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Black and white image of Kirsty looking thoughtful

How I’ve used photography to explore my conditions

Kirsty Wilson

I live with multiple chronic illnesses and disabilities, including MS.

This has led me use a wheelchair at only 35. It’s had a huge effect on my mental health and ability to cope and process what was happening to me.

I decided I needed something to focus on, and went back to college with the intention of gaining my degree in photography.

Documenting my life to process my experiences

Black and white image of Kirsty having her hair washed

I’ve always been interested in taking photos and am the creative type. But I didn’t realise how much this was to change my life. Through the amazing support I received from my tutors Jessica Middleton and John-Lloyd Quayle, I learnt how to document my life in a way that helped me to process what I was experiencing.

I’ve created work I hope could help and inspire others, and shows what my life is really like behind closed doors.

I feel that from the outside we only ever have a superficial view of someone else’s illness. We see the after effects of treatments such as chemotherapy, disability in the form of wheelchairs and see heath regained in the form of recovery. What we do not see is the struggle that can ensue after a life changing diagnosis.

The impact of diagnosis on my identity

For me, this shattered my identity, changing me forever into someone I don’t even recognise anymore.

My identity had to be reconstructed, often behind closed doors, alone, in a place where nobody can see or share in my struggle or pain. People don’t see the daily struggles I face to just sit up in bed, to move without pain that would leave most people on their knees.

The self portraits I’ve created

Black and white image of Kirsty having make up applied

I’ve created a body of work called ‘Growing Pains’ as a series of self portraits that depicts the process and experiences I feel learning to live with a chronic illness. And pain in the face of ongoing adversity.

It is the embodiment of my everyday life experiences. I hope this work will open people’s eyes to the effects on not just the person, but those around them. Specifically I’ve looked into young carers and how having a parent who is ill can affect them and change their lives. Our illnesses affect all those around us.

I hope in producing these images I can give insight to an often unknown world. And a voice to other people going through similar experiences to me, and their families.