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Interview With James Whitlow Delano, Creator of 'The Mercy Project/Inochi'

Giving back to hospice and palliative care

Q. Now that you are the last remaining member of your family, do you feel like an orphan?

A. Yes, but with a caveat. I am the last member of my nuclear family. It is wrenching to realize that they have all gone before me. I also passed the year-50 milestone, which was territory that neither of my parents nor my sister had passed.

Q. And the caveat?

A. I have a very supportive family of cousins, mostly, that have always been there for me. In fact, I was raised by my maternal aunt and her husband as their son. From them, I received the greatest gift of all.

Q. Why was the book produced in Japan?

A. I tried other avenues for publishing. … No one would go for it. The Japanese understood the power behind the idea and went with it.

Q. What is the meaning of "Inochi," which is part of the book's title?

A. Syunichi Nishiyama of Mado-sha, a Tokyo-based publisher, felt that inochi, which means "life" in Japanese, worked better in the Japanese cultural context, thus the book's dual title.

Q. Do you think photography has the power to send the kind of message you wanted to convey?

A. Photography is uniquely capable of communicating nuance and nonverbal messages. For this reason, it is the perfect medium for this issue. Language never gets in the way, no translation, just common humanity.

Also of interest: Medicare coverage for hospice care. >>

Maggie Steber is a photographer whose work has appeared in magazines around the world, including Life, the New Yorker, Smithsonian, People, Newsweek, Time and Sports Illustrated. She also contributed an image to The Mercy Project. She is based in Miami.

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