This series was shot at Charlie’s in March 2018. Charlie’s is a Cancer Support and Therapy Centre based in Gloucester, founded by Jo Sutherland. Jo was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and found it a very lonely experience. Once she had recovered, she decided that she wanted to create a place for people to come and spend time with other people in a similar position so that they could feel less lonely. It started as a monthly gathering in Quedgeley, but it grew quickly and it became clear that more space was needed. In 2015, Charlie’s moved into a new premise on the Madleaze Trading Estate in Gloucester. They are open three days a week to anyone who has been affected by cancer in Gloucestershire, such as those with cancer, those in remission from cancer and those who have lost someone to cancer. There are a variety of treatments available, all free of charge, including facials, massages, nail treatments and exercise classes. They also host knitting groups, coffee mornings and craft days.
My aim with this project was to document the community at Charlie’s and the individual people who make up that community. I wanted to find out more about their stories and what brought them to Charlie’s. This is quite a sensitive subject for people and I did not want anyone to feel as though I was forcing them to share anything they didn’t want to and so I spent quite a bit of time without my camera, chatting to people and getting to know them before I began taking pictures. Towards the end of the project there were a group of women who had volunteered to have their scars photographed. I think this changed the narrative of the series because by seeing physical scars it becomes more visually obvious what these people have been through. The subjects in those photographs posed in whatever way they felt comfortable and showed whatever they felt comfortable showing.
As my time at Charlie’s progressed it became obvious just how important the community there is. For some people, it is their only opportunity to socialise during the week, particularly those who are elderly or have been widowed. Despite what these people have been through, and are still going through, the atmosphere at Charlie’s is always incredibly upbeat, warm and welcoming. There is so much laughter, joy and positivity that it is clear this little building, on a trading estate in Gloucester, provides a welcome escape to those who need it most.