A new collaborative photography project titled ‘Living With SMART’ is being exhibited at the Inverness Botanic Gardens until Monday 25th September this year, meaning that this weekend is the last chance for members of the public to view.
‘SMART stands for Stroke like Migraine Attacks after Radiation Therapy’, and the photograph series documents the daily struggles of living with this very rare and debilitating condition which can occur after radiation therapy to treat brain cancer.
There are only 6-8 cases recorded in UK, and about 100 cases in the world since it was first discovered in 1995.
Brandon was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2006 when he was just 12 years old, and then with SMART syndrome just 5 years later at age 17 following radiation treatment. The project shows daily life, struggles, care, and the loving family relationship between Brandon Gunn and his Mum Angela.
The exhibition ‘Living With SMART’ contains photographs by Highland Culture Collective artist Evija Laivina, and flower images by Brandon, who suffers from SMART syndrome, with the aim of raising awareness on the challenges that come with such a rare and little-known condition.
Evija shared: “Flowers for Brandon mean there is colour, beauty, and a universal kind of ‘hope’ in everything. No matter what flowers go through, they always seem to come back stronger and more graceful, just as Brandon does after every hurdle he faces.
“Living with a rare condition like SMART syndrome is isolating and difficult. This is Brandon’s reality: loneliness, a continual daily fight to live and breathe, eat, talk, move, and appreciate what the world has to offer.
“The most difficult aspect of the condition is the uncertainty of the future, and what this means for the everyday experiences of Brandon and his Mum, Angela. This project gives just very small glimpse of the daily struggles, triumphs, and moments of vulnerability faced by individuals with SMART syndrome.
“In surfacing these experiences through documentation, our hope is that it will bring people together in an effort to understand, support, and be there for one another – no matter what.”
In 2018, Brandon was diagnosed with a new brain tumour and in December 2022, Brandon experienced another stroke which had an impact on his ability to speak and swallow. Each attack affects Brandon’s mobility, speech, memory, and quality of life.
‘Living with SMART’ was exhibited earlier in the year at Circus Artspace in Carsegate Road, organised by the Highland Culture Collective. This project was possible thanks to Creative Scotland, Culture Collective and Highland Culture Collective.
The exhibition is free and open to members of the public during Inverness Botanic Gardens regular opening hours: 10am to 4pm, 7 days a week. The closing date of the exhibition is on Monday 25th September 2023.