This self-portrait, “Amazon,” was created in the middle of my breast cancer treatment in February 1993. It’s now part of the series called “A Gate Unfastened,” a visual document of the whole journey. The power of this photograph for me is that it reveals my inner strength, which was sometimes easy to forget during that difficult time. In fact, Amazon reminds me of Michelangelo’s “David” which I saw when I was 20 years old and just discovering art. The androgynous quality of the figure speaks to the power of the human spirit.
I was a late bloomer is what Via Wynroth, the Director of Education at ICP (NYC’s International Center of Photography) said as she accepted an almost 40-year-old student into Photo 1. From the beginning I was drawn to photographing people who would help enable me to express my deepest feelings. I began by photographing my grandmother and when she died I continued with the Hancock Elders, honoring them by placing their portraits in the Town Hall where they remain today.
Then I turned to my mother. The year was 1978 and I asked my shy mother Sadie if she would work with me without clothes to express the universal emotions of mothers and daughters. I never thought this work would be seen by anyone except us and my photo class. There are many humorous stories connected with my mother’s reaction, as this project was publicly exhibited at the Midtown Y Gallery, in NYC, and West Virginia University. Selected images are now housed at the New York Public Library in New York City.
In 1992 I was diagnosed with breast cancer, discovered because of the impact of a near-fatal car crash. As usual, I photographed the process. This work received an NYFA Fellowship and a NYFA Catalogue grant and was widely exhibited.
I was chosen as 1 of 10 elder artists in NYC for 2012/2013 to participate in an archiving program connected with Columbia University. It’s called ArtCart – Saving the Legacy. www.artsandcultureresearch.org/artcart.
Please visit my website to see my work: www.nikiberg.com.