Photographer Adds Artful Vision to Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Brazil-born photographer Andrezza Haddaway has always used her photography to express emotions, whether shooting seascapes, portraits, still life or nature. Photography has played a major role in her life, leading her to meet her husband, Matt Haddaway, and moving from Brazil to Virginia Beach with him in 2011.
As a photographer, Andrezza seeks to find the beauty in everything, she explains. It’s no different in her newest series, The Pain Behind the Beauty, portraying the symptoms she has experienced on her journey with multiple sclerosis.
When she was 20 years old, Andrezza experienced dizziness so impairing that she had to miss a week of work. “I just couldn’t get out of the bed. It was horrible,” she says. She visited a hospital where she was treated for vertigo, but from then on, things were never the same.
The dizziness reoccurred, along with other symptoms. She had tests and scans performed and visited a neurologist and other doctors, but there was no diagnosis. People around her began to wonder if it was psychological or if she was faking her symptoms. This went on for 10 years.
“It was very frustrating because you question yourself,” she explains. “But deep inside I knew that there was something, and I knew that one day I would discover it.”
Finally, in 2007 she saw a specialist who diagnosed her with MS. “It was a relief to know, after 10 years of feeling sick,” she says.
Still, she doesn’t talk a lot about the disease. “I don’t complain too much,” she says. “I don’t use social media to be like, ‘I’m feeling bad; I’m feeling weak.’ It’s just part of me.” She did, however, get the idea to portray her MS symptoms through photography as a way to express herself and bring awareness to the disease.
Andrezza knew that it wouldn’t be an easy or quick project to complete. “I had to think about it a lot and the symptoms,” she says. “I just took my time.” She spent two years developing the series.
The Pain Behind the Beauty is comprised of 10 images, each depicting a different symptom that Andrezza has experienced with MS, using a model, Shelby Cross, as her subject.
The first symptom she aimed to portray was numbness. “It was the most difficult one,” she says. It also required a task that she didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone else to do—standing barefoot in the snow.
During a snowstorm, the Haddaways drove to Red Wing Park, where Andrezza stood in the snow and Matt photographed her legs and feet. It’s the only photo that Andrezza posed for in the series.
For certain symptoms, like the MS hug—an uncomfortable tightness or compression around the torso or chest—Andrezza considered doing an extreme portrayal, perhaps even using Photoshop, but instead she was careful to maintain a realistic portrayal of MS, while bringing an art to the disease.
“You see her uncomfortable, but there’s still some beauty in there,” she says. “I wanted people with MS to see the symptoms portrayed with grace, as if we wouldn’t let the disease be stronger than our inner strength.”
Determined to not let the pain and distress of the disease win and steal the spotlight of the project, Andrezza wanted to add a bit of soul to her images, she says. “It’s that thing about extracting the beauty in everything.”
Editor’s note: Andrezza’s husband, Matt Haddaway, is the art director for Coastal Virginia Magazine.
To see the complete series of The Pain Behind the Beauty, along with detailed descriptions for each image, visit here.