Jill Savage is well known in central Illinois where I live.
Jill founded a ministry, Hearts at Home, 20 years ago to help women and families. She's written numerous books and spoken to countless audiences. Because of her visibility as an author and speaker, she's chosen to live more transparently than most, often sharing life's good and hard stories on her blog.
This past November, Jill was diagnosed with breast cancer and, true to form, has endeavored to share the grief and joy in her struggle publicly with a CaringBridge site.
My wife has attended the Hearts at Home National Conference in Bloomington/Normal for years and I've photographed the conference several times. We've spent time with Jill and her husband Mark. And I've made Jill's portraits for her books and marketing materials.
Jill came down to Lincoln today to chat with me and our friend Deanne about her talk at the upcoming Hearts at Home conference. Last night I asked Jill if she'd let me make her picture while she was here. I told her I wanted to make some portraits that represented visually what she's been sharing as a writer through her journey with cancer. She agreed.
Jill was generous with her time and attention, more than I expected. She had surgery in December, is currently undergoing chemotherapy, and will have 33 radiation treatments once she completes chemo. I would be grumpy, tired, and selfish; Jill was gracious.
We used a very simple lighting setup: a couple of Alzo Pan-L-Lites to the right for illumination and a silver reflector for some kick on a few of the images. Technically, it could hardly have been simpler. The challenge for me, though, came in editing the photographs.
After getting the pictures into the computer, I found myself confronted by the face of a friend who is walking a hard road. Choosing these pictures was difficult, and I'm still somewhat ambivalent about showing them. They reveal a woman in a place where no woman should be. But the reality is that other women are there, and Jill is choosing to walk alongside them by sharing her story.
To share her story--that's why I wanted to make these portraits. And my hope is that other women and families are encouraged by Jill's words and these pictures.
Thank you, Jill, for sharing your story and letting me help you tell it.