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Self-portrait with a Crab

Self Portrait With a Crab

In the spring of 2006 I discovered a growth which turned out to be a very treatable form of cancer. During my chemotherapy, I kept a journal and drew my self-portrait daily for six weeks. developed a manuscript which consists of the journal punctuated by self-portraits.

The jounal is a very frank account of my experience. I found that asigning myself the tasks of writing and painting was a good way to put myself in the driver's seat rather than just be a passive recipient of care. The practice of painting a daily self-portrait helped me to avoid distractions and focus on my healing. In hindsight, taking on this task at that time was an ambitious undertaking, but I stuck with it and was fortunate that the chemo was not terribly debilitating.

Below is one of the self-portraits and a excerpt from the journal.

This morning I photographed myself looking in to the mushroom tea that my wife brought to me. It is a strong drink with an earthy aftertaste. It was sent by my mother-in-law and is supposed to be good for the health. Like most Korean remedies its preparation is somewhat intricate and I wonder if part of the healing power contained in it is the love and devotion one feels observing its preparation. It took me quite a number of tries to get the photo I was looking for. When I first picked up the cup and looked down in it, I saw my reflection in the darkness of the tea. In order to capture that reflection, the cup must be held very still or the liquid becomes agitated. Also to get a photo of the reflection the camera must be held perfectly still and at the proper angle. Since I was doing this all by myself, I had to judge the angle and distance by guesswork rather than by looking through a viewfinder. Fortunately the digital camera can show the photo you just took so it was possible to adjust my technique as I reviewed the shots I had taken.

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Works by Doug E. L. Haynes