A little over a week ago, I posted a request for people to send me photos of their hands, in order to put together an inflammatory arthritis community collage. Originally I thought that I would receive around a hundred photos, or maybe even two hundred photos, if the response was really strong. In the end, I ended up receiving more than five hundred photos!
And what amazed me the most was not just the number of photos that people were sending in, but the personal messages that they attached to their submissions. I quickly realized that this wasn’t just a ‘simple’ collage project, but was in fact–for many people–much more.
Two main themes emerged. The first was the sense of community that people felt, as a result of contributing to this project. One of the goals of this collage was for it to become a symbol of the wonderfully supportive autoimmune arthritis community that continues to grow around the world, and in this regard these expectations were easily met.
The second theme that emerged really, really moved me. Yes, the inspiration for this project came from a previous blog post that I wrote about being proud of my arthritis hands…but I wasn’t prepared for all of the personal stories, related to this topic, that I received. Many people told me that they have been ashamed of their hands for the entire time that they’ve been living with autoimmune arthritis (and for some people, this has been for almost their entire lives,) and that for the first time ever, as a result of intentionally taking and sharing a photo of their hands, they no longer felt the need to hide their hands. These words, and the accompanying photos, moved me to tears. Not tears of sadness, but tears of pure emotion. Tears of happiness.
I know that this project will mean many different things to many different people. To some people, like Cecilia, “this project represents a form of healing, represented by an acceptance of my damaged body joints, in this case, my hands.” To other people, these images might be a bitter pill to swallow, as they might force us to confront certain fears that are inherent in the toll that these diseases take on our hands; hands which are simultaneously private and public parts of our personal selves.
It’s been a pleasure to work on this project over the past week, and I’d like to thank each and every person who contributed photos and who helped make this collage a great success. So now, I’m happy to finally be able to share the results of ‘Show Us Your Hands!’:
- A new website, which will be completely dedicated to this new project. The home page contains a digital collage, which will continue to grown in the future as even more people submit their photos. Every time this collage is loaded, the photos are displayed in a new random order. You can scroll up and down, and see all of the images as a whole. Or, you can click on any individual image, and look at each photo more closely.
- A commemorative poster, which proudly displays the first 483 hand photos which were submitted to this community collage project. All of the net proceeds from the sale of this poster go towards the hosting costs and operating expenses associated with current and future projects of ‘Show Us Your Hands!’, an international awareness movement which serves to unite and inspire the inflammatory arthritis community.
A link to this new website is included below. While you’re there, please don’t forget to sign the guestbook…I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts and reactions to this community awareness project. Thanks again for all your help!
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!