MEXICO CITY – A series of photos have captured different aspects of multiple sclerosis in Mexico – numerous patients surrendered their privacy to the camera to show how they lived their lives with the disease for an exhibition that, beyond its artistic value, was described as worth more than a thousand therapies.
The patients, together with photographers Brenda Islas and Yvonne Venegas, shamelessly shot photos of themselves, assuming the therapeutic role of observers of their own infirmity, portraying different aspects of their lives from that fateful doctor’s visit to waves breaking over their feet at the seashore.
“I think this activity motivated them more than a thousand therapies,” Luz Maria Ramirez, director of the United Against Multiple Sclerosis foundation (UCEM).
For the “Faces of Multiple Sclerosis” exhibition, a playful communication was created among the patients, though they also took the project very seriously since many had to quit their jobs because of the infirmity, and saw this photography as an incentive to prove their worth.
“The patients were asked to do something and they said, ‘Yes, I can,’” Ramirez said, noting their growing self-esteem and determination.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system, in which the immune system slowly destroys the protective covering of the nerve cells and makes them lose communication with each other, which causes the disability.
Brenda Islas, a photographer of the exhibition, told EFE that this turned out to be “a therapy that consists of patients looking at themselves and seeing who they really are.”
The artist admitted that “taking pictures of themselves” scared most of the patients at first.”
“They didn’t necessarily have to do frontal shots but rather find other aspects of their personalities that would also reveal something about them,” the photographer said.
Ramirez, 46, has been living with the disease for half her life and decided to portray herself on the beach, with her feet in the water and using a cane, which in itself is a symbol not only of the inevitable consequences of the illness, but also of the patient’s acceptance of it.
Islas commented on the photo: “It looked like a way of feeling life, of accepting it. The sand, the feet, the water, plus another element, the cane that became part of her story.”
Before beginning this project, the photographer expected to be “surrounded by sadness,” but instead found “something very different.”
Yvonne Venegas, another of the photographers, told EFE about her intention to “shed light on this disease” in order to “do something for society.”
Multiple sclerosis has been called the disease of 1,000 faces because of its multiple symptoms, which in turn makes its diagnosis very difficult.
The chronic and up to now incurable illness afflicts more than 2.3 million people worldwide and more than 16,000 in Mexico.
“Faces of Multiple Sclerosis” is an exhibition of 30 photos that artistically portrays the 1,000 faces of the disease.