Photographer, cancer survivor gives presentation in Steamboat on year spent shooting from his car window
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After professional landscape photographer Scott Wilson was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, he found out he would have to avoid sunlight for 40 weeks, which he described as “a second punch.”
One of his medications came with the side effect of severe photosensitivity.
“I love getting out into the outdoors,” he said. The word Wilson first thinks of to describe his passion for landscape photography is freedom — a sentiment reflected in his stunning images.
One of his favorite locations to shoot is the Sand Wash Basin, near Maybell.
“It’s very solitary, but you don’t feel lonely,” Wilson said. “You feel a connection with wildlife. And it’s a chance to be creative and take that home with you and process a work of art.”
Before he moved with his wife and two children from Scotland to Colorado in 2015 — a longtime dream — Wilson was a finalist for four years for the UK Landscape Photographer of the Year.
When his employer, Molson Coors Brewing Company, presented him with the opportunity to move to the U.S., the family was ecstatic.
“We thought we’d made it,” Wilson said.
What: “Through the Window” presentation by professional photographer and cancer survivor Scott Wilson
When: 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19
Where: Allbright Family Auditorium, Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, 1275 Crawford Ave.
The family spent their first year exploring every corner of the state. Then, in August 2016, came a “big red stoplight” in their life.
A stage 4 cancer diagnosis, “really does change everything in terms of outlook,” Wilson said.
On one hand, he felt like his life had stopped, but he made the conscious decision to develop a positive mindset and keep moving forward.
At first, he thought he’d have to give up his passion. Then it occurred to him that there was an “abundance of nature and wildlife right on our doorstep,” and in his car, he discovered “a shaded studio I could shoot from.”
He circled back to focusing on wildlife, which was what initially inspired him to get into photography. Thus began the inspiration for his book “Through the Window,” which Wilson describes as a platform for cancer awareness.
To date, he has raised $36,000 through book sales.
All proceeds from his prints and books go toward cancer research and wildlife charities.
Wilson said his car became more than just a photographic studio. It became a place to think and record his thoughts. Much of that contemplation became the written component of his book.
In 2017, Wilson was a resident artist at the Denver Photo Art Gallery and was named Denver Instagrammer of the Year by Westword Magazine. In 2019, he was named as Colorado Life Magazine’s 2019 Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
Wilson also has plunged himself into the world of colorectal cancer advocacy.
He set up an employer-led colorectal cancer-screening program. He was appointed to the Board of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance in June and is leading the Colorado Cancer Coalition’s bid to reduce the state screening age for colorectal cancer from 50 to 45.
More younger people are getting diagnosed, Wilson said. And if it is caught early, it is curable and even preventable. He wants people to take ownership of their own health, get anything of concern checked out and not hide behind fears. It’s a misconception that the disease primarily affects older people, he said.
More than anything, he wants his book to raise awareness and get people talking about cancer and their own potential risks.
“And if you take it to the highest possible level of potentially preventing someone from undergoing the ordeals of cancer, then I can’t imagine a bigger reward than that,” Wilson said.
In August 2017, Wilson received the NED — no evidence of disease — proclamation. This August marked two years of remission.
He still goes in for treatment every week and experiences “scan-xiety” every time he gets a scan, never knowing if and when the cancer might reappear.
But more than anything, he feels “an enormous surge of gratitude to the community that saved my life.”
In Denver, Wilson received treatment from Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers oncologist Dr. Allen Cohn, who travels every week to Steamboat to provide care at the UCHealth Jan Bishop Cancer Center.
Through Wilson’s personal experience and the past several years as an advocate, he said he couldn’t have landed in a better place to get that diagnosis than Colorado.
“The expertise and clinical capabilities are second to none,” Wilson said.
When Cohn invited him to stop by and see him in Steamboat on one of Wilson’s trips to Sand Wash Basin, Wilson met Jan Fritz, manager of cancer services at the Cancer Center. She was adamant about finding a way for Wilson to share his story with the community.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, Wilson will share his journey in a presentation that is free and open to the public.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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