Sickle-cell anaemia is a genetic blood disorder most prominent in those of African descent, but can also affect South East Asians. The people in the pictures are Londoners of African heritage.
Although they appear completely healthy on the outside, the invisible problem lurking in there blood can turn into a ‘crisis’ at any time. A sickle-cell crisis is extremely painful and may be fatal.
As a result, Sicklers, as they are known, are at risk of dying young and throughout their lives are constantly under threat of serious complications related to their condition. Unfortunately, research into the condition is underfunded, many experts believe that this is because those who suffer are ethnic minorities in the developed countries where research is carried out. The Cellective project, headed up by Samantha Asumadu, aimed to raise awareness of this condition via cultural means – using art and music.
About the photos:
I made a conscious decision not to portray the people I photographed as being victims, defined by their disorder. I did not want to depict them in hospital, surrounded by medication or such like. Instead I set out to show their bubbly personalities to the fullest, whilst suggesting a potentially deadly attack hiding in the background or a representation of cells.
Every picture includes a reference to sickle-cell behind the subject – the unscalable walls of a prison, a looming figure set to bite their head off, a sea of giant ‘cells’, the jagged spikes atop a fence.
The images were exhibited at the Cellective fundraising event at AKA London (featuring Norman Jay, Omar and support from radio 1 DJs) and were Selected work in the 2010 Shinkong Mitsukoshi International Photography Contest in Taiwan, so were also exhibited in Taipei, Kaohsiung, Tainan and Taichung.
A big thank you to Samantha Asumadu, organiser and Hellen Adom, tireless campaigner for sickle cell awareness.
Camera: Bronica SQA
Lens: 80mm Zenazon f/2.8
Film: Kodak Tri-X, pulled 1 stop