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Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer to share his battle with lymphoma March 15

February 29, 2012
John Kaplan documented his journey with cancer through visual journal

One in three Americans gets cancer during their lifetimes, which means that nearly every family in the country is affected by it. Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer John Kaplan, diagnosed at age 48 with a potentially deadly form of lymphoma, turned the lens on himself and chronicled his experience during treatment through photos and video. Eventually, he used the material to direct an inspiring and upbeat film to help fellow cancer patients, caregivers and survivors. Kaplan will present his documentary, "Not as I Pictured: A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographer's Journey through Lymphoma," on Thursday, March 15 at 7 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-4739.

Kaplan, who worked at The Spokesman-Review in the early 1980s, is one of America's most accomplished narrative photographers. He earned the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography, the POY National Newspaper Photographer of the Year Award, the Overseas Press Club Award, two Robert F. Kennedy awards, and the Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant.

"In journalism, cancer stories are considered the biggest cliché," Kaplan says. "But, when you get cancer, you don't feel like a cliché, you just pray you can beat it."

With help from his family, doctors, and even Mother Teresa and a rock star, Kaplan shares through his film the same determination and powerful storytelling ability that helped him become a successful photojournalist. Although the topic is serious, the film is positive in tone and ends with the news of Kaplan's complete remission. It began airing nationwide on PBS stations in September, and has won national acclaim and more than 20 film honors, including two prestigious CINE Golden Eagle Awards and several film festival honors for best documentary.

"John Kaplan's ability to visually tell a powerful story is second to none," says Kirk Hirota, who teaches photography at Whitworth. "In his autobiographical film, he documents his own experience dealing with lymphoma, but not in the typical 'feel sorry for the guy with cancer' way. The film is truly inspirational and life affirming, and it tells a story of strength, love and faith that will inspire the entire Whitworth community, photographers, healthcare providers and anyone who has been touched by cancer."

Kaplan's goal is to provide 10,000 free copies of the documentary to people affected by cancer. An educational kit produced in collaboration with the American Society of Clinical Oncology accompanies the DVD, addressing the emotional side of cancer with coping and lifestyle tips for patients, caregivers and survivors. Copies of the DVD will be available at Whitworth during the presentation.

Kaplan's work has appeared in museums and galleries nationwide, including recent solo exhibitions in the United States, Bolivia and Korea as well as group shows in the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Japan, Korea, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. He is a frequent lecturer at photo workshops and seminars and has also received recognition for his poetry and writing. He has been featured on CNN, on the PBS program Now, and on NPR's All Things Considered. A professor at the University of Florida, where he has been named International Educator of the Year, Kaplan is the author of two books, Photo Portfolio Success and Mom and Me.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Kirk Hirota, instructor of photography, Whitworth University, (509) 879-0670 or

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or