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Man on mission to find bone marrow donors

Photographer plans cross-country motorbike tour to encourage bone marrow donation. And he carries a chair to spread the word

Image Credit: XPRESS/Hadrian Hernandez
Picture this: Sean Blake with his camera and the red chair. Blake’s photography series will see him take pictures of people sitting on the red chair who in turn will put his/her signature on the chair as a promise to spread awareness about bone marrow donation

Abu dhabi If you happen to be in Abu Dhabi and spot a man riding a motorcycle with a red chair mounted on its sidecar, it has to be Sean Blake.

The Abu Dhabi-based photographer will soon set out on a cross-country bike tour to encourage bone marrow donations.

The 43-year old American lost his best friend Doug Dietze to leukemia in 1996 when he was in the US, and had promised to do all he could to encourage and educate people to register as donors. “When something affects you personally, it is easier to stand up for the cause and fight for it,” Blake told XPRESS.

The red chair

But what does the red chair have to do with his mission?

The father of three who moved to Abu Dhabi two years ago with his teacher-wife has launched a United Red Chair Project in which he photographs people along with the red chair for free. The instant photo — best among the set of 10 — will be given to the participant who agrees to share it with family and friends. The participant signs on the chair agreeing in principle to spread the word about the importance of bone marrow donation.

“The red chair is the common and consistent element running in all the portraits I take. It is like a motif that unites people for the same cause,” Blake said.

He said he launched the campaign after studies revealed that out of 15.5 million registered bone marrow donors globally, only 45 are from the Arab world.

Launched in 2012 and with 36 photographs taken (signatures on the wooden chair establish the numbers) Blake wants the red chair to reach far and wide.

“I will go from place to place carrying the chair on my motorcycle. I will start with schools and universities in the UAE and later proceed to the US and Europe telling people that donating bone marrow is a painless and easy procedure.”

Blake is in the process of finalising details of his campaign.

The avid photographer said his plan is to have a public-funded campaign asking residents to sponsor his trip by donating a certain amount of money.

Supporters will have their signatures on the bike that will tour the world carrying the message “Register as a bone marrow donor and save lives!”


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