Ruth Skinner






The Renal Community Photo Initiative

Above: Participant image and accompanying log entry. The log reads, "I love sunsets. I get lost in them. I look up at the skies/sunsets & pray. I get lost in the beauty and think about life when dialysis and my transplant is over."

Based in London, Ontario, the Renal Community Photo Initiative is a collaboratively-driven interdisciplinary partnership between the Kidney Clinical Research Unit at the London Health Sciences Centre and the Department of Visual Arts at Western University.

Dialysis is a process that removes excess water, solutes and toxins from the blood for people whose kidneys can no longer perform these functions naturally. The treatment typically involves four-hour visits to a dialysis unit, three times per week for the entirety of a person's life. The aim of this project is to better understand what gives some dialysis patients the resilience to remain hopeful, outward looking, and enjoy a rich quality of life. As a participant-centric project, we also seek to centre participants as informers on their own quality of life.

This is very much a patient- or participant-centered venture: participants are invited to use one of five camera systems (digital cameras, point-and-shoot film cameras, instant film cameras, pinhole cameras and cyanotype paper), and the parameters of the images and logs they make are left open to them. Participant-led focus groups have established priorities for image sharing and a core set of values for public presentation of images and subsequent study phases.

To date, more than 1,600 images have been created thanks to the enthusiasm and collaboration of all participants and their families.

"Bringing Healing into Focus" is a longform profile of the project, published jointly by Western University with Schulich Medicine and Dentistry and the Lawson Health Research Institute.

"The Renal Community Photo Initiative: A Program Report in Ontario, Canada" is co-published in the Canadian Journal of Kidney Health and Disease by Ruth Skinner, Cindy House, Andrew A. House, Chris McIntyre, and program participants Elaine Hayter, Pamela Ireland, Jared McGregor, and Ann Tillman.

An accompanying visual essay has also been published in the Canadian Journal of Kidney Health and Disease. You can download a formatted visual pdf here or view an in-line version of the visual essay here.

A small section of participant images is below.

Above participant log reads: "Pema catheter: I hate this thing! As a woman I feel ugly with it. I feel like it dewomanizes me. But the beautiful thing about this stupid thing is ... it's saving my life. So I will wear it proud"