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.

Things You Want to Hear

Last year, at our exhibition, our friends from Minneapolis-based band Sleep Study composed an original soundtrack for the event. Songwriter Ryan Paul employed tremendous sensitivity as he mixed audio clips of poetry written by one of our models (and read by her family) over a score that completed the experience of the event in a moving and stunningly beautiful way.

It was an “A-ha” moment for us. We’ve always said that our project is about more than the photos, but adding the voices of those impacted by the cancer journey added depth to the project. Amidst the conversations and levity happening in the room, participants could take a moment and listen to insights into that incredibly complex journey through cancer, with all of its joy, fear, pride, sadness, and hope.

This year, Jon Herchert of Dark Pony scored the event for us. Instead of poetry, we used audio clips that our “podmin” Josh pulled from our podcast. Some of it is just us talking about the project and what it’s meant to us. Some of it is playful banter between the participants in our monthly discussion groups. And much of it is vulnerable and real discussion that our models have bravely allowed us to make public. All of it is part of the story of this year’s incredible group of survivors. These women have moved us, and taught us, and inspired us.

The musicians who’ve so kindly helped us are in their own rites positive, compassionate, and delightful people. I perused both Sleep Study’s and Dark Pony’s albums today, and discovered delightedly that both albums have themes that are very much in alignment with our project. From Jon Herchert’s unabashedly uplifting lyrics (“Try to be true/Try to be you./That’s the truth”) to the unfailing hope in Ryan Paul’s “Nothing Can Destroy”, it seems that amazing people and messages keep finding their way into our lives, and into this project.

Join us on Saturday to hear our newest soundtrack, as well as a set by the wonderfully talented Actual Wolf. It’s gonna be good, we promise.

Here, for your listening pleasure.



Thanks for all the money!

Kate and I have placed the order for all the photographs in the show. We spent all day yesterday deliberating over it – tough choices. I am grateful we get to spend all year shooting and spending time with these amazing women, and only one day a year deciding which photos are getting printed and which ones aren’t. This year we found a way to share more photos, but you have to come to the event to find out about it.

We want to say thank you to all the wonderful people who donated this year – we took in enough cash to pay for the canvas prints we intended to order. We still need to pay for several hundred dollars of event prep stuff out of pocket, but the fundraising made a HUGE difference in our ability to put the event together this year.

We took down the thank you gift offers, but please remember that you can contribute to our project year-round at this link.

One incentive that hasn’t gone away yet is the tattoo offer. The lovely artists at the place across the street from our HQ, Four Points Body Gallery, have most generously offered to provide tattoos of our project logo during the Sept. 29th event in exchange for a donation to the project of $30 or more. They tattooed Kate and I as part of the deal.

Please contact us to set up a time slot if you are interested in doing this: ofscarsproject [at] gmail [dot] com 

Lastly, please save the date of the event – Sept 29th at 5pm – in your calendars. We need you there!


Breast Impressions of my Childhood Hero, and Wishes for a Swift Recovery


I was an unstoppable bookworm as a child, and at the core of my essential reading was anything by Judy Blume.  Blume came to popularity more than a decade before I was ready for her, but the occasional confusing pop-culture reference didn’t matter in the face of a greater truth: her work made me feel normal.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing was my coping mechanism when I found myself a lonely fourth-grader after moving to a new school in a new town. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great helped me to understand that I wasn’t the only kid who was afraid of stuff. Then there was Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret . 

It was hard for me to talk about my body growing up, and though I struggled with body image issues as I navigated through childhood and into puberty, I didn’t feel like there was anyone I could ask about things. Breasts, after all, were “private parts,” and modesty dictated that they should be discussed only with a physician, and even then probably only at gunpoint. Imagine my mortification with the other changes that were happening.

The fifth grade book fair was a game-changer. That’s when I took my own cash and ponied up for a paperback copy of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Margaret was working through all kinds of issues, from her quest to find her spirituality to the mind-warp that is puberty. And she talked about it. She talked about periods, and about sanitary napkins, and about buying bras. Margaret even played spin-the-bottle, and did exercises in the effort to help her breasts grow. It was so scandalous. I wondered if my mother would let me finish the book, if she knew.

For the first time, I understood that growing up is an impossibly awkward business, and that the only way to survive it was simply to wake up every day and embrace it. I decided not to get swept up in the nonsense of it. I bought a plain white t-shirt that said “I am a nerd” in Courier font, and I wore it to my first day of middle school, confident that I was not alone.

Thank you Judy.

On her blog this morning, Judy Blume revealed a story that is perhaps far more personal to her than those I read as a child: her own breast cancer diagnosis. I am in awe of this childhood hero of mine for the honesty and clarity with which she writes of her own journey, even as she charts her course through these tender weeks post-diagnosis.

Blume wrote, “When it comes to breast cancer you’re not alone, and scary though it is, there’s a network of amazing women to help you through it.”

Keep talking, friends. Your honesty and compassion will help someone else to find his or her own way. You might be the reason someone else discovers that she is not alone.

And Judy? Thanks again.

The Other Project

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?


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:


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.

a bit of thanks.

the other day someone contacted me to say that he has a friend recently diagnosed with breast cancer who would be interested in hearing more about our project, seeing some of the photographs and meeting us. and would it be okay if he gave her my email?


and this answer is the same, without pause, to *any* of you, whether i know you or not – YES.

right after the opening exhibit and panel discussion we held on october 1st, kate and i sat down with a branding expert, who asked us both difficult and easy questions about the direction of the project, our immediate plans, and our long term plans. when asked what our overarching, long term, biggest picture goal was – kate said:

“breast cancer runs in my family. if any of my three daughters are faced with the diagnosis, i want them to feel confident and comfortable making decisions about their treatment based on their survival and not their appearance. if i can help *anyone’s* daughter make a decision from that place, this will have all been worth it.”

i didn’t set out to write a what-we-are-thankful-as-an-organization blog post, but the timing of what i am thankful for in regard to this project is impossible to ignore. i am deeply, humbly thankful for the honor and the privilege of being sought out as a resource for a newly diagnosed woman. if there is anything at all i can do to help her in the struggles that she will inevitably face – by showing her photographs that we have taken in the project, or introducing her to the amazing women we have met and helping her build a network, or just having coffee with her and listening to her and being there – i will do it.

and i am SO thankful to be in the position of being able to do that for someone.

in an instant

a good friend, survivor, of scars model sent us this wonderful video that she uses when she does speaking engagements to raise breast cancer awareness – we want to share it with you.


Through the magic of Twitter, I was directed to a link for the 007 Breasts Web Site, a fascinating little project that explores the American psyche in regard to breasts.

It’s a challenging look at the taboo of breasts in our daily lives, and its message works very well in partnership with our own. There are lots of issues that factor in to how our culture deals with breast cancer, but chief among them is the issue of body taboos: If unaltered, biological breasts are “sinful”, even when breast-feed a baby, how are we  supposed to discuss and process what happens to them if cancer changes them? If “normal”, healthy breasts don’t look like a media ideal before a lumpectomy or mastectomy, how are we supposed to embrace their beauty in a new form?

It all boils down to the incredibly complex interaction between our media-saturated culture and our collective body image.

“Normal” breasts are as unique as the individual who “wears” them, and the 007 Breasts site contains page after page of non-sexual, galleries filled with images of  normal, actual breasts–and a few images of breasts with unusual histories, as well. Check out the site, and ask yourself how these images differ from the breasts you see on billboards, in magazines, and on television. Would your body image be different if you’d been raised to think of breasts like these as normal, as opposed to those you see in advertising?