New AbbVie photo exhibit captures psoriasis patients—including 'Scandal' star Katie Lowes—feeling 'Clearly Me'

AbbVie’s newest psoriasis awareness-raising campaign is taking the skin condition out of the spotlight.

The “Clearly Me” project comprises portraits of several people with psoriasis—including Katie Lowes, a theater director, Broadway star and screen actor perhaps best known for her starring role in ABC’s “Scandal”—all shot by award-winning photographer Lindsay Adler to highlight their lives and passions beyond the chronic disease.

In an interview with Fierce Pharma Marketing, Adler suggested that AbbVie chose her to shoot the campaign because her approach to photography focuses on “elevating” her subjects. “In my style, no matter who I photograph, I portray them as being strong, with a sense of elegance to them,” she said.

The photographs will be on display at New York City’s free-entry High Line Galleries on May 17-18. The exhibit’s accompanying program includes each of the four subjects’ stories, all of which detail the “turning point” in their physical and mental health that came from getting the support of a trusted dermatologist.

AbbVie Clearly Me psoriasis campaign DaQuane Cherry
DaQuane Cherry for AbbVie's "Clearly Me" campaign (AbbVie/Lindsay Adler)

That’s in line with the campaign’s overarching goal of encouraging others with psoriasis to seek medical care so they, too, can live their lives without feeling constrained by the skin condition—a goal, of course, befitting the campaign’s sponsor, AbbVie, the maker of psoriasis treatments Skyrizi and Humira.

Adler said the gallery show is a particularly unique and “really cool” aspect of the campaign. She hopes visitors might not initially realize that it’s about psoriasis: “Instead, they know it’s about individuals living their lives. And then when they read about it, they realize these are people that aren’t defined by a condition, that can live their lives fully,” she said, suggesting that it might inspire them to then visit AbbVie’s psoriasisSPEAKS site for tips and resources.

As for the subjects themselves, “it’s also beautiful to see someone standing next to a six-foot-tall photo of themselves, them being celebrated—especially since some of these individuals in the past have felt insecure about their skin or tried to hide,” Adler said.

The exhibit includes four shots of each of the subjects: one “no-frills” portrait shot, according to Adler, plus three others “that showed them as vibrant individuals leading their lives, where psoriasis is part of their story, but it doesn’t define them.”

To come up with the concepts for the three more personality-driven shots, Adler conducted about an hourlong interview with each subject, asking them a range of questions—including “What are you passionate about? What brings you joy? How would your friends and family describe you?” and “if they had any style icons or people that they looked up to visually,” she said—and then using the answers to pitch them photo shoot ideas that might accurately capture their truest selves.

One of those out-of-the-box ideas produced Adler’s favorite moment from shooting the campaign. After Joanna “JoJo” Pomerantz, who’s a patient ambassador for the National Psoriasis Foundation, shared that she loves to swim and be in the water, Adler concocted a photo setup where they laid down a tarp in the garage of her studio and proceeded to “pelt [Pomerantz] with buckets of water.”

“She was just so game for it. She was so excited for the concept,” Adler said. “We would douse her, and then we’d all giggle, and then we’d all look at the photos and gasp, because they looked so cool.”

AbbVie Clearly Me psoriasis campaign JoJo Pomerantz
JoJo Pomerantz for AbbVie's "Clearly Me" campaign (AbbVie/Lindsay Adler)

Besides Lowes and Pomerantz, the other participants in the campaign are DaQuane Cherry, an artist and psoriasis community advocate, and Ayesha Patrick, who’s a patient mentor for the National Psoriasis Foundation and the founder of Sistas With Psoriasis, a support group for women of color affected by the disease.

Adler noted that the campaign aligns with the growing push to represent more diverse subjects—which she defined as spanning a range of gender identities, skin types, body types and health conditions, for example—across both commercial and fashion photography, a move she said could help empower viewers.

AbbVie Clearly Me psoriasis campaign Ayesha Patrick
Ayesha Patrick for AbbVie's "Clearly Me" campaign (AbbVie/Lindsay Adler)

“The more that people see individuals that look like them, the more that they can relate to those campaigns,” she said. “So, for example, in ‘Clearly Me,’ we have a diverse set of individuals with different types of backgrounds. And when it comes to advocating for yourself, when you can see, ‘Oh, these individuals, either they’re just like me or they come from so many different backgrounds, and they’re advocating to help themselves’—I think it empowers people.”

“And I think it’s also just better,” she added. “It’s better to have more representation in imagery, and we’re definitely moving that way for sure.”