Robert Houser's "Facing Chemo" Kickstarter Project

[ Posted: Apr 18, 2013 ]

Facing Chemo is a project that began with this photograph of a woman about to undergo a bone marrow transplant. The shoot was extremely moving, for both photographer Robert Houser and his subject. Chronicling her fight with cancer, while creating images that could serve to put a face on the experience itself. Robert's project has now grown to include close to twenty portraits, with plans to photograph another ten to twenty people - women, men and children.

This photographic project explores the emotions present in people as they are undergoing chemotherapy. Chemo treatment targets cells within the body, yet the outward effects play a simultaneous role in the way people both view themselves and are viewed by the world.

"As someone who has spent over twenty years specializing in portraiture, I am overwhelmed at the power and emotion present in the faces of these individuals, unadorned by hair and day to day accoutrements. It's that intensity, that uninhibited presence that I am aiming to present with this project. In essence - putting a face on the effects of chemo - and revealing in that - the raw beauty, strength, fear and resolve these subjects have embraced."

So why Kickstarter?

Robert's goal is to present these photographs in an extremely powerful format, printed larger than life, in both gallery settings and cancer centers throughout the country for others to experience. In addition to the printed pieces, the show will include a series of video excerpts revealing the subjects discussing their experiences. A gallery has been reserved and the initial opening is set for September 20, 2013. "In addition to the show, I will be custom designing a hard cover fine art book which will incorporate even more photos, as well as excerpts from the studio sessions with these individuals."

A project of this magnitude comes with a cost. Up to this point Robert has donated all of his time and the studio's time and resources to developing Facing Chemo, and he is committed to seeing it through. Printing costs for the show, however, are beyond Robert's reach, as is the cost to print what will be a beautiful photography book. Funds raised will go to cover the costs of printing the two dozen large format prints, framing, professional retouching, transport, insurance and site booking, art book production and marketing for the events. These costs, an estimated $22,000, represent a mere fraction of the total as so many people involved with this project have donated their time to make it happen.

Please help support Facing Chemo on any level that you can. Help to bring the impact of this project to others who could benefit from experiencing it first hand. Contribute in honor of a loved one, a friend, or yourself, and make these people's journey with chemo an even greater inspiration to others. And in the process, please share the project with friends, family members and colleagues who you think would be interested in learning about it.

Here's what people are already saying about the project:

"thanks to your project, it was so much easier for me to take my hair off yesterday...thank you."

"it's a long journey... but ultimately you find out how strong you really are."

"I think what you are doing is phenomenal; thank you for taking the time to help these people think about what it is they feel most at that moment. I too am going through chemotherapy."

"Stunning work."

"beautiful... strong... heroic... inspirational. thank you."

"As this project continually evolves, I am more and more invested in telling the stories of these amazing people. While they all hold the common thread of 'facing chemo', each one of them is unique in their setting, their diagnosis, how they are coping with this challenge in their lives, and how they choose to outwardly express themselves. Not one of them wishes to be defined by chemo, the disease or the hair loss, and this is evident in the photographs whether they've pushed their true emotions to the fore, or made the effort to hide them. If you, or someone you know, is interested in participating in Facing Chemo, please contact the studio:" -- Robert Houser

About Robert Houser

Robert has been a professional portrait photographer for over twenty years, shooting worldwide on location for advertising, editorial, corporate and pro bono clients. His work has been featured in such magazines as Wired, Forbes, CFO, Barron's, Business Week, Outside Magazine and WebMD. His client list is long and varied, including names like PG&E, Visa, Yahoo, MobiTV, Genentech, BioMarin Pharmaceuticals, Safeway, Sanofi, Bell Sports, BioRad and Title9. Roberts photographs people, whether it's a model for an advertisement or magazine cover, or the head of a Stanford Medical Division. For robert it's about making connections, being acutely aware of the details and common threads that allow me to create ease for my subjects. It's about building a level of trust, getting them to open up to the idea of the photograph, and then capturing the essence of the personality. "I have photographed everyone from the toughest of subjects like Milton Friedman, celebrities like Steve Jobs, athletes and models to the youngest of rare disease patients. However, this experience, Facing Chemo, has been unlike any other.", says Houser.

Robert continues to say, "It’s been fascinating to witness the change in persona in the brief time we spend together, for example, when a person removes their head scarf for the camera. For some, that simple covering provides a level of comfort and security that, when removed, can immediately go with it. One can almost read the thoughts, the purist of emotions that surface on a chemo patient's face. This dramatic change is like nothing I've witnessed in all of my years photographing and studying faces. Does it overshadow or detract from the cancer itself, to only view the effects of the drugs used to treat it? For me, these portraits serve as windows into the inner thoughts, concerns, hopes and wishes, of those undergoing this treatment. The emotional engagement that occurs while photographing these images is remarkable and it's that experience that I want others to feel. This project is meant to look beyond the disease, with it’s daunting and clinical attributes, and take aim at the human, emotional, real time presence of each individual subject. "

To make a donation, click on the Kickstarter link below.

Related Links

- robert houser photography's Altpick Portfolio

- Kickstarter Project