SCAR Project Exposes The Realities Of Breast Cancer

Illustration for article titled SCAR Project Exposes The Realities Of Breast Cancer

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and there are pink ribbons and sparkly pink trinkets in stores. But on the streets of New York, black-and-white ads for The SCAR Project present a more raw, honest and authentic image. (NSFW)


The posters feature a woman with a surgical scar where her right breast used to be. The copy reads, "breast cancer is not a pink ribbon." And SCAR stands for 'Surviving Cancer. Absolute Reality."

According to the website, The SCAR Project is a series of large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors shot by fashion photographer David Jay.

Jay was inspired to act when a dear friend was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. Like the subjects themselves, Jay's stark, bold portraits challenge traditional perceptions of the disease and capture the raw beauty, strength and character of so many extraordinary young women. Each portrait represents a singular, stripped-down vision of the life-changing journey that unites them all.

In Jay's heartbreaking photographs — of women between the ages 18 and 35 — his subjects are all topless. Seeing scarred and reconstructed mammary glands is not just shocking because of the way breasts are fetishized in our society, but because it speaks to how much we hide, gloss over and tidy up disease. Breasts are one of the defining physical attributes for identifying a woman. Breast cancer eats away at flesh meant to nourish. Surgery is a brutal procedure from which to recover and heal. But cute, clean, pink ribbons have come to symbolize all that. It's pretty sad, when you think about it, that we don't see images like Jay's more often; reconfigured nipples and wounded breast tissue make quite an impact. More images and information here.

Illustration for article titled SCAR Project Exposes The Realities Of Breast Cancer

The Scar Project [Official Site]


I will echo the sentiments stating how powerful this is. My mom is a 20-year breast cancer survivor. Back in 1994, a woman named Matuschka (sp?), who was a former model and breast cancer survivor, posed topless on the cover of the New York Times magazine. My mom actually wrote a letter to the editor praising them and Matuschka for their courage, saying that she never thought she's see herself on the cover of a magazine. The number of letters expressing outrage at such a "grotesque sight" far outnumbered the letters of praise. I hope that in the years since, this attitude has shifted.

Another organization that does something similar, but for colon cancer, is the Colon Cancer Alliance. They put out a calendar every year with survivors as models — scars, ileostomy/colostomy bags and all. My husband is a colon cancer survivor, and I know that the stomach scar does not carry the same implications as the breast, but this was very powerful for him. It also helps to lessen the stigma of talking about "that area." The breast cancer community really paved the way for being more open. I applaud this project and ones like it.