[With all systems GO for The SCAR Project Exhibition to premiere in Houston this week, I am happy, honored, humbled to hand over the SCAR blog mic to CEO and Creative Director of American Art Resources, Kathy Hathorn. An innovator and pioneer in developing patient-focused art programs for healthcare facilities, Hathorn is an authority in art and its impact on patients in healthcare settings. Other signature projects, besides her work with MD Anderson Cancer Center, includes: Celebration Health, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Prentice Women's Hospital, Phoenix Children's Hospital, Duke University Cancer Center and the new Parkland Hospital. She sits on various boards and councils related to healthcare research and design, and lectures both in the US and abroad as an expert in evidence-based art programs. In 2001 Hathorn co-authored the Evidence-Based Guidelines for Selecting Healthcare Art with Roger Ulrich. She founded the RED Center whose original research has been published in peer-reviewed journals and in Joint Commission's Environment of Care. Hathorn has been featured in Business Week and The Coolest Entrepreneurs in America, and was named one of the 25 Most Influential People in Healthcare Design in 2009. She was the 2011 recipient of the Symposium Distinction Award. She was commissioned in 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. to write a white paper on the effects of art on the aging, due for publication in 2013. Besides all that, Kathy Hathorn was instrumental in bringing The SCAR Project to Houston.]
Guest Post by Kathy Hathorn
An authority on art and its impact on patients in healthcare settings, I am frequently asked by my healthcare clients, if a particular work of art is appropriate to display or include in a hospital’s art collection.
I had a unique experience a few months back, when MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Dr. Oliver Bogler asked me to review the work of New York photographer David Jay.
I replied that MD Anderson doesn’t have a rotating gallery space but that the work HAD to be brought to Houston. Hands down, The SCAR Project was the most incredible work I had ever seen!
I have always been drawn to figurative black and white photography—it draws me in in a way that no other genre ever does. David’s work has the raw brutality of Diane Arbus’ work but it envelops the viewer in a passion of love, respect, and admiration. Instead of detachment and alienation that viewers can feel about Arbus’ work, these pieces bring out every shred of humanity in the viewer who wants to reach out to each of the subjects and say, “You are beautiful….”
Bringing the work to Houston became a personal mission. My first thought was that Gremillion Gallery had the perfect exhibition space for the large format works. I also knew that the gallery has been incredibly generous in lending its space to various charitable events over the years. It was a quick and emphatic yes when I asked Ron Gremillion and Chris Skidmore if they were interested.
It must have been serendipity but as soon as there was a fabulous exhibition space, there was also funding to bring the show to Houston! Pink Ribbons Project, a breast cancer survivor non-profit organization, generously agreed to underwrite the hard costs of the exhibit. The show premieres at a private gala event this Thursday, October 17, and runs through October 28th. There are numerous public-service events planned around the exhibit including lectures by both the artist and various breast health experts. Click HERE for the exhibit schedule and ticket information.
The message of the work is undeniable: David Jay has captured the harrowing beauty, dignity, courage and strength of young women dealing, living, and thriving after breast cancer surgery. Both his passion and compassion are piercingly apparent to the viewer.
Guest Post by Oliver Bogler
“When I grow up I’m going to be a photographer.” That’s what I used to tell my kids, when they were at the age when saying it seemed to be enough to get you there. Now I’d add: “… a photographer like David Jay.” And by that I mean successfull, visionary and socially engaged.
I’m not kidding anyone of course, least of all my children. First of all, I’m never growing up! And secondly, I’m in my late 40s, enjoy my career in cancer research enormously and frankly lack the talent required for art. But photography is a passion of mine, mostly as someone who loves the art form and a little as someone who takes pictures. When I go to art museums I head straight for the photography section, and when I travel the world I often seek out photography above all other sites to see.
So following my diagnosis with breast cancer in September of 2012 I began to become interested in the intersection between this disease and photography. To say that there are a lot of breast cancer images out there, is an understatement in the age of digital photography, and much of it is in the vein of pink. In this landscape the SCAR Project stands out as a beacon of frank art. The first time you see it, it hits you. And that is saying something in an age when visual impact has become significantly blunted by the sheer volume and ever increasing shock value of the media that saturates our culture.
The SCAR Project portraits have an honesty and simplicity that create a connection between the viewer and the subject. The images of young women, bearing scars, are compelling, and draw you in to try and understand their loss and what it means to them. They are also beautifully made photographs, by an artist with a sure eye. The Project has evident integrity. And its goal, to raise awareness that young women do get breast cancer, that the disease does not respect age, is important. Wherever the images appear they accomplish their goal.
In the Fall of 2012, from my freshly diagnosed perspective, the one thing I thought that was missing in the SCAR Project was men. Just as David says “breast cancer is not a pink ribbon”, I say “breast cancer is not a women’s cancer”.
One in every hundred people with breast cancer is a man. Sure that is a pretty small number, but it is not zero. And men are another segment of the breast cancer world where raising awareness is still urgently needed. Men routinely ignore their symptoms, and are diagnosed later with poorer outcomes because of denial and ignorance.
I am still a little stunned that David agreed to consider men as subjects for his work, and has started a connected body of work, the SCAR Project: male breast cancer. Stunned and deeply grateful. This new work focuses on men of all ages, and they are mostly older than the women in the SCAR Project. That’s because men with this disease are older, and because the goal is to raise awareness for all men. Amongst women, the focus is on younger women, where awareness also lags behind. This male breast cancer work is still in its early stages and I am excited about its future.
As a result of our discussions around men with breast cancer, I was lucky to become acquainted with David and the SCAR Project team, and the idea of bringing the work to Houston was born. Susan Rafte of the Pink Ribbons Project came aboard early, and her foundation which works at the interface of art and breast cancer is the sponsor that is making it happen. Gremillion & Co. Fine Arts generously offered their gallery space for the exhibit. And Kathy Hathorn and American Art Resources are supporting the project too, both by connecting us all and by providing resources to get the pieces hung in the gallery. Now a large team of volunteers is helping make 10 days of viewing and events a reality. In October the SCAR Project will be in Houston for 10 days of exhibits, expert talks from doctors and survivors, chances to meet some of the women photgraphed in the Project, and to hear David talk about the work. There is also a showing of the award winning documentary about the SCAR Project, called Baring it All, at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
Please join us. Details of the activities are HERE.
[About Oliver: Dr. Bogler studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University graduating in 1988, and then completed his PhD at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, University College Branch in London, in 1991. Following a post-doc at the Salk Institute in Developmental Neurobiology, he rejoined the Ludwig Institute, at its San Diego Branch. His first faculty appointment in 1997 was in the Departments of Anatomy and Neurosurgery at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. In 2000 he moved to the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2002. In 2005 Dr. Bogler joined the Department of Neurosurgery and the Brain Tumor Center at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center as Director of Basic Research, and was promoted to Professor in 2009. His research was focused on EGFR signaling in glioma and novel platinum compounds. In July 2010 Dr. Bogler accepted the position of Vice President for Global Academic Programs where he manages academic relationships spanning over 30 Sister Institutions in 20 countries on behalf of MD Anderson. In September 2011 he was also appointed Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, and now focuses on overseeing the 300 people organized into 16 departments in this division, who deliver support for the more than 5,000 academic personnel at MD Anderson and are the stewards of our education mission. He is married to Irene Newsham, PhD, a cancer biologist also working at MD Anderson, and they have two children, aged 10 and 11.]
Follow Oliver’s blog HERE.
THE SCAR PROJECT: BREAST CANCER IS NOT A PINK RIBBON
TO PREMIERE IN HOUSTON, TEXAS OCTOBER 17-28, 2013
Houston, Texas—September 23, 2013—The groundbreaking photographic exhibition shot by fashion photographer David Jay is set to premiere at Gremillion & Co. Fine Arts Gallery, 2501 Sunset Blvd., Houston, TX 77005: The SCAR Project: Breast Cancer Is Not A Pink Ribbon.
The SCAR Project is a series of large scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors shot by fashion photographer David Jay. The SCAR Project is an exercise in awareness, hope, reflection and healing. Presented primarily as an awareness raising campaign for young women, The SCAR Project’s deeper message is one of humanity. Ultimately, The SCAR Project is not about breast cancer, but the human condition itself; the images transcending the disease, illuminating the scars that unite us all.
The exhibition opens October 17, 2013 with a special evening reception hosted by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Invitation required. For information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. The gallery will be open for public viewing of the exhibition October 18-28 (closed Sunday and Monday). Gallery hours are 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission is free. Scheduled events: TBA. A screening of the EMMY Award winning documentary about The SCAR Project: Baring It All will be shown at the Museum of Fine Arts on Monday, October 21. A detailed listing of the Houston exhibition schedule of events, with links to R.S.V.P. is available via The SCAR Project’s Exhibition Page.
Sponsored by: The Pink Ribbons Project (www.pinkrobbons.org).
Special thanks to Gremillion Gallery for donating the space and a special thanks to Kathy Hathorn.
[Today's guest blogger is no stranger to The SCAR Blog. When Facebook removed some of the SCAR images this time last year, Sara wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on her BLOG which I cross-posted here, with her permission. When quite a few of the SCAR girls were making preparations to head south for The SCAR BAMA exhibition, Sara wrote about it on her blog and once again I snagged it for reprint HERE (again, with her permission) because the SCAR sisterhood, which her article provides a lovely glimpse into, is one of the many beautiful things that has evolved from David Jay's The SCAR Project Exhibit that many might be unaware of. When Sara got back from The SCAR BAMA exhibition, she wrote a beautiful recap on her blog, which of course also landed HERE, because she's a generous soul like that, not to mention a dear friend. At which point I played both those cards in the latter part of the previous sentence and told her I thought with 3 SCAR blogs under her belt it was probs time for her to share her story. Of course, she did. And here it is. Thank you, Sara, love!]
by Sara Bartosiewicz-Hamilton
12/12/12…I call it my lucky day…the day my life started over. I had no idea how true this would be. Leading up to the 12th day of the 12th month of the 12th year, I was filled with anxiety, ready to have it over…at the same time, I wondered if I was sure. I kept telling myself, if ever I think I’m not ready, I’ll pull the plug…I still showed up. I started tearing up as the nurse prepped me for the surgery. She asked if I was okay.Yeah. She asked if I was sure I wanted to do this. Yeah. She said, it doesn’t make it any easier, does it? And that’s exactly what it was…I knew in my heart and my head it needed to be done…but knowing it, believing it, didn’t make it easier. Much like the beginning of this journey.
I was tested for a gene mutation in the fall of 2006. I knew I had a 50/50 chance of having the mutation…my spirit was prepared to hear I was positive. And I was. I was told I had the BRCA2 mutation and, through tears, I responded by asking the genetic counselor to set me up with what came next. She was confused. I was only 29, surely I could wait, surely I didn’t need to do anything until I was 40. Genetic testing was not new but it was not common yet either…I was the youngest person she had tested. I knew what I needed to do. I wanted to have a mastectomy. Take out the tissue that had an 85% chance of turning on me. Get it out, let me live my life. Let me give up this fear.
Fear. Our family tree of cancer explains my fear. In my mind, it was a matter of when, never a matter of if. I was surprised by some of the backlash I received from my choice to have a prophylactic mastectomy. I was naive. I was young. I didn’t realize there was a lot of fear behind that anger…sometimes, guilt. I couldn’t handle it so I shut myself away. I tried to find someone, anyone on the internet. My oncological surgeon told me she knew there were other young women choosing to have PBMs…I just couldn’t find any. I was isolated. Friends closest to me told me I shouldn’t do it if I couldn’t be happy. Happy? Was that what I was supposed to feel? I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be happy about. This wasn’t a boob job. This was the removal of my body parts…my tissue ripped out of my body. And replaced…a plastic mound shoved under my muscle. A plastic mound that would grow over time as I was injected with more fluid, that would continue shoving my muscle around. And all of this to evade cancer…that may eventually come for me anyways.
A girl found me on MySpace. She was the one who told me about the SCAR Project and she asked if I wanted to meet her and a couple other girls in NYC to be photographed. I looked up the website and was speechless. I was looking at young women…I was looking at me. I immediately reached out to David Jay:
David~ I would like to be involved…I have never had breast cancer but have the BRCA2 gene (mutation). I had a prophylactic mastectomy at 29 because the gene (mutation) gave me an 85% chance of getting breast cancer. I understand your project is for women who have fought breast cancer but I thought I would volunteer in case you could use me as well. Regardless, I look forward to seeing the finished project. When I was getting ready for my surgery, I was desperately searching for what I would look like afterwords. I couldn’t find pictures of young women…this is powerful. Thank you.”
I was so excited (and terrified at the same time) when David wrote back and asked me to come. I wanted to participate because I wanted there to be a photo. I wanted the next 29 year old to be able to find my photo and be able to find the courage to have a PBM…to know she was going to be okay. I was terrified because I was going to be photographed. Because there would be a photo of me…there was going to be a photograph of my scars. There was going to be a photograph documenting myimperfection…
It didn’t help when I received an email that it may be best to wait. When I asked why, I was told he was receiving emails and he wasn’t sure what to think. I was devastated. And then I was enraged. I received a copy of the email because my sister went to bat for me and was sent a copy of the email:
Please re consider the shooting of Sara… She is Not appropriate for this project. she NEVER Had cancer. She only took off her breasts as prevention!!! Everyone in her friend circle and family knows that she is not stable to do this!!!! She does things like this for attention. Who??? Has a DOUBLE MASTECTOMY at age 30 when NO cancer is present??? Someone who is not STABLE. Her mother has NEVER had cancer. Her GRANDMOTHER has NEVER had cancer. This is not the same as your other candidates. PLEASE DO NOT encourage her behavior… Now. I say this with love but as you can understand MANY of us are tired of her charades. And having her half naked in a magazine for us all to explain to people who are AWARE that she NEVER had cancer in the first place. It makes a mockery of those women who have actually almost lost their lives.”
It was obvious to me this was not someone closest to me – my grandma did, in fact, have cancer, she had died of cancer. On the flip side, to be honest, I think it hurt so much because I wondered myself. Am I the only one who goes through a double mastectomy at 29 (ahem, NOT 30) without there being cancer present? As I tried to explain the untruth throughout the email, I expressed that I had been wrestling with guilt. Guilt that my choice was done out of fear…guilt that I was a sissy because I was too afraid to get cancer.
When I finally made it out to NYC, I had a lot on my mind. I had also received emails from this same person spewing ugly things. At that time in my life, I was unable to recognize that sometimes people are ugly because of what is inside of them…and it has nothing to do with me. I was unable to detach from their words, unable not to internalize them. While it didn’t stop me from going, it made me pause. Was I doing the right thing? I was the last girl to be shot that day. I arrived after everyone was done being photographed (read: dressed). I sat down and had my make-up and hair done and then it was time. The point at which I was taking off my shirt, it seemed like a really crazy idea. Other than my doctors, my hubby was the only one who had seen the scars and he saw them with the security of a dark room and, even then, I did what I could to hide them. I was asked beforehand to bring something that had meaning or relevance to my shoot. I brought a charm with a picture of my littles on it and I also brought a photo of my mom and two of her sisters. I had something which explained without words the reason for my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and I had something to explain why I would choose this. David went with the photo of my mom and two of her sisters. I’m so thankful he did – for all of time, my photo explains the family ties and the multiple generations our mutation has affected.
Something happened at my photo shoot. Something I was not even aware of yet. I found a place where I belonged. A place of acceptance. A place of understanding. A place of love. I am forever thankful for my first SCAR sisters. They helped me embrace that my story was valid…they helped me see I was accepted into their “club” without having cancer. They helped pull me back on my feet when I didn’t even realize I was floundering. And they helped me grow taller that day. They were impressed by my courage and strength. I didn’t believe them quite yet but I held onto them, hoping they were right.
Fast forward a few years. It seemed surreal as I sat across from someone I called my best friend and heard similar words of ugliness being flung at me. Ironically, it was my five year “boobiversary” – five years after my mastectomy and I was being assaulted with words. Self-mutilator. In need of a therapist, not a surgeon. I had just disclosed I was planning on removing my implants. It was something I had been quietly considering for a while. I had not talked about it with many people: hubby, my plastic surgeon and with one of my SCAR sisters at the Cincinnati exhibit. I was having daily discomfort and pain and was hopeful that having my implants extracted would help relieve this. I was at the point of being ready to schedule the surgery and wanted the moral support of my friend…my “best” friend. I was caught off guard. The me who showed up for my PBM would have allowed this assault to continue until completion…the me who spent the past couple years embracing my new reality was strong enough to say stop…strong enough to walk away. Unfortunately, not before internalizing some of the accusations. I delayed my extraction for another year. I lived with the discomfort and pain as I searched my soul. I couldn’t deny what I was feeling but was I sure having my implants removed was the right choice?
I was back in Cincinnati when I had the courage to say it was time. I came home and the first conversation hubby and I had was that I wanted to schedule the extraction. It seemed like more than coincidence, perhaps a sign from the universe, when I was opening the mail immediately after our conversation and I opened lab results from my doctor confirming an autoimmune disease. When I had my pre-surgery appointment with my plastic surgeon, it was both amusing and sad to hear my plastic surgeon ask me what had taken so long. He told me he could tell this was the right choice for me…over a year before.
Fast forward to 12/12/12. My life truly did start over. When I woke up from surgery, the discomfort was gone. As my body healed, so did my spirit. I noticed I started looking at myself in the mirror without the little black box to censor what I was seeing. I realized I was the most comfortable I had been in my own body since my mastectomy. I found myself forgetting about the extraction and am no longer reminded daily of my surgeries, my BRCA mutation, or my lingering fear cancer will find me. Life started over, no longer hindered by the past.
I have been incredibly blessed – I always had someone in my corner. And, as my journey progressed, that corner became fuller and fuller. I choose to include the pain and judgment of the past because it is, unfortunately, what many women in my shoes continue to hear. However, while those hurtful words have no power over me, they give me the ability to reach out to someone else and say, I understand. I heard that too. I am hopeful that sharing will also help those who would place judgment to step back and recognize, it’s okay if you would never make the choices I made but it doesn’t give you the right to try to say you could live my life better than me. When I look back, I remember vividly the isolation I felt before my prophylactic mastectomy and again, feeling in the extreme minority as I was considering my extraction. I don’t ever want any woman to be completely alone. I recently started a Facebook group with my fellow SCAR sister Barbie – it’s called Flat & Fabulous. We are actively on the hunt for our fellow sisters who have had a mastectomy and, for one reason or another, do not have reconstruction. It has been both validating and heart breaking as I get emails from a stranger telling me she never knew there was someone else like her. Our page offers support, encouragement, and LOTS of laugh as we all go forward with living our new reality.
I recently wrote about The SCAR Project Exhibition in Birmingham and Joules texted me to ask if I would share my article here on The SCAR Project blog. About five minutes after she told me it was up and asked me to proof it, I received another text that said now that I’d written for the blog THREE times, but had yet to share my own SCAR story… “it’s time.“
So, this is my story. It spans over my lifetime. It starts at my mastectomy. And again at my extraction. I am incredibly thankful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way about love, friendships, life, and what is truly important. Trying my best to Live Sincerely.every.single.day.
[David Jay prefers being behind the camera, not to mention, behind the scenes, when it comes to The SCAR Project. His preference is to let the young women confronting their own absolute reality of surviving cancer, speak their own thousand words or so through their SCAR portraits. His preference is definitely not having a microphone in the way of his camera. So you can't imagine the ninja skills I had to implement to track down a few A's to the many Q's enquiring minds want to know about SCAR Project photographer David Jay. I met David Jay at the 2010 world premiere of The SCAR Project in NYC. Working with David, SCAR Cincy girl Vanessa Tiemeier, and art gallery owner Litsa Spanos to bring the exhibition to Cincinnati in 2011 was one of the most beautiful, meaningful things I've ever had the honor and pleasure to be a part of. David's had rather a difficult time getting rid of me ever since, since I've stayed on with the project to help other people bring the exhibition to other cities. I also manage this blog, which is the ruse I used to snag him for a few moments to "hold this microphone" while I type.]
Q: Fashion photographer, by day, David, I’m sure you can appreciate the irony with me, and many, I’m sure, wondering how in the world a fashion photographer started shooting portraits of young women baring their scars from confronting breast cancer?
A: It’s very ironic isn’t it? I actually never intended to shoot The SCAR Project. It began very organically seven years ago after my dear friend Paulina was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 29. Within two weeks she’d had a mastectomy. A beautiful, strong, young woman, I had taken Paulina’s picture a hundred times since she was 17. Months after her surgery, when she finally returned to our yoga class, her leotard clearly defining the space where her breast has been I knew I had to take her picture again. I took her picture because, perhaps as a photographer, taking pictures is my way of confronting, understanding, and accepting the things I see. When I began doing this, I was simply dealing with my own pain in watching my friend’s suffering. I had no idea what was going to happen and how much it would grow and evolve over the years.
A: She is happily married with 2 children, living peacefully on a large farm in Australia.
Q: Are you still shooting SCAR portraits? How many have you shot to date?
A: I began shooting The SCAR Project in 2005 with Paulina . . . then her friends from chemotherapy wanted their portraits taken . . . and I have not stopped. Nearly 100 young women have been photographed so far. They journey across the country—and the world—to have their portraits taken and to participate in The SCAR Project. There are 35 large-scale portraits in the exhibition, and 50 pictures in the book, The SCAR Project: Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon. The book is available on Amazon. There are many more images on The SCAR Project web site.
Q: Will there be a second book?
A: I hope so!
Q: Why do you continue shooting new subjects for The SCAR Project? When will, or will, the project ever be complete?
A: The SCAR Project in general is photographically complete. I do still add images occasionally but these days they tend to be reserved for some of the most unfortunate (very aggressive, extremely time sensitive) situations. So with that in consideration….until there is a cure, I suppose it may never be fully “complete”.
Q: What is your goal with The SCAR Project?
A: Presented primarily an awareness raising campaign for young women, The SCAR Project’s deeper message is one of humanity. The acceptance of all that life offers us . . . all the beauty . . . all the suffering too . . . with grace, courage, empathy, and understanding. Ultimately, The SCAR Project is not about breast cancer, but the human condition itself; the images intend to transcend the disease, illuminating the scars that unite us all.
Q: You have been shooting fashion photography for over 20 years. During the SCAR Project shoots, has there been a moment that has particularly caught you off guard, maybe shocked you with its backhanded beauty? Can you share one of those unforgettable experiences in shooting The SCAR Project?
A: I am never shocked . . . but always moved. An unforgettable moment? Perhaps during the shoot of Sarah, the red haired woman with tears running down her face. The shoot was going well. The pictures looked good, honest. There was laughter. I was pleased with the images we had captured. I loaded the pictures into the computer and called Sarah over to look. She came and stood behind me in silence. Then tears. Mine too. I grabbed the camera again . . . “Now, we take pictures.”
There is something about photography that’s very real. We’re so accustomed to seeing ourselves in a mirror but that reflection is actually reversed. A photograph isn’t. That’s why it’s often shocking to see yourself in a photograph—it’s not what you see in the mirror every day. It’s what everyone else sees. In that moment, Sarah came face to face with herself. She’d had a double mastectomy in her mid-20’s. It was shocking for her.
Q: The pictures are shocking for many to see. Not many photographers deal with hard subjects like breast cancer. How do you approach such a difficult subject, and the women bearing their scars, with your camera?
A: I struggled shooting The SCAR Project. I was torn. I wanted the pictures to be raw, honest, and sincere. Yet I knew why the subjects had come—they wanted something beautiful. They had already suffered greatly and although I wanted to serve them, I knew in my heart that compromising the visual integrity of The SCAR Project for the sake of easily digested beauty would serve no one. Certainly not the people I hoped to be impacted by the images, the public at large who remain blissfully unaware of the risk or reality of the disease . . . anesthetized by pink ribbons and fluffy, pink teddy bears.
Q: Which brings us to the tagline . . . “Breast cancer is not a pink ribbon” . . . Are you against pink ribbons? How and why did you choose this tagline?
A: Hundreds of thousands of people have viewed these images and I have yet to meet anyone who has said they previously knew what breast cancer looked like. Really looked like. In our society breast cancer is hidden away behind a little pink ribbon. The public needs to be educated.
Many women dislike the pink ribbon. They resent the commercialization of breast cancer that it represents. One of the SCAR Project subjects said to me, “If a man got prostate cancer, do you think someone would give him a pink t-shirt and teddy bear?” It (unintentionally) diminishes something that is terrifying, disfiguring, and deadly.
Q: There’s a fine line between awareness and fear. Your portraits show beautiful young women confronting this terrifying, disfiguring, and deadly disease. How do you maintain this balance in your photography? Do you feel like The SCAR Project maintains this balance, or does it cause unnecessary fear?
A: Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in young women ages 15-40. Fear is unnecessary but awareness and education are extremely necessary. The SCAR Project participants range in ages from 18-38 and represent this often overlooked group of young women living with breast cancer.
Q: The SCAR Project exhibition premiered in NYC in 2010, then traveled to Cincinnati and back to NYC again in 2011. What has been the public’s response to the images and The SCAR Project? Have you received many complaints about the exhibition being uncomfortable to view?
A: It can be uncomfortable for the viewer. It forces us to confront our fears and inhibitions about life, death, sexuality, sickness, relationships, etc. I once read it described as “unflinching.” Reality is not always pretty. This is reality. Let’s address it. The SCAR Project presents an opportunity to open a dialogue about issues we are not necessarily comfortable with. From the overwhelming responses we’ve received at the exhibitions and on the Facebook page, though, it’s a very necessary dialogue these young women have been bold enough to begin, because this is the absolute reality young women surviving cancer are dealing with every day.
Q: The SCAR Project captures so many different women at various points in their journeys of confronting breast cancer, with different choices made, different scars, different realities. Some women, like Paulina, have only one breast. Some women have been shot before or have chosen not to pursue reconstruction. Some women bare their reconstructions, the good, the bad and the ugly. With the way society values, idolizes beauty, is our society prepared to see beauty in images like yours?
A: When I first began shooting The SCAR Project I didn’t know if anyone would want to look at the pictures. I didn’t care and shot them anyway. Seven years later and I think I have an answer. I think society is not only prepared for images like this (and what they represent) I think they are starved for it. When The SCAR Project Exhibition premiered in NYC no one walked by the gallery without coming in. Thousands of people came in. It was like a beautiful, heart wrenching magnet. There are now more than 26,000 people on The SCAR Project’s Facebook page. Millions have gone to its website. A documentary about it: “Baring It All” premiered on the Style Network in July 2011, and has since been aired around the world, was recently awarded a 2012 daytime EMMY.
Q: You brought up the very next question–The EMMY–How was that experience for you and filmmaker Patty Zagarella? What is it like to own an Emmy now?
A: It’s still quite surreal! I’m still looking for a big enough gold chain so I can wear it around my neck! But in all sincerity, I have Patty and her team to thank for making such a beautiful documentary. We were beyond humbled and thrilled to have such recognition for the film and for The SCAR Project.
Q: So many women, both subjects of The SCAR Project and viewers have come to you and said that the images have changed their lives: given them the will and strength to fight for their life, renewed their relationships with their friends, significant others, and most importantly, within themselves. What is it like to hear that?
A: It is not possible for me to convey how deeply humbled I am that the images of The SCAR Project have impacted them so deeply. It is difficult for me to respond. I prefer to let the girls speak. I am only a vehicle, a medium that allows them to expose their truth. That’s all that is going on. On some level I am just a terribly empathetic person who is able to catch a glimpse of the subject’s soul through the camera, the soul of a woman in this case.
The soul of humanity—that’s what I’m trying to capture . . . to catalyze that in the subject . . . and push the button in that moment.
Q: You can’t take these pictures and not be affected by the women and their stories. We can’t view the images and not catch a glimpse of what inspired you from behind the camera lens. Can you share one of the women who have particularly inspired you beyond the lens?
A: One woman who will always be very special to me is Jolene. Jolene was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 17. Jolene took a bus across the country, from California to NYC to be photographed for The SCAR Project. She was 18 at the time. Unfortunately the cancer returned, having spread throughout her body. It was particularly aggressive, and relentless, having spread to her jaw, which they had to remove and try to reconstruct. A tumor then grew near her skull, pressing on her brain and causing her to have strokes. She asked me to take her SCAR portrait again. I flew out to California to photograph her. It was a beautiful but emotionally difficult shoot. Jolene was on a journey, which we knew, unless something drastically changed, was going to end relatively soon. She was in a wheel-chair, and basically on home care. The disease had completely transformed her body and life.
Knowing that it would be the last picture I would ever take of her. It was a very poignant moment.
Jolene was to be the guest of honor at last year’s SCAR Project exhibition in NYC. She had spent her final months and days looking forward to attending, as friends from all over the country were trying to help her make one last wish come true. Unfortunately, Jolene was not well enough to make the trip and she passed away Oct. 30, 2011.
But despite all of this, Jolene was one of the most inspiring women I have ever known. She was courageous, compassionate, and loving. It’s a reminder to us all to be present, to be grateful for what we have . . . even if it appears to be little. She reminds us . . . educates us . . . showed us . . . how it is not only possible but so important to both live and die with beauty, grace, and dignity.
Q: What has it been like for you, not just as a photographer, but as a human being, to have documented, photographically, subjects like Jolene until their death?
A: I seem to have a different perspective on life and death. That does not discount the reality that their paths, like Jolene’s, and now Vanessa’s, are very disturbing. However, I find a certain peace within the construct of death. And though there is no peace in a young girl dying, I suppose I’m trying to express my own perspective–that there is a serenity and acceptance … To me, death is the easy part. The hard part is living. And because I have that perspective, I strive within my work . . . within my given days, to attain not only peace in my own life . . . but to hopefully share and inspire the same in those I come into contact with . . . no matter how briefly.
Also, most people don’t have the luxury of knowing they’re dying, and just as it may appear to be a tragedy…it’s only a tragedy for those that are left behind. Obviously cancer is a terrible way to live, as well as to die, but “living sincerely”, and living in every moment as if it’s a gift that could be taken away at any moment, (as Vanessa has done and continues to do until her death), is what it’s all about. In a way, the knowledge of her impending death has ignited a will to live…to truly LIVE, as fully as she possibly can. And she is trying to show us how we can do that, too, with The Live Sincerely Project.
Q: How has shooting The SCAR Project evolved you, as a photographer and personally?
A: The things that can seem so unbearable, the things that seem like the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to you will absolutely be the best thing that has ever happened to you . . . if you allow it. We as humans tend to procrastinate doing the things we need to do in life. We put things off, look the other way, surrender to our insecurity and fears. But Mother Nature will always have her way with us . . . forcing our hand . . . forcing us to live up to our own true potential. You can choose to live up to it . . . or die mired in it. This I know for sure, both from my own life and from photographing these women.
Q: This brings up yet another mysterious and fascinating aspect of you. Your understanding of beauty. You have a very sexual yet elegant style to your fashion photography, and ultimately it is beautiful; you capture the flawless sexuality of a woman. And yet, within The SCAR Project photographs, of young women who have lost their hair, lost their breasts, you capture equally poignant beauty within those photographs too. In your fashion photography you capture a visual image of beauty, and with The SCAR Project you capture a visual image of beauty from the inside out. Usually a photographer can do one or the other end of the spectrum. Do you ever think about that? Is it challenging to go from one to the other?
A: Never. I honestly do not see a distinction between the two. It’s all the same. I shoot the women for SCAR in the same way I shoot fashion. And my insecurities and doubt as to whether I got a good shot are the same with both. Every single time, I want to throw down the camera and give up. I am convinced that anyone, ANYONE, could take a better picture than me.
The SCAR Project is not about taking beautiful pictures of women with breast cancer. I’m not going to just show half the story—that everything’s going to be fine and these girls have breast cancer but the will just go on with their lives—because that’s not the case. I wish that was the case but the reality is that some of these girls are dying and it’s important to have their story out there as well because that is the reality of the disease. As difficult as it is to look at the portraits in the gallery, it’s important that they are there.
Q: Besides The SCAR Project and your day job of shooting fashion photography, anything else on the horizon for David Jay?
A: We are currently working on a dual exhibition to premiere in Birmingham, Alabama this January. The Alabama Project began earlier this year after someone told me about a young woman named Leah, living in Alabama. Her story is compelling not only because of her young age, but also due to her struggle with health insurance and the effect it was having on her fight with breast cancer. I quickly discovered that there were several more young women in the area with very similar struggles and I knew it was a subject I wanted to address (and stories I wanted to tell) photographically.
Whereas most of The SCAR Project images are very portrait-like in nature, I wanted The Birmingham Project to be more documentary in its style. I wanted to capture these women throughout their day-to-day life: from the hospital room, to the MRI room, to their living room. The time I spent with them in Birmingham was a very special and eye opening experience. Their generosity in allowing me to step into their personal lives was incredibly moving. Here were young women in their 20s, fighting not only a terrifying disease but facing the additional struggle of finding and sustaining the proper healthcare to help them in their fight. And yet despite their challenges, what was most profound during our time together, was seeing a common thread of faith, perseverance and beauty. A love of life in every one of them.
And in addition to The Alabama Project, I have begun shooting what I like to call “SCAR Project 2.0″, The Unknown Soldier. Very similar to The SCAR Project, The Unknown Soldier will focus on young men and women (under 30 years old) who have survived severe/disfiguring injuries in the Afghanistan war. I recently shot the first picture for The Unknown Soldier, a 27 year old marine named Michael Fox.
Our time together was incredibly special and I have a feeling this next photographic journey will be an incredible one.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
THE SCAR PROJECT: BREAST CANCER IS NOT A PINK RIBBON
THE ALABAMA PROJECT: THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF HEALTH CARE
TO PREMIERE IN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA JANUARY 7-31, 2013
Birmingham, Alabama—December 6, 2012—Two groundbreaking photographic exhibitions shot by fashion photographer David Jay are set to premiere at University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Visual Arts Gallery: The SCAR Project: Breast Cancer Is Not A Pink Ribbon and The Alabama Project: The Civil Rights of Health Care.
The dual exhibition opens January 7 and runs through January 31, 2013. There will be a ticketed opening night gala on January 11, 5-9pm. General admission to the exhibitions, is free. Private gallery tours with photographer David Jay will be available. Regular screenings of Baring It All, the EMMY Award winning documentary about The SCAR Project will be shown throughout the exhibition.
The SCAR Project is a series of large-scale portraits of young women confronting breast cancer shot by fashion photographer David Jay. The SCAR Project puts a raw, unflinching face on young women and breast cancer while paying tribute to the courage and spirit of the many brave, young women fighting this disease. The SCAR Project subjects range in age from 18-35 and represent the often overlooked, group of young women living with breast cancer in our country today. They’ve journeyed from across America and the world to be photographed for The SCAR Project. More than 100 women have been photographed thus far.
The Alabama Project: The Civil Rights of Health Care is a subset of The SCAR Project. In this project Jay documents a group of young women in Alabama, all in their twenties, battling not only breast cancer but the healthcare system itself. From hospital room to the living room, Jay’s poignant images capture each woman’s faith, perseverance, and beauty.
Producers: Cynthia Ryan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, UAB Birmingham & John Thomas Fields, Interim Director, UAB Visual Arts Gallery.
Sponsored by: University of Alabama at Birmingham, Susan G Komen North Central Alabama & Susan Mott Webb Charitable Trust
Contact: Cynthia Ryan email: email@example.com phone: 205.934.8600
Tune in to (or TIVO) the Emmy’s this Saturday to see Patricia Zagarella’s Baring It All take home and Emmy for her groundbreaking documentary about The SCAR Project!
Thank you to everyone who turned out for The SCAR Project LA Cocktail Party Fundraiser kick-off event on May 5. It was a beautiful evening and a fantastic kick-off event toward bringing The SCAR Project to Los Angeles in January. We believe it will be one of the most beautiful meaningful art exhibits to grace the City of Angels.
“I was thrilled with the SPLA kick off party,” said SCAR LA Producer Diana Haye, heading up the committee to bring the exhibition to LA “to honor the 12 women I have lost to breast cancer and ALL women who have been affected. I can think of no better way to honor the women we’ve lost and the women who are on the battlefield with cancer. I have never been so profoundly moved by anything as I have by The SCAR Project.
“We are well on our way to getting the word out in LA, said Haye. “We had a very diverse crowd at the kick-off, all extremely supportive and profoundly touched by The SCAR Project documentary: Baring It All and the SCAR girls who attended the event and shared about their SCAR Project experiences. I would have to say that the event went better than anticipated. No glitches! Fabulous people and fabulous food.”
Special thanks go out to our gracious host Tom Zahlten, caterer Michael Curry for the amazing spread, Lucy Svimonoff for providing sign language interpreting, Style Network’s Taylor Hennessy for gracing us with her presence and introducing the Emmy nominated SCAR Project documentary which she was instrumental in the shaping of for Style Network, the SCAR girls who came and shared their stories, and Jacquie McColgan for being such a ridiculous generous hostess of the SCAR girls (and me) while in town. Also SCAR girl Jolene’s beautiful mama (Denise, pictured above) made a very special guest appearance and said a few words.
A very special moment of the evening as she honored her beautiful Jolene, who recently passed away in October. Jolene was one of the youngest SCAR girls. She was only 17 when she was diagnosed. She was only 25 when she passed away. That is the absolute reality of why we do this. This bitch of a disease must end.
(Rest in peace, beautiful Jolene… although, I rather picture you flying or cloud surfing.)
Besides raising seed a little money for the expenses involved in bringing the international exhibition to LA in January, of which the proceeds will benefit Breast Cancer Angels of Southern California, both shipping costs to LA and catering (skills not food supplies) for the Gala opening were donated. Also, in case you missed this first cocktail party/screening of “Baring It All” a few more were booked at the kick-off event and are coming soon… so stay tuned at The SCAR Project LA group page on Facebook.
In other news and on other cocktail napkins, the cocktail party kick-off for The SCAR Project DC is just a few weeks away. David Jay and some of the SCAR girls will be speaking at the event, with DC news anchor/survivor Kristen Berset as mistress of ceremonies. Guests at the kick-off event will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets for The SCAR Project DC exhibition, before they are released to the general public. There will be SCAR Project books and “Baring It All” dvds for sale.
There are only a few tickets left for The SCAR Project DC cocktail party kick-off on June 20th at The Dunes art gallery in Columbia Heights. For tickets, or more info about the DC exhibition, check out The SCAR Project DC group page on Facebook.
The SCAR Project DC exhibition will kick-off breast cancer awareness month 2012 from our Nation’s Capitol. “Our goal is to make a strong statement by showing our country what breast cancer really is all about,” said The SCAR Project DC producer Donna Guinn Kaufman, who is also a breast cancer survivor, and founder of Kill the Cancer Beast Foundation, the organization spearheading production of The SCAR Project DC exhibition. “We hope to change the way that people look at this disease, and as such get people to take the action that is needed to end it!”
Cheers to that. And here’s to the DC cocktail party kick-off, and the upcoming exhibitions from DC to LA.
Namaste, David Jay, on The SCAR Project’s recent nomination for Osocio’s Best Campaign of the Year 2011.
Osocio is dedicated to social advertising and non-profit campaigns. It’s the place where marketing and activism collide. Osocio is the central online hub for advertisers, ad agencies, grassroots, activists, social entrepreneurs, and good Samaritans from around the globe.
The campaign of the Year competition is Osocio’s yearly election for the best in non-profit advertising and marketing for a social cause. Click here to view the 2011 nominees, including The SCAR Project. Click here to view the post entitled, “Breast Cancer Is Not A Pink Ribbon” in which The SCAR Project was nominated for the Osocio.
What an honor. Thanks to Osocio. Congrats to David Jay. Cheers to the health of all the SCAR Project Girls who bare their scars to show us what really lies beneath the pink ribbons. And here’s to it all making a difference, by creating true traction to find a cure.
The SCAR Project is a series of large-scale portraits of young women confronting breast cancer shot by fashion photographer David Jay. In the groundbreaking exhibition, this young generation of survivors reveals what is really beneath the pink ribbons. SCAR is an acronym: “Surviving Cancer. Absolute Reality.” Primarily an awareness raising campaign, it puts a raw, unflinching face on young women and breast cancer while paying tribute to the courage and spirit of so many brave young survivors of this disease. To view a slideshow of images on The SCAR Project web site click HERE.
Dedicated to the more than 10,000 women under the age of 40 who will be diagnosed this year alone, The SCAR Project is an exercise in awareness, hope, reflection and healing. The mission is three-fold: raise public consciousness of young women with breast cancer, raise funds for breast cancer research/outreach programs, and help young survivors see their scars, faces, figures and experiences through a new, honest and ultimately empowering lens.
David Jay has been shooting fashion and beauty professionally for over 15 years. His images have appeared in a multitude of international magazines and advertising campaigns. Like so many others personally touched by the disease, Jay was inspired to act when a dear friend was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. Like the subjects themselves, Jay’s stark, bold portraits challenge traditional perceptions of the disease and capture the raw beauty, strength and character of so many extraordinary young women. Each portrait represents a singular, stripped-down vision of the life-changing journey that unites them all.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in young women ages 15-40. The SCAR Project participants range from ages 18 to 35, and represent this often overlooked group of young women living with breast cancer. They journey from across America – and around the world – to be photographed for The SCAR Project. Nearly 100 so far. The youngest being 18 years old.
Although Jay began shooting The SCAR Project primarily as an awareness raising campaign, he was not prepared for something much more immediate . . . and beautiful: “For these young women, having their portrait taken seems to represent their personal victory over this terrifying disease. It helps them reclaim their femininity, their sexuality, identity and power after having been robbed of such an important part of it. Through these simple pictures, they seem to gain some acceptance of what has happened to them and the strength to move forward with pride.”
The International SCAR Project Exhibition premiered in New York City in October 2010, then in Cincinnati and a second DC showing in October 2011. The SCAR Project will premiere in DC in October, kicking off breast cancer awareness 2012 from our Nation’s Capitol. This blog will follow The SCAR Project exhibition as it tours, David Jay as he continues to shoot the portraits, and will also feature interviews with The SCAR Girls.