Artist statement from the spring of 2014: “When I first started photographing the Pugh family in the Fall of 2012, I was focusing on Dave Pugh, who has been battling Stage IV Thymic Cancer since 2009. But since then, the story of the Pugh family has progressed and shifted to his wife, Alicia, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2013 and has already had a double mastectomy to remove both of her breasts and she has completed 4 out of 4 of her chemotherapy treatments in 2014. She is well on her way to recovery but she is taking this one day at a time, fighting and continuing to push forward with her life.
When I started photographing them the second time my vision for the project shifted slightly to their son, Drake. I wanted to capture how he has been dealing with both of his parents illnesses and how he deals with this constant worry of how long his mom and dad may be around. I tried to put myself into his shoes and think about what I would be like if I was a fourth grader dealing with this situation with my family. And I honestly have no words on what I would feel, how I would act, or how I could ever accept what was going on or what could happen on any given day. So I started photographing Drake on a daily basis and how he interacted with his mother and father and how he spent his time after he got home from school.
I realized he participates in a lot of physical activities, mainly playing basketball. Alicia told me that that is his therapy every single day, and it showed, you can tell he lets out aggression. He lets out frustrations and lets out all of the days worries when he chunks the basketball at his hoop. You can see it in his body language, how this helps with his attitude and well-being every single day. I also noticed that Dave has been a lot less active while I was photographing this time. During 2012 I followed him to work and saw him out of the house a lot. And this time around he was laying in his chair 99% of the time and I really mean that his corner of the house turned into his entire corner of the world. That was his life is in that chair and I hated to witness that this time. I could tell in 2012 just how much joy going to work brought him and now that he can’t, it really is such a tragedy that was very had for me to photograph him. But with that being said I noticed how much him and Drake interact. Dave helps him exercise every single day and they also have mini “boxing matches” together which I could look at Dave and see that joy reappear and that light in his eyes come back for at least a few minutes and it was so incredible to witness how much Dave loves his son and his family. I can see that it brings him so much happiness and I think a lot of my photographs captured him in that light.”
Upon writing this, it’s now September 30th, 2015, just over one year since Dave passed away. It’s with a heavy heart that I share these photographs with you all. I never took this project lightly and I still don’t know if I should even share these photographs with you all, but I wanted to tell this amazing story about a man who gave it all he had to fight this disease and in the process loved his son and his wife with all of his heart.