Why I chose to start a photographic "Reality Project"
Photographs are powerful. They tell a story. They are a representation of culture and lifestyle. They capture a moment in time.
When I chose to have a prophylactic mastectomy in 2007, my plastic surgeon neglected to show me any photographs of what I might look like after surgery. This fed my anxiety and fear - my mind wandered to what I would look like and if I would survive surgery. I searched the internet high and low and found no photographic representation of young women after mastectomy. That experience is what motivated me to fly to NYC to meet fashion photographer David Jay and pose for The SCAR Project. It was through The SCAR Project that I met Barbie and, shortly after meeting, FLAT & fabulous was born.
Today, we have many representations of mastectomies. Either through Facebook groups, pages and personal profiles, blogs, photography projects - even mainstream media. This is so important.
It's important that women who are facing these surgeries are given the opportunity to view what their reality may be after awaking from surgery. It is also important as humans to understand we aren't alone in the path we are walking. I also believe it's incredibly important for those who are not facing our realities to be able to unite with us and bear witness to what our bodies face when we walk through treatment and surgery. Removing the veil of secrecy has supported progress in uniting our voices, demanding dollars be spent for finding answers.
When FLAT & fabulous was first created, I heard from the vast majority of women I thought I was the only one. I still hear those exclamations. But I have also started hearing from women I don't look like any of these flat women. I started this photographic project as a response to those concerns. We all deserve to feel at home in our own skin. I want to include as many FLAT & fabulous women as possible so that you see an image reflecting back at you and embrace that you are not alone, you are enough and your story is important.
I hope you are empowered by these images. If you are interested in participating, please contact me here.
The Photo Shoots
I launched the photo project in my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. It was a brisk but beautiful fall day. Pat was able to travel to Michigan to participate - it was the first time we had met in person. Both Pat and I and our photographer Heather were walking through some heavy things related to cancer that day. It truly felt like an afternoon of bonding and healing.
Winter Haven, Florida
Our second photo shoot location was in Winter Haven, Florida. Christine, the founder of Rising2Recovery, invited us to join her foundation in a beautiful day of fellowship and photography. We had FLAT & fabulous members from ALL over the globe join us: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Canada! It was powerful to hear each other's journeys to where we were in that moment and support each other's paths.
Meet the Photographers
Heather Simmons - Picture Perfect Photography
Photo Shoot: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Heather is a beautiful person inside and out! Heather is a friend and local photographer who always captures the moment perfectly. I was thrilled she agreed to be the photographer for our kick-off photo shoot. Heather captured the strength and soulfulness in an amazing way.
Photo Shoot: Winter Haven, Florida
Joe is a kind and inviting person. He used to have a photography business but survived a life threatening accident and has had to step away. I am so thankful he chose to volunteer his talent for this shoot - he had a way of making everyone at ease and comfortable and confident in their own skin!
Photo Shoot: Winter Haven, Florida
Halie is easy going and creative. She offered so many great ideas and was willing to keep shooting until we got the shots we were looking for. I would tell her a vague idea and she was able to turn it into something amazing and beautiful.