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Courage: A self-portrait

This past week I had the privilege of interviewing John Kaplan, a Pulitzer Prize winning JSchool alum who’s film “Pulitzer Pride” was shown at the 2010 Athens International Film+Video Festival. (watch the interview)

Robert Stewart will become director of the JSchool when Tom Hodson steps down at the end of June.

The 15-minute film is an excerpt from Kaplan’s longer project, “Not as I Pictured.” While Kaplan holds both a bachelors and masters degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, he’s best known for his photography.

In his two films, John points the camera at himself to chronicle his battle with cancer. The shorter of the two projects focuses the lens on John’s interactions with another cancer patient, inspired to fight his own battle because of one of John’s amazing photographs.

Happily, John’s is a story about winning. He’s in complete remission, according to his doctors. But he didn’t know the outcome of his struggle for life when he started taking self-portraits. What I found so remarkable was his artistic courage in the midst of his fight for life itself. The reason he undertook the project, he told me, was because he thought it had the potential to help others.

John plans is to distribute free copies of his project to cancer patients who struggle with depression and lack of will-power to fight the disease.

As I’ve thought about my interview with John last week, as well as his film “Pulitzer Pride,” I’ve decided that the most remarkable aspect of John’s work is that it can touch a life so deeply that that life itself is changed. One simple but powerful photograph helped one cancer patient endure 15 hours of brain surgery. I can’t help but think that John’s films will inspire others to beat back any doubts they have about their own chances for surviving cancer.

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May 1, 2010

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