Guest Author - Rann Patterson
The SCAR Project: Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon.
British Medical Journal: “It haunted me…a photographic exhibition, The SCAR Project: Surviving Cancer, Absolute Reality. They got me. And it will get you too.”
“A visual world few have seen where grace, guts, pain and femininity all cross paths to expose a deeply moving side of humanity.” – LIFE
“An incredibly moving and thought provoking work.” – Psychology Today
How It Began
The SCAR Project was begun by David Jay, who is an international beauty and fashion photographer. The inspiration for this amazing and controversial project came from his personal experience of seeing a close friend be diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. He has produced a Documentary called “Baring it All” which follows four women on their journey through breast cancer. A book has also been published. Volume 1 book features 50 portraits of women ranging in ages from 18 to 35.
The minute that you log onto the main website, a photo of a beautiful pregnant young woman appears. You can’t miss it because it takes up the entire screen, and it literally takes your breath away. She is in the buff, with lovely long, curly hair and big brown eyes; her chest is flat and all that remains are scars. The emotions that hit me when I look at it are overwhelming. My mind is at once in conflict with itself. In a society that promotes perfect beauty-only extremism, this vision polarizes traditional thinking. That photo is the visual epitome of life and death. A baby coming into the world (she’s very pregnant), and then instead of full breasts, which is the hallmark of a pregnant woman’s breasts, there is abject emptiness.
Sense and Sensuality: (Webster’s: sensuous-relating to feelings)
David Jay’s portraits in the SCAR Project are not unlike his regular work. Yes, the women are nude and the photos are sensual. It has been the topic of personal conversation and contentious online debate. But really, what’s the big deal? To help clarify my point, I’m going to take you in a little different direction in thought than usual, because I’d like for you to look at it from another perspective. When a person undergoes therapy for psychological or spiritual healing, to get to the deep hurt, other areas must be uncovered first. That’s why deep hurts are so hard to heal, it’s because they are hard to reach, but it’s not impossible to expose them, either.
The Assault of Cancer
As human beings, our sensory perceptions are on at all times. We hear, feel, think, see and smell without a thought, and they are all innate attributes that we possess. As cancer survivors all of our senses have been dealt harsh blows. Our ears have heard devastating news, our bodies have had to experience tremendous physical pain, our minds have been vexed with all kinds of untold thoughts and worries, and our eyes have had to behold our own bodies change so fast that it’s hard to process. What we touch feels unfamiliar now, and none of us will ever really forget the smell of the hospital, the chemotherapy “cocktail” drugs or the x-ray film from the radiation department. Our once-innocent senses have been assaulted beyond what we have been able to get an ignorant world to understand.
The Power of Art
Part of how the project has turned out is due to David Jay’s raw individual style. The images are sensual, and it’s pushing cultural boundaries and ideologies. He is using his artist’s eye, his good soul, and the lens of a camera to help cut through the veil. As a cancer survivor, I am used to hospitals, and it does not distress me to hear of a diagnosis or go to the radiology or chemo department now with a friend or loved one. I’m a veteran patient, and after a while you just get used to it. The photographs are jarring, but that‘s the point. It is exactly what has been needed for our society to wake up and really see the end results of cancer and in this case, breast cancer in particular. There is awareness, and then there is understanding, and David Jay is doing an incredible job of helping the world to better understand.
The Triumph of the Human Spirit
In my opinion these women, some who have travelled from across the globe to be photographed, have triumphed. I love what David Jay says about his experience, and I quote him from his webpage:
“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.” – David Jay, Photographer.
For more information, visit The SCAR Project. While on the site, you can watch a clip from the Documentary “Baring It All”, and hear as David Jay describes a little about his experience. Also, read about the Mission, see Images, and keep track of the travelling Exhibition, as well as learn how you can get involved. The book is hard cover, 126 pages- The SCAR Project: Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon (Volume 1) by David Jay.
Source information and quote taken from The SCAR Project website. Other sources: David Jay Photography