With the second week of October upon us, deep oranges, reds and golds speckle the landscape of autumn. But October also brings with it a slew of pink ribbons and other pink-washed items and company slogans in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. While pink symbolizes the strength and will to live within every person fighting breast cancer, the battle is anything but frilly. In fact, it’s a bleak experience, accompanying hope with dread, pain and fear. In light of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Katherine Clark—a local photographer in the Port City—and Iron Gate Partners have come together to present “An Evening with Art and Opera,” a fundraiser to benefit the Pretty in Pink Foundation. Taking place on October 14 at Thalian Hall in downtown Wilmington, the show features an operatic performance by soprano vocalist April Evans. It also includes Clark’s latest photo series, “Fear as a Four Letter Word.”
“‘Fear as a Four Letter Word’ was an idea I came up with earlier this year,” Clark states. “I wanted to approach a number of topics and issues I feel need more discussion and education, through photographs showing audiences it’s not as scary as it seems. Even if it is, no one is alone, and everyone should be able to talk about it.”
Clark’s photos highlight the true nature of the breast-cancer fight. It features real women as they face different stages of their illness head-on. As easy as it is to get swept up in the celebrations following Breast Cancer Awareness events, Clark wants to visually remind the community of not only the triumph of defeating the cancer, but also the physical and emotional turmoil the cause fights to end for those suffering and their loved ones supporting them.
“Breast cancer is something that needs to be discussed more, outside of the bright pink ribbon that often represents it,” she explains. “This is a life-threatening issue that demands higher education and understanding, for the sake of early detection and monitoring.”
Physical pain and distress follows countless appointments for treatments and examinations. For many diagnosed, the fear and uncertainty of survival consumes them mentally and emotionally.
“For those who suffer or have survived, the show aims to remind them they are not any less because of it, nor are they alone,” Clark says. “It also aims to give them the encouragement and support to openly discuss cancer with anyone and everyone, the same way they discuss any other topic in their day-to-day routine.”
Originally from Richmond, VA, Clark has been a photographer since her adolescence, and decided to turn her hobby into a profession as an adult. Although most of her work thus far has been commercial, she has turned toward telling true stories of the high and low points of being human. Since starting “Fear as a Four Letter Word,” Clark has gained new insight of her own, regarding the battle to end breast cancer. While many of the women she’s photographed for the project are featured in portraits, Clark actually documented one woman throughout her entire treatment process.
“It’s been fascinating to see what’s involved, how it affects her life and family, and to know that we, as a team, are going to change the way people see breast cancer,” Clark says.
Clark noted a lot of fear and emotional pain among women in particular stem from the thought of losing their life altogether, and from the prospect of continuing life after treatment with their bodies permanently altered. “There comes the psychological aspect where some women may be left to feel like less of a woman after treatment,” Clark states. “The portraits in this show aim to portray these women as beautiful, no matter what they’ve lost.”
The Evening of Art and Opera will benefit the Pretty in Pink Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting uninsured or underinsured NC citizens, dealing with financial burdens that accompanies breast-cancer treatment. All of the women Clark portrays in her photographs are survivors she met through the foundation.
“What is so amazing about the organization, run by the phenomenal Joy Wade here in Wilmington, is that 90 cents of every dollar goes to patient care,” Clark explains. “Those who support the Pretty in Pink Foundation are directly helping these champions.”
The event will open in the Thalian lobby, with a display of photos of breast-cancer survivors who have benefitted from Pretty in Pink. Following will be a 30-minute opera performance by April Evans. The event will end with viewing “Fear as a Four Letter Word,” followed by a reception (catered anonymously) with a cash bar. During the reception, guests can actually meet Clark, as well as current and former Pretty in Pink champions.Admission is free to the general public, however, the Pretty in Pink Foundation will be accepting donations to help continue to support those afflicted by breast cancer.
“Cancer is not a small topic, but again, by removing the fear from it, there’s an opportunity to share the stories with others in their lives,” Clark states. “That in turn can help strengthen relationships of those facing cancer with those who do not.”