Photography project shows the humanity in palliative care

In a previous post I wrote about the work I’ve been doing as CBC Radio’s digital producer for Cross Country Checkup. That work continues with online exclusive content (very fancy, I know). This week I got to produce an extra interview for the program that we put online a few days in advance.

The piece centered around a photographer who completed a project around physician-assisted-suicide. I interviewed him, did the write up, which you can read below, mixed the audio, and made a video for social media! It feels good to be writing again, and I’m looking forward to more opportunities to do online exclusives!

Peter Stockland is a veteran journalist and newspaper editor who has worked across Canada, from Montreal to Calgary and back again. In addition to his established writing career, Stockland is also a photographer and in 2012, he turned his camera on a group of 15 individuals, aged 55 or over. It was a project that aimed to portray their humanity in a political debate, which he felt was about them, but did not include them.

“The Heart in the Image of Elders” (Originally published in French as Au coeur de l’image des aînés) book project came during the middle of the political debate on physician assisted suicide in Quebec. In an interview with Cross Country Checkup‘s digital producer Ayesha Barmania, he said, “There were strong feelings on both sides of the issue, but we felt that one of the things being lost was the humanity at the core of it.”

Stockland’s role was to take photographs of the participants. On multiple occasions he was struck by the beauty of the moment and the beauty in the people that he was photographing. He recounted one such instance, “[One woman] I’ll never forget…looked at [the photos] and she said, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever seen myself as beautiful.’ It just tore at my heart. I was extremely happy that she saw the photo as beautiful, but it just crushed me that she had lived her whole life and had not seen the beauty in her own face.”

Moments like these have contributed to Stockland’s opinion that not enough is being done for those who are dying or about to die. “One of the things we are not doing, and one of the things the book tried to do, is emphasize that the mystery of the human is at the center of this discussion. We forget that, at our peril.”