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Photographer Behind AbbVie's Clearly Me Campaign for Amplifying Voices of Psoriasis Speaks to Advocacy, Awareness

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Article

Clearly Me uses portraiture to spotlight the journeys of psoriasis patients Katie Lowes, DaQuane Cherry, Ayesha Patrick, and Joanna “JoJo” Pomerantz.

AbbVie recently celebrated the launch of its "Clearly Me" campaign, aimed at empowering individuals living with psoriasis to embrace their true selves and defy the constraints of their condition.

Partnering with psoriasis patients and advocates Katie Lowes, DaQuane Cherry, Ayesha Patrick, and Joanna “JoJo” Pomerantz, along with renowned photographer Lindsay Adler, the campaign showcases the real-life stories of psoriasis patients through imagery.

Images will be on display at a gallery in New York City through May 18. The gallery seeks to amplify patient voices and raise awareness about psoriatic disease, reminding individuals that they deserve more than just "good enough" and to encourage them to seek out the wealth of resources provided by psoriasis.com.

Adler, the photographer behind the captivating portraits, is an award-winning portrait and fashion photographer, educator, and author based in New York. She spoke with Dermatology Times to discuss her involvement in the project and her process of using images to bring the dynamic, multifaceted lives of individuals with psoriasis to the forefront of the conversation.

Katie Lowes, Photographed by Lindsay Adler
DaQuane Cherry, Photographed by Lindsay Adler
Joanna Pomerantz, Photographed by Lindsay Adler
Ayesha Patrick, Photographed by Lindsay Adler

Transcript

Lindsay Adler: Hi, I'm Lindsay Adler. I'm a portrait and fashion photographer here in New York City. I have been shooting for more than half of my life. As a photographer, I in fact received an award yesterday from the UN for photographic achievement. My job is a combination of creating imagery for commercial clients, shooting portraiture, which I also do for private clients, and then I'm also a photo educator. So in the world of photography, I would say I'm one of the more influential names, teaching generations of photographers for the last 15 years.

Dermatology Times: How did you become involved in the Clearly Me campaign, and what was your creative process?

Adler: I've actually worked with AbbVie several times under different brands. They reached out to me, and part of the reason they reached out to me was because they knew that I could straddle the world of both fashion commercial and portraiture. The idea behind the project was to photograph for individuals that all have psoriasis, but that the images, the portraits, would not be about psoriasis; it's about them as vibrant individuals. Initially, when I first saw the brief, it's one of those jobs that as a photographer, you're like, "Yes!" because they wanted me to be creative. They wanted me to make images that weren't fitting a certain brand aesthetic or weren't fitting really tight, restrictive boundaries. Instead, the images were meant to represent those people.

How it worked is we discussed what the end goal was. The end goal was going to be creating these individual images, and then it would be a gallery show to celebrate these individuals and also provide a platform for us to talk about psoriasis and psoriasis.com.

How the process began was: They selected the 4 subjects, and they selected them for different reasons. Sometimes it was for their advocacy, sometimes it was because of their reach, or just because they were exciting, fun individuals, and that would make for great portrait subjects. The first part of my process is I got on the phone, and I talked to each subject for around an hour. As I talked to them, the concept of psoriasis certainly came up, but that wasn't the focus. Instead, the goal was: Who are you? What are you passionate about? What brings you joy? How would your friends and family describe you? Those sorts of things, so I could kind of dive a little bit deeper into the psychology of what makes them who they are and what brings them happiness.

Then, the idea of Clearly Me is that they can enjoy the vibrancy of their lives, and psoriasis isn't getting in the way of; it's not what defines them. Psoriasis is part of who they are, but it's not the depth of who they are as an individual. I got to create things as diverse as photographing a painter working on one of his pieces of artwork. I also got to photograph an actress, and we did something where it would look like she was on the stage, or something to represent her podcast. I photographed someone who loves to cook. It was a wide range of different things.

The end result, the end deliverable, was everybody got one simple portrait, and that portrait was just meant to show them as they love, who they are, no glitz, glam, no crazy hair and makeup. It's just them as a person. Then the other 3 vignettes that we did, those vignettes would tell their story. So in total, there were kind of 4 different concepts per person.

Dermatology Times: What did you learn from the project, and what do you hope others will take away from it?

Adler: I have someone in my life that has psoriasis. It was interesting, because I didn't realize either how severe it could be or how varied--that every single person is different. I never did the research on it, and so in talking to the individuals and the different subjects, I got to hear their struggles and triumphs, both, and I got to see the range of how the condition can affect them. But at the same time, it was not something that they necessarily focused on. They might have had advocacy to help others realize what they could do and how they could get past it, or what resources are available to them, for example.

What I actually hope is that when people see the photos, in some way that they would have to actually read that it has anything to do with psoriasis. I wasn't doing close ups of the skin to show the condition. That's not what it was about. It's just these people that live their lives and don't let it define them. It's interesting to have that sort of brief where you're intended to look at the photos and not necessarily know what it's for until you read deeper, which is not usually the case when it comes to commercial and portrait work.

Dermatology Times: How can initiatives and photographs like these be used to amplify awareness and social change?

Adler: The first idea is more about, quote, society in general, seeing more images of diverse people, and that's in its entirety. That's whether it's someone's gender identity, or it is a skin tone or skin texture, or an age or a body type, you name it. Seeing more and more commercial shoots and projects that are making sure to highlight diverse people is fantastic.

I was actually talking the other day, in the past 2 years, more of my work has been photographing, we'll call it: "real people," using loosely, but diverse people that represent the atypical model. Far more of my work has been that, and I think that is a great direction that things are moving. It's wonderful, and that's also why it's good for me as a photographer, because I don't have a background just photographing 18-year-old, tall models with perfect skin. My background began as portraiture, so it's a skillset that I can bring table.

As far as advocacy for individuals, I think the whole idea is just awareness. I don't think people have an idea of what can or can't be treated or what life they can or cannot live. A lot of people feel alone or stuck. The more that you can see different people all suffering or conquering things that you've dealt with it, I think it's empowering. It lets people know: I can take control of the situation.

The person I was referencing in my life didn't even know what it was, what those solutions were. Actually, when I did this project, he's like, "I love that it makes people more aware of of what's available to them."

Dermatology Times: What would you like dermatology clinicians and those in the field to know or be cognizant of?

Adler: One of the goals of the project, Clearly Me, is for people to go to psoriasis.com, because that's the resource where they can find more information. I think that's part of it.

Then, as with with anything, I'm sure dermatologists have this under control: However, knowing that every single person's experience is different, and there is a psychological side to it. When I was interviewing each of these individuals, they had different stories and different emotions of how they felt about their psoriasis. Everyone is going to come to it from a different point of view. I think it's just being gentle and being aware of that and maybe spending the time to get to know how someone struggles or doesn't struggle with the condition.

[Transcript has been edited for clarity.]

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