Portraits of Life, Loss, and Renewal:
A Photographer's Journey to Barretos Cancer Hospital
Retratos de Afeto (Portraits of Affection) ©2012 Valdir Cruz
This spring, Terra Virgem Edições will release Brazilian photographer Valdir Cruz's latest book, Portraits of Affection, a singular portrayal of 25 lives—survivors of cancer as well as those who rest in peace—revealed by their vivid testament and portrait.
A Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship winner for his portrayal of the Faces of the Rainforest (1996), Valdir's keen eye for portraiture, as well as his technical excellence in classical photography (silver gelatin printing), earned him a place in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, as well as The Smithsonian.
Within these pages lay before us the lives of people we know. Every one a husband or wife, a neighbor or relative, a close friend or colleague. Each one chosen by the hospital staff and Valdir himself from hundreds across the countryside who've been treated in this remarkable, philanthropic cancer hospital.
Barretos Cancer Hospital grew from its humble origins in 1967 to become today's internationally renowned oncology and research institute. Its mission is to provide the most advanced treatment to the country's rural population—free of charge. The lifework of Henrique Prata, a well-to-do landowner and cattle rancher, and his parents (the founding doctors), the hospital has become Brazil's leader in Health Quality.
The hospital's altruistic and humane approach to healthcare caught Valdir's attention, whose photography often turns to the lives of indigenous communities—like the last tribes of the Amazon—or in this case, the rural poor of Brazil, who often rely on the philanthropy of traveling physicians for access to healthcare.
Skye Witherspoon and Valdir Cruz at the artist's studio.
"No one takes the time anymore," says Valdir from his studio/apartment on W. 14th Street, New York, where he's lived on and off for the last 30 years. "Almost no one takes the time to learn good photography," he says. "Study each shot, take a few-well composed, rather than take a thousand."
"Today, everybody is a photographer. But to capture something meaningful, you have to first almost stop being a photographer," he confides. "You have to take the time to discover your subject… Eat at their table, share their stories…earn their trust. Only then will you be able to capture a glimpse of life. That's what makes a portrait a record of significance. Five years of my life have gone into portraying this side of human life. From all these experiences, we have chosen about 25 stories, illustrated by some 40 images."
These 40 portraits, women and men of all ages, are bound in a handsome double spine book. Valdir's unique "Z" design features a back cover with twin spines that create two interlinked books—one with the portraits and the second with the Barretos Cancer Hospital history—that naturally lead to the other.
The book's unique "Z" design features two interlocking spines.
A moving testament to what it means to be diagnosed with cancer, the courage to see treatments through, and witness the way cancer affects how we grapple with our own mortality—few visual artists have both the steady hand and unflinching honesty to level a portrait of this eloquence about Brazil's 2nd most common cause of death.
Sky Factory contributed a set of Open Sky Compositions, for the leafs (inner sleeves), a nod to the Luminous SkyCeilings that give patients a vivid visual connection into nature at the Juvenile Child Hospital at the Barretos Cancer Hospital.
Although the decorative leafs did not make the final press inspection due to unexpected creasing during the manual binding process, Sky Factory would like to thank the architect, Carla Vilhena, and Marie Wikoff, principal at Wikoff Design Studio, for selecting Sky Factory for the Barretos project.
Portraits of Affection will be unveiled in May, 2017. If you would like to acquire a copy to foster cancer prevention awareness, please visit the publisher's site www.terravirgem.com.br.
To learn more about Valdir's fine art photography, please visit Valdir Cruz: www.valdircruz.com
Neural Study on Open Sky Compositions Earns
EDRA's Certificate of Research Excellence
Neural Correlates of Nature Stimuli: an fMRI Study, the award-winning study in neuroarchitecture spearheaded by the Department of Design and the College of Human Sciences at Texas Tech University, in collaboration with Sky Factory, will be awarded a 2017 Certificate of Research Excellence (CORE) by the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA). The ad hoc research team will be recognized at the Awards Gala during EDRA48, the association's annual conference, this year held in Madison, WI, on May 31st.
The project, led by Texas Tech University researchers Drs. Debajyoti Pati, Michael O'Boyle, and Cherif Amor, examined whether there were unique patterns of brain activation associated with exposure to Sky Factory's Open Sky Compositions (representing nature stimuli) as compared with other positive nature images, negative, and neutral images.
The study analyzed the brain maps generated by viewing four types of imagery—positive, negative, neutral, and Sky Factory's Open Sky Compositions
Initial analysis of the brain maps indicated that Sky Factory's Open Sky Compositions shared all of the characteristic neural activations of other positive images, while, additionally, activating several other unique brain regions. Of particular interest to the researchers were the activations found in the cerebellum.
"While evidence-based designers are well acquainted with the application of representational nature imagery to create a positive distraction effect in clinical environments," said Debajyoti Pati, PhD, principal investigator and co-author of the study, "no one had yet employed imaging technology to uncover the neural correlates of nature imagery designed to be perceived, not as a symbolic artifact, but as a spatial reference frame that simulated a multisensory connection to open sky."
The paper was published in Health Environments Research & Design Journal (2014), a peer reviewed journal, also earning the Design & Health International Academy Award for Best International Research Project the same year.
Unlike positive images of nature, the study found that Open Sky Compositions also engage spatial cognition, confirming that Sky Factory's illusory skies are perceived as multisensory images.
"This research confirms our success in introducing compositional principles and elements into sky images that create the visual cues necessary to trigger biophilic engagement, which is an automatic 'relaxation response' just like we experience in natural environments. The study also confirmed that some compositional relationships are more successful in giving rise to a spatial illusion of nature than others," remarked Bill Witherspoon, Sky Factory founder.
"The credibility of academic research is typically judged on the basis of well-established protocols and peer-reviewed processes," says Kris Haskin, Executive Director at EDRA, "but these tools alone do not easily translate to practice-based research. EDRA CORE is awarded based on the review of a cross-disciplinary jury of academic researchers, practice-based investigators, professional designers, and industry thought leaders."
"We are very grateful to EDRA for creating the CORE program," said Skye Witherspoon, CEO of the Sky Factory, "because it allows practice-based design studios like ours to validate field0inspired hypotheses and base our product development on rigorous research.
"We are glad to uncover more evidence that the artistic framework we designed does indeed give rise to a multi-sensory illusion of nature whose spatial properties enable designers to create restorative spaces in isolated and otherwise enclosed interiors, which we know are less than ideal for human health and wellness" he added.
Read the full story in our press release.
Featured Installation: Chicago Mid-Century Office
Not all downtown offices have access to open views or even daylight
Imagine that you work at the national headquarters of a well-known professional organization. The central office conjures images of a beautiful high rise or skyscraper with a spacious lobby, elegant artwork, and granite walls.
Every morning, however, rather than head to the elevators and punch double digit numbers to soar high above the city’s skyline, instead you depress a double letter indicating you’re heading down. To the basement. To your office basement.
So much for the fancy downtown address or attractive architecture. When you find yourself in the foundation of the building, rather than swept to the upper floors, the confining nature of the workplace impacts wellness and performance. Yet, this is the reality for many who are in call or training centers located in isolated interior areas.
"It's a challenge for us on the lower level," says Charles, Manager of the Member Service & Training Center for a professional association in downtown Chicago. "I have been here for 13 years and we've had the virtual skylights for a year and a half now and we are very grateful to have this installation."
Luminous SkyCeilings are designed in layers to create a therapeutic illusion of nature that occupants perceive as reassuring proximity to unencumbered, open sky.
Sky Factory installed a series of 2' X 6' Revelation SkyCeilings in the main training center and an additional pair in the team's underground lounge.
"They bring a wonderful dimension to the call center and lounge. Even though they are just an optical illusion, we do feel like we have a sense of the outside. The skylights do something to the ambiance of the room," adds Charles.
A visual connection to nature reduces stress and enhances well-being.
The skylights calibrated daylight-quality light help mimic the same frequency of daylight we experience between 9 am and 3 pm when light intensity supports mental acuity and focused tasks.
"They help you especially during winter when you can't go out and you're down here. You come in at 7:30 - 8:00 am and you don’t leave until 4:30 pm, so there's no chance to get any light. Psychologically, the simulated skylights make people more positive," adds Charles.
Mark the Date: Experience The Sky Factory First-hand!
|Healthcare Connect Partners
||Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
||Music City Center
||Anaheim Convention Center