Seattle-based documentary photographer Annabel Clark is the daughter of Lynn Redgrave–an actress known for films from the 1960s as well as an acclaimed theatrical career that ran up to the present. Tragically, Redgrave passed away last year after a long struggle with breast cancer.
When Redgrave was first diagnosed, she asked her daughter to document the medical process with photography. Annabel decided that this would be beneficial; she writes,
I felt that if we turned the disease into a project, it would become less scary. We could objectify and observe it. If we could anticipate the completion of the project, then we could anticipate the end of the disease.
Some of the resulting photos were featured in the New York Times Magazine, along with excerpts from Redgrave’s diaries. A more comprehensive version recently appeared in Visura Magazine. Many of these photos are painful, and others are moving; but in the final analysis they are images of one woman’s dignity and courage in the face of illness. Annabel explains further:
In 2006, the cancer returned and my mother lived with the disease for another four years before she passed away… While she knew that a cure was no longer possible, she was determined to live the rest of her life to the fullest. She acted in several plays and films, never missing a performance even at her weakest. Each night, she transformed into characters who lived free of cancer and for those brief hours, her energy was restored. Acting was her therapy, or as she called it: Doctor Theatre. It was an integral part of her treatment and healing. Throughout her illness, photography was my therapy. The lens allowed me to look at her changed body, to make sense of the endless treatments and ultimately to be closer to her.
Since then, Annabel has taught at The Creative Center, a nonprofit organization that provides free art classes to people living with cancer. She also received an Albina Taddeo Humanitarian Award from the Sass Foundation recognizing her contribution to breast cancer awareness. In spite of the tragic elements of this story, we’re inspired by Annabel’s work.