The eye is a beautiful organ. It is the first thing we look at when we observe a person, it tells a thousand stories. The eye shapes the way we view the world. For those of us who are fortunate to see, could you imagine what life would be like without your sight? Could you image going to work, meeting up with people or even navigating your own home without the aid of vision? To have vision is something truly to be grateful for, as a photographer I couldn't do much without it.
Macular degeneration is a progressive condition which the eye sight may become distorted or even vision may be lost at the centre of the eye. This is caused by abnormalities in the vessels within the eye that have a direct effect on vision. It is an auto-immune condition which means it is caused not by lifestyle or exposure to substances but a malfunction within her eye organ. To help you understand how vision is affected please look at the images below. In the images my aim is to give a rough idea of what it is to have this eye condition, however each individual will present differently at different stages of the progression.
Greyed spots, out of focused areas
Blacked out center
Let me introduce an amazing person called Kay Lovesah. Kay is a painter based in South Croydon. She has invested in her creativity, she studied "Art and Design", followed by "Creative Imaging" both at University level in the city of Birmingham, England. However, it was not through University that she moved off into painting. Kay was a visual merchandiser and worked for large well known brands. After meeting her now husband in a European back packing trip (in 2006) Kay came to a terrifying realisation. Her eyes were not functioning as before, this was not due to blurry vision due to needing glasses, this was worse. Parts of sight became distorted and morphed. Spots appeared which greyed partial areas of her vision (similar to the example above). She was no longer able to read a text message at one point. With a child on the way she feared never visualising her now daughter, or not being able to see her wedding day, or to waking up and not seeing her face again in a mirror. I can understand why she describes this period to be "devastating" and "shocking".
At this time the treatment to slow down the progression of the disease was not available in the UK. With little hesitation she went to New York for seven years. This enabled her to get a course of injections to limit the damage for the eye vessels.
She ended up in New York for seven years until she came back to England to raise her daughter. By this time the UK were using this method of treatment and she was able to get some normality back in her life (as she was not able to work in America). She informed me that being a stay home parent gave her more time to do what she loves which is capturing people through art.
You wouldn't have known by looking at her that she had a rare condition that affected her eyesight. It is not something she advertises when you meet her. Instead Kay's artistry expresses itself through her portraiture and painting style. Kay layers her paint slowly piecing together her portraits. Kay is an abstract portrait artist working with palette knives and acrylic paints. This can take days to complete a project as the type of paint she uses needs to dry before she adds another layer of detail. She uses images of people to base her work on, sometimes obscuring features to make them less recognisable. She places emphasis on shapes, emotion and evolves her art during the process of creation. Kay uses strong bold colours and has a way conveying an emotion, an idea a concept through the expressions of the the subject.
It was her stay in New York where Kay noticed how she was fascinated by the bone structure and facial features of people in a diverse community. As a creative I can relate to this, I often see people on a daily basis I think would be interesting to photograph. A face tells a story, and for Kay this story is linked to the ancestry of a face, something she is pulled towards. She brings a part of this story to life when she gets in front of the easel and begins to paint. Kay stated "..I believe real life paint gives a sort of depth and soul.." when I asked her if she felt there was still a place for paintings in this digital age. She respects the work of digital artists, but feels a freedom that cannot be replicated through a computer screen when she paints.
A push towards being an established artist came when the Moorfields eye hospital staff encouraged Kay to exhibit her work openly. This was a push that moved her away from a hobbyest to starting on the journey as an established artist. This is a project that will take place some time in the future and I would love to be there to see this major landmark in her story. Painting became a therapy, a way of expressing her thoughts whether good or bad through the art. Kay describes her painting to be a form of therapy, the more she painted the better she felt.
Another aspect that has kept her going is her daughter who was born profoundly deaf and has to wear cochlea implants. As a loving parent Kay wants to inspire her daughter to achieve anything she puts her hands to. She will not give up because she wants her daughter to know that she will achieve great things regardless of her medical condition. Her daughter will grow knowing that her mother has achieved so much in her life and will be able to mirror her example.
To have a rare auto immune disease, that has symptoms similar to macular degeneration for a creative could be viewed as an obstacle as an artist. Kay however is more determined than ever and has no plans on giving up her creative talent. With careful time management Kay is able to produce high quality set pieces from inspiration to commissioned jobs. Kay at this point still feels she is creatively finding herself. It is one thing to have a talent but it is another thing to have matured in the talent. Kay aims to mature a get to a stage where people can emotionally connect to her portraits and galleries. Within five years she aims to have achieved these outcomes.
Kay frequently has procedures to her eye to limit the damage of the condition. She lives knowing that at any given point her eyes could fail. However, she is not a victim, by no means, she is an emerging artist. An artist whose story will not just inspire her daughter, but the lives of people that take the time to hear her story and she her art. I hope the images I took convey a strong capable lady, as that is the person I saw when I interviewed her. Kay wants her talent to speak for itself in it's own right. She wants you to connect through the emotions of her images and not emotions of sympathy.
There is a famous cliché "what doesn't kill you will only make you stronger". I feel we can take a leaf out of this example. So many times we want to achieve things, but due to misuse of time, lack of discipline we end up never making real progression. We often moan when minuscule things go wrong, complain how unfair the world is, not realising we have everything we need to succeed. My question to you is, what is stopping you from reaching your goal? In Kay's story there were several things working against her, she did not let it stop her, she kept going. I hope her story will inspire you to achieve your dreams and to reach your goals.
Kay is determined to be successful in the field of art. She placed no emphasis in making money, but desired to make a mark. A mark that would have her work in exhibitions, a mark that would establish her in her own respect a mark that would imprint upon the hearts of people. I feel Kay has a style of her own, she clearly demonstrates her subject in a way that brings out emotion. She is well on her way of achieving her progressive goal and I wish her success in her future. May she continue to be inspired and her artistry be cause he to be internationally recognised.
To find out more about Kay you can find her on her instagram www.instagram.com/kay_lovesah or www.facebook.com/kay_lovesah. If you are affected by any of the medical issues above, please contact your GP for information about interventions and advice.
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