See the raw beauty, strength and character of breast cancer survivors as captured through the lens of fashion photographer David Jay in The SCAR Project: Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon on view through Oct. 28 at Gremillion & Co. Fine Art Inc.
The exhibit, sponsored by the Pink Ribbons Project, displays through Jay's 35 large-scale visuals a shockingly real world of women patients ages 18 to 35, revealing their determination to win over breast cancer. The SCAR Project is an exercise in hope, healing and humanity and is one of many events recognizing October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“For these young women, having their portrait taken seems to represent their personal victory over this terrifying disease."
Jay's inspiration evolved after a dear friend of his was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29. Within two weeks, she'd had a mastectomy. Jay, who had taken his friend's photo many times, knew he would take pictures of her again — his way as a photographer of confronting and accepting this personal adversity. He also realized shooting for The SCAR Project would be difficult in many ways.
"I wanted the pictures to be raw, honest, sincere," he says in a written Q&A presented with the exhibition. "Yet, I knew why the subjects had come: They wanted something beautiful. They had already suffered greatly and although I desperately wanted to serve them, I knew in my heart that compromising the visual integrity of The SCAR Project for the sake of easily digested beauty would serve no one. Certainly not the people I hoped to be impacted by the images, the public at large who remain blissfully unaware of the risk or reality of the disease . . . anesthetized by pink ribbons and fluffy, pink teddy bears."
Six years later, Jay has photographed more than 100 women for The Scar Project. Four of the subjects have passed away thus far. He still adds images to collection, but later ones tend to be reserved for some of the most unfortunate situations as many of the women recover — and many do not. As the disease progresses, Jay continues to shoot the subjects in their scarred glory. Final photos are then added to the exhibition.
Jay adds, “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."