A New Conversation

Five years ago, we started the Of Scars project in order to start a conversation. There were injustices in the way that people were failing to respect the scars – emotional and physical – of surviving breast cancer. Women being banned from gyms for indecent exposure when their swimsuits wouldn’t fit comfortably over mastectomy scars and they chose unconventional options. Women feeling the need to hide away in closets to change their clothes where even their husbands couldn’t, and wouldn’t go. There were women being left by men who thought that cancer was “too hard” to deal with.

We didn’t know it at the time, but we were living in the time of Breast Cancer Awareness 1.0, where “awareness” simply meant that you understood that women were dying of this horrible disease and that something needed to be done. And at the time, it was critically important and the actions that were taken saved lives. What we also didn’t know was that by continuing from that point to push the conversation forward, we would be on the wave of Breast Cancer 2.0 – where we’re past knowing that the disease exists and that women are dying, and we find that women are surviving, and that it takes support for them to survive well.

Let me say that again.

It takes support for women surviving breast cancer to survive well.

We learned that survivors become survivors the minute they are diagnosed, and that it takes a team of supporters to love them and help them and to tell them the truth, in order for them to live well and to learn to accept their new reality.

Cancer changes you, forever. we’ve learned this. Over the last five years we have heard the stories, we have cried the tears. We have gotten right into the mix and helped to spread the conversation about it, we have helped people to embrace the fact that it’s okay to talk about it.

We’ve learned more than we could have ever dreamed of, when we first helped to start this conversation, and we didn’t start it alone. We started where we were standing, in our community, and other people have started where they are standing, in their communities. We’ve seen projects similar to ours crop up all over the globe.

The conversation is happening. The conversation is strong enough to continue.

We want to help feed new conversations in our community, and we know where to start. The next conversation is a really confusing issue that we encountered in our five years of working on Of Scars – an issue we want to explore and maybe even get to the bottom of. One that almost no one is immune to, whether they admit it or not.

It’s about self acceptance. It’s the root of what we have stood for in the Of Scars project. Women who felt imperfect or scarred or even just different stood in front of our cameras for five years and each and every one of them reached some new level of self acceptance. Even if it wasn’t a total transformation, some part of them became more comfortable and self-accepting.

Through the years I’ve wondered the same thing, over and over: would I do this project, if I were on the other side of the camera? I’ve never been able to give myself an honest answer – I don’t think it’s something I could possibly answer without having to truly decide that, and I sincerely hope I’m never in that position. I know that if I chose to do it, I would have the same issue many of the women we have worked with have had. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “shoot whatever you want of my boobs but please, make me look thin.”

I struggle with this, every day. I put so much energy into actively not accepting my body that some days it just makes me exhausted and angry. I have absolutely no idea how to truly accept my body for what it is, and I know I’m not the only one.

Yet, in spite of this – or maybe because of it, we are living in the era of selfies. But not natural selfies – they are posed, styled, filtered and manipulated. What do we look like anymore? If we don’t take an honest look, will we just be getting farther from truly accepting ourselves, as-is?

We also want to discover some of the thought that leads to the ability to wholeheartedly accept one part of yourself, and so actively reject another part. If we can find some patterns, perhaps we can share some ideas to broaden our self acceptance.

Let us know if you want to be part of this new project – you can reach out through the ways you have contacted us on the Of Scars project. You know where to find us.

We are going to pause pursuing new work on the Scars project and take a time out on hosting the meetings and events we have been doing. This doesn’t mean the project disappears, only that it goes on holiday while we focus our efforts and time on a new conversation.

We are SO grateful for the opportunity we’ve had to help usher Breast Cancer Awareness 2.0 into the world, and our hearts turn to mush when we think of the generosity and openness of everyone who has participated in and supported the project these last 5 years. I know I echo Kate’s feelings as well when I say that this project has truly changed my life for the better, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we have all accomplished together.

Our favorite time of year

This is the time of year that we are usually emailing you all and asking for donations on Facebook and trying to scrape together enough cash to pay for our big show at the end of September. So far, we have pulled it off in the nick of time to order the prints and pull it all together.

This year, we didn’t have to do that. We worked with one extraordinary couple to shoot their wedding this last weekend, and they donated the payment to our project.  We have always been so grateful for all of the donations that we receive – everyone pitching in is what keeps this project running, and gives us the ability to share these stories with you every year.

We are really, really excited to show you this year’s photos! We will be making our final photo selections on September 8th, and will start sending out some sneak peeks after that.

We are going to begin taking donations for next year, and ideally lining up another wedding shoot. If you’d like to help us out, we need three things:

  • If you know anyone who might like to discuss a wedding shoot with us, please send them our way.
  • If you could spread the word about the event on Sept. 28th, we’d be delighted!
  • If you would like to make a donation for next year – we’d be so very grateful. You can do so by clicking here.

We hope to see you on Sept. 28th!

2013 is here!

each year at this time, kate and i start mapping out what the year looks like. we will be scheduling out our events, podcasts, and as many photo shoots as possible. we will also plan our fundraising efforts so we can get it all paid for.

we just released an open call for models for this year, and i wanted to send a more in depth note about what that means.

women who participate in the project by coming in to be photographed are always featured in our annual fall exhibit, and sometimes in our promotional materials for the year and blog posts, with permission and approval. before photographing anyone, we always sit down for a while to talk through everything, discuss the project and our goals in detail, answer questions, and hear every woman’s story. from that, we determine what the photo shoot might entail, and when and where it should be.

our very first podcast is a great place to start if you are just digging in to what our project is about. it talks about the origins of the project and how we work. you can listen to it here.

please contact us via email if you are interested in coming in to talk with us – no need to know prior whether you have made a final decision about being photographed. we’d love to talk to you and give you whatever information you need to make that decision. our email is ofscarsproject [at] gmail [dot] com. looking forward to hearing from you!

we are also planning out our 2013 podcast / monthly discussion series, so if you are interested in coming in to talk or lead a discussion, please email us at the same address.

Sneak Peek #6

Our final sneak peek is Monica. When she came in to talk with us about doing a photo shoot, she wanted us to push her boundaries and get her out of her comfort zone. Obviously, we suggested doing a Bettie Page shoot. Before we were able to get her shoot planned, she was diagnosed – a new, different cancer was found in her breasts, which meant she was facing her third lifetime diagnosis of cancer.

She called us and the first thing she said was, “I won’t have enough hair to do a Bettie Page photo shoot.”  To which we replied, “Bullshit. We will buy you a wig.”

Sneak Peek #5

We might do two sneak peeks today, because TODAY IS THE BIG DAY! We are so excited for this year’s event to unfold. One of my favorite things is seeing the women who did photo shoots from each year all meet each other and share their experiences.

This sneak peek is of Tiffany. We did her shoot outdoors on the farm her sweet little family bought to eventually move to. What surprised us all at her shoot was that she realized it was the first time since she had been diagnosed that she was taking a day to focus on herself, and her own healing. Her son was still breastfeeding when she was diagnosed, and the focus had always remained on him, and his health. It was an honor for us to be able to be there to support her as she turned her attention inward, and started the journey of reclaiming her body after surviving cancer.

Sneak Peek #4

Meet Brigitte and Sid . . . Not gonna lie, Sid got almost as many photos as Brigitte! She brought him along because he has been such an amazing support for her since her diagnosis. We always encourage the women who participate in a photo shoot to bring a friend who played a big part in their recovery. For Brigitte, her person was Sid – and the bond between them is profound.

Sneak Peek #3

Today’s sneak peek is Patty. Patty delighted with stories about her prosthetic boob and how she responds to people staring at her in the grocery store when she chooses not to wear it. You just have to come to our event to chat with her about . . . well, anything at all. Her approach to life is filled with positivity and fun, and we just couldn’t get enough of her when she came in to meet with us.

Sneak Peek #2

Today’s sneak peek is of beautiful Robyn. We spent a rainy morning in the woods behind her house, her two little girls costumed (a witch and a princess) and running around, her husband and best friend there for support as well. She has a tree house in her back yard and we decided to do the shoot there to capture her where she is grounded and happy in nature. Her home is an amazing nest of love, support and compassion.

Interesting note: This is one of two shoots we did outdoors this year, and one of three shoots we did in the model’s home (or in one case, the site of a future home.)