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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#24 – Behind the Mask – Pip


I had initially arranged to shoot Pip as part of a studio day. When I arrived, Pip had been talking to the studio owner (Alison) who had told him all about the project. Pip volunteered to take part in the project.

Pip has been working with mentally ill people for some time now. He has recently completed his masters degree and is very aware of the needs of people who hide things away from the world.

When you first meet him, Pip’s appearance may lead you to reason that there is no way that he could be hiding behind a mask. He looks confident and strong. Yet listening to this eloquent and passionate man speak, you cannot help but be drawn into the emotion of his story. During the time I was with him, Pip talked to me about his mum. When these photographs were taken, she had been given just a few weeks to live due to cancer.

Watching a parent and someone we love so much unable to do anything for themselves is heartbreaking. Pip has watched his mum fight against cancer for the last 4 years. It was discovered by chance when she went to the doctors for a different ailment. The treatment has taken its toll mentally and physically not just on his mum but also on members of the family.

A diagnosis of cancer affects not only the person but the people around them. Hearing the word ‘cancer’ can evoke complex feelings in people. The treatment and progression of the disease can result in lifestyle changes that affect everyone. The diagnosis can be overwhelming and hard to deal with. Burying feelings can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. (Northouse and Northouse, 1988). As Pip himself says below in his Facebook post “Please take time to talk to each other” (, 2017).

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 11.45.27

Figure 1: 2017

Since gaining a diagnosis of cancer, Pip’s mum allowed it to define her. It became the central point of her life and she stopped living life to the fullest. Watching this has affected the whole family.

Pip has also been through other things in his life. He gave up work to follow his dream and achieve his masters degree. This has taken a toll on family finances which he has dealt with over the last year. A constant balancing act is tricky for anyone to deal with, and is especially hard when you are coping with a family member’s illness. Yet through all of this, he still smiles.

Working with mentally ill people, Pip has experienced the accepted medical method not working for many sufferers. This project, in his opinion, has so much potential to help people. He told me that writing on the mask before wearing it and then symbolically removing it, provides an empowering feeling of starting to take control over the demons. The first part of getting better is to admit that you have a problem. Writing on the mask is an effective way of doing this. Pip encouraged me to pursue the project further with mental health treatment centres and charities.

To find resources to cope with issues concerning cancer, please visit the websites below. You can also support the charities ongoing research and support by clicking ‘DONATE’ against the relevant charity.

I would like to thank Pip for his part in this project and his encouraging words to me.


Northouse, P. and Northouse, L. (1988). Communication and Cancer. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 5(3), pp.17-46.


Figure 1: (2017). Pip Atkins. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Nov. 2017].

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