May 26, 2020
Living with a life threatening, chronic illness presents many daily challenges, both mental and physical. It also comes with a lot of ignorance and judgement from people. I have been advocating for, and documenting my journey with type 1 diabetes since I was diagnosed in April 2019. After a 2.5 year battle to try and get a diagnosis, I found myself bed bound for 3 weeks, with a dead pancreas, unable to work for the time being. All of my photo shoots, cancelled, exhibitions, unable to attend. With the diagnosis, came a massive decline in my mental health, and some days that is harder to deal with than the diabetes. Anger, denial, struggling with acceptance, literally fighting for my life every day. People don’t realise this about type 1, but it is a relentless battle against my own body and it’s chaotic, debilitating.
So, photographing my new reality, literally from my bed, became my therapy. It was my way of staying connected to my practice. Since then, it has become my salvation. It went from a hobby/job, to saving me. It allows me to process everything I am dealing with on a daily basis. The disease requires me to act as a vital organ, 24/7 and it’s exhausting. My brain is focused on this all the time, I find that I can’t process or acknowledge things properly anymore, it’s like a permanent state of brain fog. Photography allows that snapshot that I can go back to and realise that moment. I’m not really sure how coherent that is, or if it makes sense to anyone but me, however it’s very healing.
I focus a lot on floral elements and shadows. Both of which have been consistent throughout my work since I first picked up a camera as a child. Now however, they have a much deeper meaning, as I’ve realised their significance in my art. The flowers symbolise the fragility of my life now; the life I’m given each day by the insulin- the life I wasn’t meant to have, the day my pancreas finally failed me. With insulin, I thrive. Without it, or with too much or too little, I wither and die. The light and shadows are reference to my mental state, the optimism that is in my core, but juxtaposed with the anxiety and depression I have been dealing with as a result of my diabetes. T1D causes metabolic changes in the brain, with the side effects of high and low blood sugar. Equally though, the sheer gravity of the diagnosis, creates mental health issues. Type 1 Diabetics are twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues. I’ve been at my lowest since I got this illness, I feel completely out of control of my body, but I’m in control when I’m holding my camera. Photography is my one constant.
By Charlie Granby