Can­cer in­spires win­ning photo series


An en­counter with breast can­cer has in­spired two award-win­ning pho­to­graphs.

Palmer­ston North-based Meli Berends, in her third year of UCOL’s bach­e­lor of ap­plied vis­ual im­agery, won the stu­dent of the year award in the 2016 Ep­son/ NZIPP Iris Pro­fes­sional Pho­tog­ra­phy Awards.

Her two im­ages were also awarded a sil­ver with dis­tinc­tion and a bronze.

The sil­ver with dis­tinc­tion photo is a trip­tych of self-por­traits record­ing her own bat­tle with breast can­cer.

‘‘I like to think the self-por­trait is an im­age of hope, show­ing the life of a young woman with breast can­cer can have a happy end­ing, as mine has.

‘‘I also hope that it cre­ates aware­ness that breast can­cer isn’t just an older woman’s dis­ease and younger women in their 30s and 20s are af­fected by it too.’’

Berends said al­though her breast can­cer jour­ney had been life-chang­ing, she didn’t want it to de­fine her.

’’For me, pho­tog­ra­phy is a tool that can be used to high­light, help, cre­ate aware­ness and cel­e­brate.’’

Af­ter mov­ing to Palmer­ston North from Christchurch to study at UCOL, Berends is now near­ing the end of the third year of her de­gree.

For her fi­nal year project, she cre­ated a piece of work that cel­e­brated unity within di­ver­sity and asked the viewer to look deeper. ’’Each par­tic­i­pant within the project has a story of their own to share and re­gard­less of their story, the mes­sage is sim­ple: ‘I am more than just…’.’’

The other award-win­ning im­age is part of a series about chil­dren growing up too fast and con­tin­ues her fo­cus on us­ing pho- tog­ra­phy with a strong so­cial com­men­tary to spark dis­cus­sion.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, Berends in­tends to spe­cialise in birth pho­tog­ra­phy. ’’Your baby will be born once, that mo­ment will never come again; mem­o­ries of the birth can be very clouded and see­ing the im­ages is a great way to re­mem­ber for­got­ten mo­ments.

‘‘It’s not all about the crown­ing but the ef­fort and love to bring them into the world and that first pre­cious meet.’’

UCOL stu­dents from Palmer­ston North and Auck­land picked up 41 of the 60 awards at the pro­fes­sional com­pe­ti­tion. It was the 12th con­sec­u­tive year a UCOL stu­dent had won the stu­dent of the year award.

‘Cassie’ was taken by Meli Berends as part of her fi­nal project for the UCOL bach­e­lor of vis­ual imag­ing.

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