Making a difference… through art

Life has a way of taking you onto a path you weren’t expecting. The woman who bought 2 of my small buddha prints at the Hoboken Open Studio Tour in Oct. wanted me to shoot her nude. Which I thought – great a paid photo session… It turns out she has breast cancer ... So Jene and I will be working with her on documenting her ordeal at her request. This is not something either of us has done before. The name of our joint venture is Labor Of Love Pix* which seems fitting as we can’t with good conscious add to her financial burdens. We are helping her turn something bad into something good. She wants to help others understand that a women is just as much a woman without breasts. She will undergo a double mastectomy and have reconstructive implants.

*(Labor of Love Pix is the name we chose for our wedding – bump, birth and beyond portrait photography and this certainly goes beyond anything we expected to photo document).

Maybe this is what I/we were meant to do. Every picture tells a story and this may prove to be one of the most challenging projects Jene & I undertake. Already it has opened up the subject of discussion between Jene and I. How we would feel if I were in the same position as this woman (and many others). My initial reaction was that I would probably leave Jene. Knowing how much I/we enjoy foreplay and not having the same sensations I didn’t know if I could be with him. We talked into the wee hours of the night and fell asleep in each others arms. Of course, I thought about it more and knew that I would need to rely on his love and his strength to help me through this painful experience. Jene told me he knew of a woman who’s man left her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and he couldn’t understand how you could leave someone you love. Life is precious and life without your own breasts is still life. Therefore it is still as precious and meaningful. This is heavy stuff – even when you are not the one going through it. I’m sure I will become bound to this woman, a stranger for all intents and purposes, a woman who has reached out to me/us to help her tell her story. It’s not a unique story, she is not the first woman I know with breast cancer, just the first that will weave us into her daily life. We, as photographers will get to know her on a very intimate level and I told her tonight after scheduling our second photo session that I will try to stay objective in order to do my job. That I may even seem distant at times. I’m not sure that is possible because I am trying to capture her feelings, emotions and desires and in order to accomplish that there has to be a connection between us. Once I worked with a model on one of my personal projects – ‘Inner Sanctum – cause and effect’, the model opened up to me, welling up and we spent an 1-1/2 after the shoot ended talking about her lost love.

Cancer effects everyone who is connected, and it effects everyone differently. It is no longer the tabbo subject that it was years ago. You don’t have to go through it alone – support groups, even blogs and chat rooms have sprung up to help people through their ordeals. There are no whispered conversations any longer, it’s a disease that attacks a part of your body but it doesn’t define who you are or limit you as a person (other than some physical limitions). People live with cancer and live longer – cancer free after surgeries and treatments.

We bought a mini cassette recorder to record our conversations. This will enable her to recall what we speak about for the book she wants to develop.

Jene will not be a part of this second session because he just had rotator cuff surgery on Wednesday and is not very mobile. We will photo document her with family, friends and her lover before her double mastectomy. Planning to be with her when she goes into the hospital. I know meeting her mother will be traumatic for me, as I find it difficult not to put myself in her shoes.

I will be journalling about this from the prospective of photographers/story tellers as we go through all the transitions with her. I think it’s important to get her story out.



Filed under art, Jene Youtt, labor of love, Mary Durante Wehrhahn, photo essay, photography

2 responses to “Making a difference… through art

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts…cancer does affect everyone and there are many ways to express your emotions. We just wrote a blog post about a breast cancer survivor who expresses herself through photography.

    • Thank you for linking to me and for sharing your posts. Her work is delicate and beautiful, and has a serene quality.

      I am not a breast cancer victim, just a woman and as a woman with breasts, I understand the emotional rollercoaster a woman would go through.
      I am going further with the project I started for Carmen and am photographing other women who had mastectomies in ways to bring out their underlying beauty and sensuality. Something we all long to feel. I started blogging about Carmen as a way to capture her feelings and people contacted me about their stories. Now, I am seeking other women to photograph and to give a voice to. My goal is to publish a photo essay.
      I recently applied for an art grant but I am moving forward without it.
      Thank you for being there to support these women. I would like to link your site to mine, with your permission.


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