Pablove Shutterbugs: an anchor in a foggy landscape

December 8, 2014

Palo Alto classA few months ago my life changed forever. Cancer touched my life, and now it affects me everyday. Adjusting to the new lifestyle is difficult. Going through chemo is even harder.

Having chemo every week and other doctor appointments in between, it makes it difficult to enjoy many things because of how I feel: exhausted, nauseous, anti-social…I don’t really feel like doing anything. When I first heard about Pablove’s Shutterbugs program, I didn’t know what to expect. I already spent so much time dealing with medical stuff, I didn’t want to spend any more time doing anything that had to do with oncology.

Thankfully, I was in for a very pleasant surprise! The program did the opposite of reminding me about my treatments and things I was going through. It allowed me to forget about the negative things and gave me a safe space to express myself. Pablove Shutterbugs became part of my daily routine. I would always think about the skills that I had learned the past week at my class. Taking these skills and making photography a part of my everyday routine allowed me to escape my troubles for a few minutes everyday. Photography became therapy for me.

All of my peers and the staff in the Pablove Shutterbugs class knew exactly what I was going through, so I never had to explain anything to anyone. This was such a relief.

While going through treatment, the worst thing is when people see you as different and wonder to themselves, “What’s wrong with him?” At Pablove Shutterbugs class, I was accepted for who I was, no matter if it was a good day or a bad day for me.

Teaching the shadow lessonBecause I had taken photography classes before, I had the unique and cool position of being both a student and volunteer teaching assistant. I have always loved photography and was burning to learn more! Being a student allowed me to do just that…to expand my knowledge. Being hands on and participating in all of the activities helped me grow as a photographer, just like every other student who went through the program. Being a student allowed me to give the other teachers special insight into what other students needed and also enabled me to be a better teaching assistant. I was able to relate more to the students as a teacher assistant because I was also in their shoes; I did all of the same homework and classwork assignments, which allowed me to know what challenges they may have encountered. I loved being both a student and a teacher assistant because it really is the best of both worlds!

Photo by PhillipOne of the pictures that I am most excited to share is a portrait that I took of one of my classmates. Our assignment in class was to take a portrait that truly describes a person. When I saw this awesome friendship bracelet on my classmate, I knew that it was the perfect way to describe him. He was very friendly and fun to be around, and the colorful, messy bracelet with the sun shining right behind it describes him just perfectly.

One of my other favorite photos is also a portrait—a self-portrait. In the photo, I am looking through a misty and foggy mirror back at myself. I feel like this picture illustrates a day in my life.

Self Portrait by PhillipIn the photo my expression comes off as a little confused, which is appropriate because sometimes I don’t feel like myself while on chemo. The foggy mirror represents that I can’t always see clearly what is in store for me. My body’s reaction to chemotherapy this week, or what my blood counts might reveal, or how I might feel tomorrow is always unclear for me. Just like the mirror.

Phillip, Pablove Shutterbugs student, Palo Alto 2014

You can support more Pablove Shutterbugs like Phillip at–

Want to read more?
Read Zuly and Antonella’s story – “Finding normal through a camera lens
Read Marcy’s story – “Today, I am happy


3 responses to “Pablove Shutterbugs: an anchor in a foggy landscape”

  1. Beth Van Schaack says:

    Terrific photos and narrative – thanks!

  2. Sarah Wells says:

    Nothing could quite make a teacher more proud than reading such brave sentiments from such a beautiful voice. What a privilege to have had this talented individual as my student teaching assistant.

  3. Fred Larke says:

    Great blog and photos, Phillip; so glad you’re with us.

    fred; volunteer photography assistant from Denver

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