About the Project

When Twin Cities photographer Elli Rader heard about the opportunity to shoot pictures of mastectomy and lumpectomy scars, she immediately said yes. “Imagine the strength and courage that a woman can reallocate to fighting the battle against breast cancer if she isn’t also feeling disfigured or mourning the loss of her femininity. We owe this to women everywhere who are fighting this battle - they are beautiful on so many levels, and they should feel that way,” Rader says.

Our overarching goal is to bring the beauty of survival and strength to light, and to work toward universal acceptance of the physical changes that come with surviving breast cancer.

Stories of compassion . . . of strength . . . of Scars.

Of Scars, which began in 2009, aims to offer insight into the emotional journey through breast cancer. Photographs offer breast cancer survivors a unique opportunity to put their surgical scars on display, and celebrate these marks as proof of survival and badges of honor. “There’s a whole industry devoted to hiding these scars,” collaborator Kate Bailey says. “You can buy lingerie designed to conceal mastectomy scars, or bikinis that hide them. There’s a message that scars are ugly. But they’re proof of survival, and survival is beautiful. We thought it was time to display it.” Though the project is not the first to display the scars of breast cancer survivors, it is unique in its vision. “We want to start a new conversation,” Bailey says. “With 1 in every 8 women dealing with breast cancer at some point in their lives, these scars are statistically more normal than being a natural red head. We want to ask ourselves why we tell women that these scars are abnormal, why we’re uncomfortable with them. We want to invite viewers to realize that these scars are everywhere, and they’re an amazing affirmation of life.” “We are doing this project out of love, honor and respect. We hope that it will be met with the same. The strength of a woman is universally beautiful, with or without scars," Rader says. Bailey is a writer and photographer who conceived the project after watching her own mother’s challenges after a bilateral mastectomy in 2007.