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
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