The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a drastic reorganization of hospitals and, among the necessary measures, was the suspension of the Wednesday meetings of the Youth Project.
However, following the requests of our young patients, who continued asking for a way to meet and discuss, doing something fun together even without physical contact, the Youth Project reorganized itself, giving life to a project using a digital platform. Their room at the seventh floor room has been reopened, even if only in a virtual way; and actually, through the video camera of their smartphones or PCs, the patients let doctors and educators into their homes.
The new project focused on photography. If it is true that for teenagers, taking photos with smartphones is today a daily means and digital sharing is their language, it is also true that photography can be seen as a way of trying to learn to reverse perspectives, accepting that there are many and different ways of seeing things. A professional photographer – Alice Patriccioli – managed the meetings, which lasted an hour and a half: starting from examples of contemporary photographers and artists, Alice invited the children to develop their own personal path, using mixed languages between photography, art and writing.
The photographic journey started precisely from the experience of the lockdown, from the impossibility of leaving one’s room, which is what often happens during treatments, regardless of the pandemic. The starting theme was therefore that of the window from which to observe the world; the window frame became the frame of the camera. Camilla wrote: “During hospital stays, the best companions for daydreaming, in the absence of being able to savor the wind and the sun, are the clouds in the sky. I look out the window, while I’m stuck in bed, and run with the clouds ”. While many young people photographed the view from their bedroom window, Matteo Davide photographed his closed window, and he wrote: “Windows can be open or closed; imagine a boy who finds himself locked in a room (physical and mental) in spite of himself, facing an illness that upsets his life and that of those close to him. This guy has spent several moments closed in that room, he had time to look inside and try to understand the meaning of things. He has not yet understood many things, but he has realized one thing: the only person who can decide if and when to open or close my window is me ”.
From the window theme, the photographic journey of the young patients of the Youth Project continued, windows as limits, and therefore thinking about the limits imposed by illness; windows as openings to the outside (towards places, people, one’s roots: these are some of the themes of the meetings); windows as openings that, like the lens of the camera, let in the light, light that brightens the inside, the inside of themselves (and hence the theme of the self-portrait). Look outside to look within.
The photographic project was carried out between May and September 2020 and saw the participation of 25 young people aged between 14 and 29 years (14 under treatment and 11 who had already finished the treatments).
With the photographs of the patients, a 2021 Calendar was created, the proceeds of which will be used to support the activities of the Youth Project, through the l’Associazione Bianca Garavaglia Onlus.
The calendar can be ordered on the website of the Associazione Bianca Garavaglia, https://www.abianca.org
• Ferrari A, Patriccioli A, Silva M, Casanova M, Signoroni S, Massimino M. Looking out to see within: a photography project developed by adolescents with cancer during the COVID pandemic. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2021 May;68(5):e28948. doi: 10.1002/pbc.28948.
• Ferrari A, Patriccioli A, Silva M, Bonvicini MD, Massimino M. My mind is still mine: a self-portrait in a photography project for adolescents and young adults with cancer. BMC Palliat Care. 2021 Jul 14;20(1):107. doi: 10.1186/s12904-021-00789-0.