"How Much Will I Be Able To Go Through?

How to talk about a disease? How to show the suffering of a loved one? How to illustrate weakness? How to allow others to enter the intimate space of pain, usually hidden? The radical situation of suffering in illness does not necessarily need sentiment, and solicitude (or better: compassion and empathy) does not have to be constructed along the lines of emotions known from pop culture. When talking about suffering, one does not have to resort to simple emotions to hit the heart directly. Radical situations sometimes require radical gestures and measures. This is the visual language of the story "How Much Will I Be Able To Go Through?" – it tells about the pain taken out of an intimate space and put on display, stripped of masking that covers and protects the personal sphere of experiences from being looked at from the outside.

Myopathies (from ancient Greek μυσ = muscle, and πάθεια = suffering) – a group of muscle diseases in which the muscle fibers, for various reasons, do not function properly, which is manifested by muscle weakness. (Wikipedia)

A woman with a walker, an exhausted woman in an armchair, a woman on a stool in the shower, a woman performing an operation on her forearm with scissors, a woman undergoing surgery (her almost naked body is touched by anonymous hands), a woman lying on the bed – with an expression of suffering on her face (the dog lying next to her, watching), a woman lying wearily on the photographic set (a stylish presence: dark glasses, dress, shoes, handbag), a woman with lesions on her face. In addition, mysterious objects: medicine in porcelain, broken nails – were photographed as packshots for an advertising newspaper. The whole thing is bathed in the harsh white light of the flash, which brutally brings out every detail: without fancy compositions, blurring, and crafted lighting to take care of the mood – those sentimental understatements that can be expected in pictures showing disease and pain. However, the photographs from the series are closer to cold medical observations, a scientific typology cataloging the symptoms and behavior of an ill person.

The photos, however, do not come from the medical documentation file. The coldness of the means of expression contrasts with the subject of the photos as well as the context: it is clear that the photos were taken in private space, on various occasions, and the portrayed woman is a person close to the author. Realizing this relationship, one begins to perceive the portrait frames more as family photos, taken ad hoc, out of the need of the moment. Somewhere in the back of the head, there is a thought that the photographer uses a flash to gain some distance to the photographed situation, to which – when he puts down the camera – there is no distance at all because the disease also affects him – touching him, sucking him in, seizing him completely. In this context, photography becomes a (self) therapeutic act.

When you look at the record of the disease, you get the impression that you are dealing with a song: groups of photos, like verses, are interrupted by refrains. This construction of the plot corresponds to the course of the disease. Incurable, autoimmune diseases often have this characteristic – the times when wellbeing improves and symptoms become less visible or even regress, and then there are relapses that hit with more and more force. Knowing this specificity, after some time the patient knows what awaits: pain, treatments, medications, suffering... Remissions and progressions – deeper after each cycle. This temporal structure of suffering is part of the project's narrative: the photographs are repeated at various intervals. Pictures are also duplicated – refrains: red images like explosions of pain. Choosing red may seem like a very simple, or even too obvious decision. In the whole narrative, however, this dominant color loses its obviousness - color is suffering of light, blood-red maybe even the most. In this case, the tint touches the hidden meanings of the disease. Here is a childhood photo placed on a patterned background (in real life it is a carpet, but it is not about the floor). Myopathy can be passed on genetically in the family. In this sense, family photos can hide terrible secrets about the future of the photographed people.

If we decide to treat this cycle as a song, it will be a threnody – da capo al fine. Chronic myopathy is an incurable disease. The prognosis depends on many factors – the age of the affected person, organ symptoms, the appearance of other diseases accompanying myopathy, such as cancer. Medicine estimates the survival rate at about ten years. It's good to know these basic facts when watching the series "How Much Will I Be Able To Go Through?". Knowing about them helps to understand that in the case of these photos it is not only about recording the history of suffering, but also a sensitive photographic performance that will remain as a souvenir when everything is complete when the disease erodes life (look at the cover portraits!). So far, as viewers, we are together with the heroes of this story - the patient and her photographic partner – in a cycle of remission and progression, still on the timeline.

"How Much Will I Be Able To Go Through? by Marcin Kruk

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