Sometimes tragedy leads to inspiration. For Hillsboro resident Phoebe Janzen, after a tragedy struck her family, she decided to get creative.
Janzen’s husband, Steve, was diagnosed in 2013 with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Steve fought for 11 months, having traveled with Phoebe to Dallas for experimental treatments.
“My husband passed away on Thanksgiving Day in 2014 from cancer,” Janzen said. “I needed something to kind of keep me busy, so I decided to do a book.”
Janzen decided she wanted to feature women of Marion County in words and pictures.
At the beginning of what would become a 20-month journey, Janzen said she did not know where to start.
“I just knew I wanted to do something,” she said. “I wanted to take pictures of women and hear their stories. It just took a while to figure out what I wanted to do, and I kept going at it.”
For the book, Janzen interviewed 92 women, varying in age, asking each women what they feel brings joy and what their definition of beauty is.
“I asked those questions because I needed to find my joy again and look at things through different eyes right after I lost my husband,” Janzen said.
One way she helped prepare herself for the book was by taking photography classes in downtown Wichita.
“The more that I got through the classes, the better the pictures were,” Janzen said. “I drove to Wichita for 8 months, and I finished all the levels they had.”
When Janzen went looking for subjects, volunteers came pouring in.
Each session with the women took an hour and a half to two hours, Janzen said.
“I photographed long enough with each woman that their real personality began to show,” Janzen said. “It helped to get who they really were.”
After the 20 months, all photos were taken and information was collected for a 186-page book, “Women of Marion County,” which will include just under 400 photos.
“It was a good healing process for me,” Janzen said. “I met a lot of women and just had a good time conversing and photographing them.”
Women featured in the book include Becky Summervill of Marion, Alexis Scott of Hillsboro, Susan Carlson of Lincolnville, Carol Duerksen of Goessel, and Norma Clark and Joyce Kyle, both of Burns.
“I just learned there’s a lot of great women in Marion County, and there are lots of ways to look at beauty, and different ways to see beauty,” Janzen said.
Janzen’s book will be available Feb. 13. She will have a book signing from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 13 at Marion City Library, and from 2 to 6 p.m. Feb. 15 at ManeStreet Boutique in Peabody.