Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Leper

The culprit. A bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae (image is from Wikipedia's description of leprosy).

By 1884, just 11 years after his arrival to the peninsula, Father Damien was diagnosed with leprosy.

I made a "skin" of the image by way of the gel transfer method and added more color from the back of the skin. The bacterium isn't really this color. This is a microscope slide image which is treated with a stain to differentiate the cells.

This image of Father Damien was taken shortly before he died. The photo was taken by Dr. Sidney Swift who felt that it was important to document this man's death. Shortly before Damien's death, the doctor arrived at the priest's rectory with a box full of glass plates and a camera mounted on a tripod (from "The Lands of Father Damien" by James Brocker).

I did a Lazertran transfer with this image and created a border that should bring to mind the image of blood. Blood that symbolizes the sacrifice he made day in and day out without hesitation. Blood because it is the vehicle for the disease, leprosy.

When this image was taken, the sisters that he had repeatedly asked the Diocese to send to Kalaupapa to help in the care of the patients, had just arrived. As Mother Marianne had said to Damien that, "It took them one month to travel by boat from Syracuse, New York, to Honolulu. From Honolulu, it took 5 years for them to get to Kalaupapa" due to the reluctance of the Diocese. In less than two weeks of their arrival, Damien died on April 15, 1889. He died shortly before Holy Week (Easter). He had hoped to be with his Lord by Easter.

It was this photo of Father Damien that went around the world after he died that became the agent of change that Damien had so hoped for. It was as though in his death, he became the 'poster child' for leprosy. It raised public awareness to such a degree that it finally made a difference for the people of Kalaupapa.

Here is a small portion of the completed image that I've named "The Leper". The image of the bacterium is merged with the image of Father Damien.

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