Healthcare professional, award winning photographer and cancer patient, David Collyer is taking on a challenge to photograph others also living with cancer in Wales.
David, who recently competed against photographers from around the world to be named Royal Photographic Society Documentary Photographer of the Year, will use his skills and his personal experience of cancer to create a portfolio of images for Cancer Research Wales use.
It is hoped with the support of others willing to share their unique cancer story, the project will reflect very different personal journeys, and the varying ways individuals embrace and manage the psychological and physical challenges of cancer. Through the portrayal of diverse experiences and showcasing the person behind the patient, the aim is to take away some of the fear of cancer and the barriers of going to the GP to get checked.
David will work collaboratively with individuals who come forward to be photographed to produce compassionate, respectful and hopeful images.
If you would like to get involved please use our 'share your story' form or contact us on 02921 850252.
Here’s David’s story and more about his project:
When I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in June 2020, I didn’t know where the journey would take me, what the future would hold. Essentially, I didn’t know whether I’d be here to write this short biography. Fortunately, however, I am, and that has given me the opportunity to collaborate with Cancer Research Wales on an exciting project, which I hope will show those living with cancer in Wales in a fresh light and give hope to those who might be at the beginning of their journey.
My working life is split between two areas. I’m an Operating Department Practitioner in the NHS, a clinical role which sees me work alongside an anaesthetist during surgery. Until cancer intervened, I was working through the first wave of Covid as part of the emergency intubation team in a South Wales hospital, as well as being there for any emergency and cancer surgery that needed to happen during that time. My second job is a photographer, something I’ve done since my teens, but I’ve taken much more seriously in the last few years. In December I was named Documentary Photographer of the Year 2021 by the Royal Photographic Society, for work that I shot looking at a theatre team during the first wave. Uncomfortable with the NHS Heroes rhetoric, I turned the camera back on ourselves and captured the rough and the smooth, the comedy and heartbreak, the dark humour and life and death concentration that it takes to do a very demanding job in times of adversity.
Before the first wave, I had tentatively started to shoot a project loosely titled Life Goes On, looking at people with a cancer diagnosis, but determined not to be defined by that diagnosis. Covid put paid to that, and then ironically, I became the subject of my own project when diagnosed myself, I started to blog about my own personal battle with cancer. Thanks to the power of social media, Cancer Research Wales saw my blog and my photography, and reached out to me. And here I am. The purpose of the blog was twofold. Firstly, it served as a catharsis, but secondly, I wanted it to break down taboos. Middle aged men are rightly or wrongly, not particularly known for their ability to deal with emotions or look after their health. I thought if I could help just one person by writing about my experience in a brutally honest but also funny way, then my experience wouldn’t be in vain.
After the removal of three tumours during two procedures, and regular check-ups, I’m currently clear, and have been for a year. There’s a good chance it will return, but it might not. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I don’t look or act like the public’s stereotypical image of a cancer patient, and that ultimately is what this biography is leading to. I will be shooting a project looking at cancer patients in Wales, who like myself aren’t defined by their diagnosis. This is going to be a celebration of who we are as people and examine what it is that makes us tick. Yes, I’m a cancer patient, but that comes a long way down the list of things that I am. I’m a partner, a father, a photographer, a decidedly average guitarist, a music lover, a clothes obsessive, a book collector, and occasionally I have to go into hospital and let someone else do the camera work. I won’t go into details, but there’s only one way into the bladder, and I’m sure you don’t need me to spell it out!
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in feeling like this, so if those values and that attitude resonates with you, you feel your story could offer hope to others, and you’d like to be part of this project, please get in touch.
You can view some of David’s photographs on his website at www.davidcollyerphotography.com
If you’d like to participate please share your story below or contact us on 02921 850252.