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October Is Breast Cancer Awareness

Eleven years ago I embarked on a project to honour a friend who died of breast cancer. She'd asked me to teach her photography so that her family would be excited to see her vacation shots rather than saying 'Now be polite and watch Aunties vacation show'. And she made a lot of progress in that, too. About eight years after she died, after photographing a mutual friend and listening to NPR on the ride home announcing 'It is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month,' I started thinking about doing a series of portraits of people doing self-exam.

There is a lot of controversy about breast self-examination. By the time lesions are large enough for people to feel, if malignant they are quite along in the process. Mammograms, x-rays, even magnetic resonance imagery are all likely to find cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions much sooner. Self-examination remains, however, both the most likely to keep the awareness that this needs to be a regular thing, this checking for this disease, and the most visual manner of raising that awareness.

There are some slow spots in this project of mine, and others where the energy returns. In the same 11 years, two more friends died of breast cancer, and a multitude more were diagnosed and are survivors. Over time the name I gave to it morphed from a very difficult and long expression to 'Healing Art'. I also learned a good deal about the use of art in healing, in a multitude of means and methods. My concepts for the project started growing, and expanded to ideas which needed survivors and explore the self-image changes, rather than only people doing self-exam.

Any photograph done in the series, all the proceeds go to some one of the various breast cancer research foundations.

This piece is from this year, and explores aspects of digital photography to move into animation. The same model who worked with me to create the Dryad series, and more on the same day we did this work, Chelsea Christian helped with this project. As with everyone else who works with me on this, my directions are simple: Do a self-examination.



Healing Art: Self Exam
by ~madshutterbug on deviantART


It never ceases to amaze me, the results that simple direction produces. Look again at that piece. Look at her face. Everyone shows that same concentration, the current sensory input being matched against memory from previous self-exams.

I've deliberately left off one word in my title to this post. This month gets a lot of publicity for those words. The thing is, it isn't a one time deal. It is month, after month, after month, for an entire lifetime.

This entry was originally posted at http://madshutterbug.dreamwidth.org/135094.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Comments

canuckdesz
Oct. 31st, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)
Screw the controversy - Had I not done a self-exam I'd have gone months before discovering I had cancer. I caught it at stage 1, which is infinitely easier to deal with than anything else.

Self-exams DO work. I'm living, breathing, cured proof.

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