Mark Potter’s Photos Comfort Sylvester Patients
By Richard Westlund
Photograph by Tom Salyer
Mark Potter, with camera, beside one of his sunrise photographs.
When Mark Potter’s wife was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer in 2016, the recently retired NBC News correspondent became her full-time caretaker with regular visits to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Lennar Foundation Medical Center on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus.
After months consumed by feelings of anger and despair over his wife’s condition, Potter turned to photography to find a few moments of peace. “I had started shooting sunrises over Biscayne Bay from a park near our home,” said Potter, who had spent 41 years in broadcast journalism covering wars and disasters around the world. “I would wake up at 5 a.m., photograph the sunrise and return home for a full day of cancer care.”
Potter began posting his sunrise photos to Facebook and later added an Instagram account. Much to his surprise, he rapidly developed a following, including other cancer patients and caregivers who appreciated seeing photos of another sunrise.
Despite the best efforts of Sylvester’s medical team, Judith Rodriguez Potter passed away at home on April 12, 2019. As Mark Potter grieved, he continued to walk to the Bayfront area every morning to take another photo. “Unlike in my journalistic career, there was no pressure, no deadlines to meet,” he said. “If I missed a photo of a pelican one morning, I knew I’d have another chance the next day.”
Last fall, Potter decided to donate a curated selection of his sunrise photos to The Lennar Center, where Judith had received care throughout her cancer journey. “I wanted to give back to the nurses and staffers as a way of saying thank you for the emotionally taxing work they do every day,” he said. “They are a reminder of the beauty of life, even in the midst of pain.”
On January 11, a series of 25 framed sunrise photos was posted in The Lennar Center’s hallways and examination rooms. “Our nurses and patients love the photos and find them uplifting,” said Gissette Onorato, executive director of the human experience. “They set a tone of inspiration and hope for everyone who walks through our hallways.”