North London Hospice’s photography group is not all about the pictures

August 17, 2021

North London Hospice’s ‘catching the light’ photography group has given Ajay a sense of comradery, inspiration and connection since his cancer diagnosis in 2013. Ajay was diagnosed with bowel cancer following a routine emergency operation aged 44; a year later it was declared ‘incurable’ and he was given chemotherapy indefinitely. 

He was referred to North London Hospice and a conversation with our art therapist in 2016 changed his perspective forever. They discussed starting a photography group, made up of patients / service users, family, carers and people who have lost loved ones. It’s become a lifeline for Ajay and his wife Sharon as they’ve faced multiple challenges, brought on by his diagnosis and repeated operations. The photography group started in November 2017.

As Ajay explains: “The most important thing is we’re sharing stories, sometimes through our photos, sometimes not. It’s all about being part of a group, a movement. We’ll all keep on moving until we can’t move any more… and that’s exactly what has happened to a number of members of the group.” Several group members have passed away since the group was set up and Ajay insists that being able to understand and talk about death is a crucial part of the process.

For Ajay and the other group members, it’s given a sense of purpose: “I’ve achieved more emotionally here than I ever would do at work. The group means I’m not just sitting round waiting for the next round of treatment or the next lot of bad news.I’ve made new friends, lifelong bonds. We tackle stuff together, coaching and helping each other through”.

He emphasises how important it is for him to be mixing with like-minded people: “We don’t want or need sympathy. People were expecting me to just be sitting round in bed wallowing in self-pity, but that’s not me. We want to get up and go to take photos. My wife Sharon and I are both members and it’s another way that we can move beyond the label of ‘patient’ to be fulfilled and productive in life.

Living with the uncertainty has been a challenge but the therapeutic benefits of photography facilitated by our photography group, has helped myself and my wife, Sharon, discover an artistic and creative side that we never thought we had.I’ve been told I shouldn’t be alive… this is my response! Sharon and I both owe North London Hospice a debt of gratitude for enabling this opportunity.”

Ajay’s photographs take you on a journey through London, capturing his career. They capture old and new buildings that he’s come into contact with since starting work in London in 1989.

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