injecting is scary for some. It serves as a statement that this is a serious medication for a serious disease.
The photo shows me in silhouette, sitting in my wheelchair, looking out through a security door out at a bright sunny day. I’m unable to access the outside, because I don’t have the necessary equipment (powered wheelchair) or the help of a partner or family member.
Composition and technique:
I wanted to centre myself in the frame, in silhouette, to emphasize that I am in darkness, and I want to be outside, in the light. The door frames me, and the leading lines of the tiles draw the eye to the outside, but the screen door provides a stark barrier to getting there. I set up a tripod behind me, and used a remote shutter release to focus and take the shot. I adjusted the white balance which added a blue cast, to further emphasize the misery of being trapped inside, when outside the sunshine is bright and appealing.
Few people realise that Rheumatoid Arthritis can be disabling, and that some people still DO require wheelchairs. This image is a reminder that not everyone responds to current treatments, and some days, I require a wheelchair to manoeuvre around my home. Because I do not have a powered wheelchair my home can feel like a prison, because I am not able to access the outside world. I am stuck, and my entire world for the last few months has been my home.
I don’t have a partner, and I don’t expect people to drop everything to help me. And while there are services to help people in my situation, they are over-subscribed, and not everyone receives the help they need.
This photograph is meant to convey the frustration, isolation and loneliness and sense of imprisonment that being chronically ill and cut off from the world brings.