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Photographer Embraces The Journey In “The Cancer Chronicles”

Submitted by Wendy Denton —

When my husband Ken was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, we pledged to be conscious and awake throughout the journey together. Through images, we captured feelings, ideas, sadness, humor, and outright fun along the way.

Our hope is to inspire others to be creative, talk about the experience of cancer more openly, and even have moments of grace beyond the bodily bother of symptoms.

I learned photography in Germany in my early 20s. At first I was self-taught through books and a makeshift darkroom in my kitchen. I then used the darkroom in the Karlsruhe U.S. Army base. My love was black and white imagery, and my photographic activity was more or less my therapy.

When I moved back to the States and ended up in San Jose, I attended De Anza College. Their photo department was then nationally known, and I am grateful for the quality instruction I received there – as well as the fellow students who were as alternative as I was and supported my less than mainstream interests. I then worked at Custom Color Lab in Palo Alto as a master color printer, where I met other artists who were both wackier and more skilled.

Over the last 30+ years I have often used the camera as my conduit with the world, my way of connecting while remaining separate. My images have usually had intensely personal meaning, except for one rather bizarre departure into wedding photography that didn’t last long.

Today I am interested in the marginalized. My birds are often objects of discomfort for some because they are dead, and I found them along the side of roads. For me, photogJouraphing them is my tribute, my altar, to their presence in our lives. My Holga images (toy, plastic camera) are of ruins, places that once held meaning for someone and now are collapsing under the weight of time.

Wendy Denton in Cancer Chronicals

Photographer Wendy Denton documents her husband’s struggle with cancer – photo courtesy Wendy Denton

My image transfers are also of abandoned places, though these often have the feeling that someone just walked out one day and never came back. My Cancer Chronicles series documents the 18-month journey from my husband’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer to his death. I am currently working on a new series entitled The Seven Deadly Sins of Climate Change.

The title of my Sierra Art Trails 2016 exhibit is Light and Time and is a collection of works made in empty and abandoned places. Most of the images are altered to convey the emotion and feelings I experienced in the spaces I photographed. Light refers to the process of photography, and Time refers to the changing realities of these structures.

In Urgent 2nd Class, author and artist Nick Bantock says: “There is something too complete about most photos. They need a dose of controlled eccentricity that will alter and personalize them. The picture surface needs to be broken up to give it breathing space.”

My work for this Sierra Art Trails combines various materials and surfaces to transfer and alter images in ways that enhance their meaning for me.

Wendy Denton
Ken West (1946-2013)

Wendy will be at the Timberline Gallery in Oakhurst on Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to  5 p.m., for a meet-and-greet with guests wishing to know more about her Cancer Chronicles.


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