Self-Portrait, Pre-Mastectomy, November 2005. All photos © Kerry Mansfield
San Francisco-based photographer Kerry Mansfield was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, and photographed this series of self-portraits during her treatment. In her statement about the project, she writes:
As a photographer, I’ve spent most of my career looking deeply into the spaces we inhabit. The idea of Home – what it meant and how it felt, preoccupied my thinking. Almost all my pictures were of the spaces we live in or the things we live with. But at the age of 31, a diagnosis of breast cancer forced me to redefine my ideas of home.
Needless to say it came as quite a shock. I had exercised and eaten correctly, and like many of my age, I felt indestructible, never thinking the most basic of dwellings could be lost. Faced with the nihilistic process of radical chemotherapy and surgery, my ideas of “where” I exist turned inward. As the doctors, with their knives and chemistry broke down the physical structure in which I lived, the relationship between the cellular self and the metaphysical self became glaringly clear. My body may not be me, but without it, I am something else entirely. I knew that my long held image of myself would be shattered. What would emerge would be a mystery.
It was in that spirit of unknown endings, that I picked up my camera to self document the catharsis of my own cancer treatment. No one was there when these pictures were made, just my dissolving ideas of self and a camera. And what began as a story that could have ended in many ways, this chapter, like my treatment, has now run its course. While I can’t say everything is fine now, I will say, “These are the images of my Home – as it was then”, and with a little luck, there will be no more to come.
Several images from the series follow, and more are viewable on Mansfield’s web site.
Self-Portrait, Post-Mastectomy, December 2005
Self-Portrait, 1st Cycle Chemo, January 2006
Self-Portrait, 3rd Cycle Chemo, February 2006
Self-Portrait, 4th Cycle Chemo, March 2006
Self-Portrait, Post-Reconstruction, December 2006