in the last week i’ve had so many people send me the link to this project that is similar to ours – The Scar Project and ask me how i feel about it. my first thought?
“OH MY GOD THOSE WOMEN AND THOSE PHOTOS ARE STUNNING.”
and my next thoughts, in no particular order, were:
- does this decrease the impact of what i am doing?
- what can i do to get that much attention directed toward our project?
- would people more broadly understand what we are doing if we shared all our photos on the internet?
and then i started trying to answer myself.
NO. this does not decrease the impact of what we are doing, in fact, i think it makes it stronger. we are doing our part, in our community, to make a difference in people’s lives. i am glad we aren’t the only ones doing this! we can’t do it alone!
i don’t know what i can do to increase the attention we are getting, that’s not my field. but i will say that so far it has seemed that every time it starts to speed ahead of us, it’s not as genuine. the project has its own life, and its own mind, and it has bestowed upon Kate and i the honor of hosting it, holding its hand, being its guide as it puts itself into the world. it tells us what to do, and it tells us we don’t need to hurry to have an impact. we don’t need to hurry to be doing the right thing.
people may more immediately understand what we are doing if we posted all our photographs on the internet, yes. but . . . that’s not what we want. we started this project with the intention of starting a conversation, and to make people think. we had fears in the first year of how it would be received, and we were cautious in our approach. Kate and i personally both prefer to make people happy, not to chafe or shock. above all else we did not want to shock. we wanted to provide a kind and meaningful glimpse of real women doing real things and really surviving. and being beautiful because they ARE.
here’s the thing, and i find myself saying it over and over:
THIS IS NOT A PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT.
we happen to take photographs of women and use it as a way to express this conversation. we use it as a way to introduce you to women who have a story to tell. we use them as a way to get people talking about what the journey is after a breast cancer diagnosis, so that more people can participate and lend a helping hand on that journey. or to at least have a glimpse of understanding and let down their barriers.
every october (and now that we have our space, probably more often) we celebrate the women we have worked with by hanging up their photographs and throwing a party. this is not a photo exhibit because a photo exhibit can stand alone. it will still be an exhibit when no one is standing in the room. this is different – it doesn’t exist without the amazing people that come together. you look at the photograph, and the woman in it is standing there, in person. and you talk to her. and you hear her story, in her own words. and you cry a little bit, or a lot, and you are overwhelmed with the power she has claimed by doing this and you are bursting with gratitude that she has stepped forward and done this and helped to unlock the start of the universal acceptance that HAS to come.
she is a pioneer, and you are there with her and you become a pioneer too. and that is why we are here. that is what our project means. we welcome other voices, other projects. we can’t do it alone.