Other than boudoir and beauty photography that you see on this website, I have a personal project that I have worked on for more than 10 years called “The Grace Project”. I began the Grace Project a year or so after a woman came to my studio for a boudoir shoot. Determined to stay clothed, this particular woman confessed to me during the shoot that she was a 12 year breast cancer survivor and felt mutilated under her clothing… to cut a long story short, by the end of her shoot, she had revealed her scars to my camera. It was incredibly cathartic for her but also for me as a photographer and an artist. I couldn’t ignore the residual awe that was left in my heart after she left my studio. I looked on the internet to see what photographs existed of breast cancer survivors, but all I could find were these horrific medical images of women’s torsos… their heads cropped out of the image, and centered in harsh medical lighting. I was floored. If I were a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer, I would have been horrified to think that any of these images might be my potential outcome…
At that point, I knew that I had to make it my mission to explore this further… and with my camera, put a face to breast cancer, to show the courage, beauty and grace that these women exhibit.
I have now photographed over 400 portraits for The Grace Project and the work continues. Though the project emerged as a result of my boudoir photography, the photographs pivot from boudoir and are more about revealing the courage and the internal beauty of each subject. Though they are sensual in nature, they are not ABOUT sensuality.
Having now been completely immersed in the world of breast cancer, and having talked intimately with literally hundreds if not thousands of women affected by this disease, it is astounding how many women abandon their sexuality after cancer. Confessions from women who haven’t had sex since their diagnosis, who fear undressing in front of their partners… women who avoid dating because they can’t imagine that anyone would want them, viewing their bodies as flawed…. and then physiological issues such as early menopause… low libido… and so on. This issue is epidemic within the cancer community.
Recently I met up with my friend Melissa Eppard. A lovely woman and breast cancer survivor who specializes in life coaching other cancer patients and survivors. Most recently Melissa has launched a separate channel within her coaching business, her focus is on encouraging women to “get their sexy back” after cancer. Melissa has studied with the famous author and sensuality coach Mama Gena, renowned for instigating thousands of women across the United States to embrace their sexuality, to flaunt their femininity and to simply just “own it”.
Weaving her experience as a cancer survivor, a coach, and a graduate of the Mama Gena program, Melissa has begun to help cancer survivors begin to open up that well again… to begin to play… to feel whole… to flirt… to date and to embrace all that it means to be a woman, a lover, a partner again despite a cancer diagnosis.
If you would like to join Melissa’s up coming 30 day Facebook challenge: “Getting your sexy back after cancer” CLICK HERE
Melissa doesn’t just tell her subjects what to do… she walks the walk. So as to immerse herself in her own sensuality as a shining example of bravado with respect to her clients she recently hired me to do a boudoir session.
These days there is an abundance of women out there taking their shirts off, sharing their scars with the world in the media and on social media. I’d like to think I was part of the energy that initiated this movement. I love the exuberance and the enthusiasm of women of all different shapes sizes and ages now freely willing to share their scars with the world, women empowered and fearless… owning it, declaring “this is me!”. But what we still don’t see a whole lot of is women with cancer embracing their sexuality and sensuality… Well here is one! The dazzling results of my shoot with Melissa. Evidence that you do not need breasts to be sexy or sensual…
Scars are not a deficit. I believe that the trials we traverse make us richer, fuller, more interesting human beings… and definitely should we choose to own them, more SEXY!