Invisible Illness Week 2019 – Masked, Trapped and Crumbling by Kate Stanforth | 15 October 2019

October 15, 2019

Kate Stanforth, Social Media Manager, ME Association.

During Invisible Illness Week 2019, the ME Association are encouraging the community to help ‘Make ME Visible’.

A few months ago, I joined with the BBC ‘Glow Up’ semi-finalist, Belinda, and one of the top North East photographers, Hannah, in a collaboration to try make my own medical conditions, visible.

We planned a day’s shoot. Due to my poor health, I would struggle even with breaks to be out for a full day, so Belinda and Hannah kindly travelled to my home and set up a mini studio there.

In preparation for the project, Belinda, our make-up artist, had asked for as much information as possible on my conditions.

I sent her a lengthy message which detailed everything from symptoms to how the conditions make me feel emotionally, and from there, we started planning concepts.

Within a few weeks, we had explored a wealth of ideas and concluded our final 3 topics; masked, trapped and crumbling.

The way Belinda works with make-up is in such a way that she lets the piece evolve as she’s working with a client, so none of us were completely certain what to expect until the final flash of the camera.


‘Masked’ is the first piece we created together. Every day, I feel like I must put on a mask. I have a mask when I’m out in public; trying to navigate around society. I have a different mask when approaching medical professionals; a brave but determined one where I often must fight for treatment or to be believed.

I also have a mask which I even wear at home which helps close family members manage my condition better. Very rarely, do I appear ‘mask-less’. And that is what the concept of ‘Masked’ demonstrates.


Our second piece ‘Trapped’ was inspired by my health limitations. Before getting ill, I was training to be a professional ballet dancer, was excelling at school and had a strong group of friends.

Now, I often feel like most aspects of my life have been limited. From my career to not being able to shower unaided, being limited by your health is frustrating, and I think this was apparent in both the make-up and the emotion portrayed in this piece.


The final, and most fun, piece we called ‘Crumbling’. This was the most powerful image for me because I remember how this image felt. Having the mud set on my face made my face feel both heavy and fragile; two symptoms I feel every day.

As the mud dried, bits of it were cracking and falling off, which as I got more fatigued, I could really relate to. Finally, I love how the mud cracked in the image and Hannah did an incredible job capturing the detail.

The ‘crumbling’ idea in this related to a lot of things; from trying to hold myself together for too long all the way to pushing through pain. This photograph, by far, is my favourite.

How You Can Become Visible

I used this collaboration as my voice to health make my medical conditions visible; employing a mix of photography, make-up and art. Use the hashtag #MakeMEVisible, share your own methods and support others on social media who are stepping out from the shadows during this special week.

The ME Association

Real People. Real Disease. Real M.E.

We are a national charity working hard to make the UK a better place for people whose lives have been devastated by an often-misunderstood neurological disease.

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