The Family Imprint Howie and Laurel Borowick

Howie and Laurel Borowick embrace in the bedroom of their home.

There are often times when we see a photographic project that is so personal for either the subject or the photographer that it can feel almost voyeuristic to view it. There are a number of current projects concerning the migrant crisis, all of which hit hard on our conscience yet play to our appreciation of the photographic form. You could argue that we’re now so used to seeing these that they don’t quite have the impact they once did. However, there are still some projects that can really take your breath away with their intimacy. The Family Imprint: A Daughter’s Portrait of Love and Loss is one such project.

In 2013, Howie and Laurel Borowick were undergoing parallel treatments for stage-four cancer. Howie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Witnessing all this was their daughter, Nancy, a documentary and photojournalism graduate. Faced with watching her parents undergo the often-debilitating treatments, Nancy did what she did best. She picked up her camera and began to document what she saw in front of her. The result is a series of images that is sometimes so moving you have to look away, catch your breath and go back in with a clear head.

Nancy’s images do not shy away from the subject. While there were undoubtedly several occasions when she decided shooting would be inappropriate, Nancy gives us a full view of what it is to suffer from such a rapacious disease and what it is it to endure the treatments that may only serve to prolong the suffering.

Tonally striking

What makes Nancy’s project so affecting is that each image is captured in beautiful black & white. There’s a deeply romantic quality to these tonally striking images. While it may seem odd to render the scenes in this way, it’s a fitting aesthetic. This project is, at its heart, a love story – one that deals with the love between a couple who have found themselves in such incredible parallel circumstances, and a love story between a daughter and her parents as they live out their final days.

On another level, this is a project that is utterly relatable and universal. We all understand, or will come to understand, grief. We will all one day know what it is to lose someone we love. Projects like Nancy’s – ones that openly discuss the nature of our own mortality – can perhaps go some way towards helping us to come to terms with that. With that in mind, The Family Imprint is easily one of the most moving and beautiful photojournalistic projects in years.

SCORE: 5 out of 5

Nancy Borowick The Family Imprint cover

Published by Hatje Cantz

Price £32.91, 192 pages, hardback

ISBN 978-3-77574248-1