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Inspiration

The SCAR Project: Heartwrenching Photographs of Breast Cancer Survivors (NSFW)

By Hanssie on October 17th 2013

Warning: Some of the images below may be considered disturbing to some readers (NSFW)

Almost everywhere you look during the month of October, you’ll see pink ribbons, pink teddy bears and other pink items on display to raise awareness for a disease that will find an estimated 300,000 new victims this year alone, according to the American Cancer Society.

[REWIND: The Light That Shines: Beauty in Tragedy Portrayed in Stunning Documentary]

Seven years ago, the grim reality of breast cancer hit close to home when a good friend of New York fashion photographer, David Jay, was diagnosed with this disease. Within two weeks, she underwent a double mastectomy. She was 29 years old. David had been photographing his friend, Paulina, since she had been 17. Seeing his friend after surgery, David struggled to understand and process what happened the only way he knew how – by picking up his camera. Thus, The SCAR Project was born.

Bridgette

With a desire to raise awareness beyond the pretty pink ribbon, David’s images demonstrate a stark contrast of the commercialized view of breast cancer straight to the raw, honest and painful beauty of the women behind this ravaging disease.

“The SCAR Project’s deeper message is one of humanity. The acceptance of all that life offers us . . . all the beauty . . . all the suffering too . . . with grace, courage, empathy, and understanding. Ultimately, The SCAR Project is not about breast cancer, but the human condition itself; the images intend to transcend the disease, illuminating the scars that unite us all.”

David has photographed over 100 women, ages 18-35 for this project which subsequently were shown in numerous exhibits, in a book titled, “The SCAR Project: Breast Cancer Is Not A Pink Ribbon,” and has won an Emmy for an internationally acclaimed documentary called, “Baring It All.”

Sara Aspiring(1) o-ELISA-900

Though The SCAR Project is photographically complete and continues to be shown at exhibitions around the country, David continues to shoot the women as their diseases progress, until they pass away. That final image is included to the exhibition.

David is currently traveling the country working on his new project, The Unknown Soldier, a series of portraits of young, wounded soldiers from the wars in Afganistan and Iran.

Toni Julia Sylvia Emily Hanna BarbieCREDITS : Photographs by David Jay/The SCAR Project have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com and www.fittedmagazine.com. Follow her on Instagram. Email her at:
[email protected]

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Gary Sutphin

    Sorry…but the scars simply don’t look all that bad to me. These women had a health problem…and they did what was necessary to resolve it. Sacrificing such a very small percentage of a woman’s anatomy to give her more years of life and hopefully happiness seems like a no brainer…to ME.

    They’re all still quite attractive women. I mean…how many times do people walk around without their clothes on? Even if they’re a Naturist…it isn’t that often. And even IF these women WERE Naturists? It wouldn’t bother OTHER naturists…because what that whole kind of thing is all about is…just being the real YOU.

    Come to think of it…I don’t even know why I wrote this. It’s a…..non issue.

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  2. zach

    The one that his me was the pregnant lady…cant nurse your child without breasts…as a man i can only imagine what moments are missed by a mother that cant nurse her baby

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  3. Ryan Tuchalski

    Thank you MArtha for that life reminder. I couldnt help but think this is not God’s intent and I realize were not to live for this world. I do see the beauty in these women and the toughness of their strength that endures the pain of their scars. God bless you all in your fight and may you find victory in peace even if its in the next life.

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  4. Cynthia Duncan

    I am a 3 time survivor. While I continue to feel beautiful (largely due to my husband’s influence), I understand the pain and anguish of a double mastectomy. Thank you so much for telling our story!

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  5. Martha

    I see the scars, but to me they represent not the breast that was lost.
    To me, they represent so much more!

    Triumph. Survival. Strength. Rebirth. Future. Power. Confidence. Compassion. Honesty. Beauty….. and most of all, Life.

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  6. Rahul D

    These all worrier ladies are symbol of strength , power & courage.
    I am moved by this documentation.

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  7. Hayley

    It was impossible for me to hold back the tears in looking at these. Not just the scars…but the FACES…the many ‘looks’ of breast cancer: empowered, depreciated, confused, proud, depressed, beaten, triumphant. Every face here reads ALL of these things, as these are all things we ‘survivors/conquerors (whatever you wish to term us) feel. Not just the MOMENT you desperately try to soak in ‘the news’ of it, not just every proceeding day you attend treatments and do your best to face them with that steaming-bull attitude, not only every time you look at your physical scars in the mirror…but every day AFTER you are supposed to have ‘returned’ to living, again.
    Not four months out now from my own world-flipping experience with it (at the younger age of 33), i can relate to these faces, ALL TOO WELL.
    And although there is part of me that CAN’T look too long, I am grateful to have seen this and even more grateful toward David and the heart God gave him to show the WORLD that the ‘face’ of cancer is a lot more complex than just a piece of looped pink-ribbon~

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    • Hanssie

      Very eloquently said. Keep fighting and thank you for sharing your story. God bless you.

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  8. carol david

    Breast Cancer Xposed is an organization dedicated to supporting open-minded women with breast cancer who Dare to Bare Their Breasts on The Beach during a week-long sexy-fun vacation at Hedonism II, Jamaica next May 3-10, 2014 . The trip is called: “Get Back on The Beach” and offering women with breast cancer to go FOR FREE. For every 10 rooms sold that week, one woman with breast cancer will get to go for FREE!
    Anyone can nominate their favorite open-minded survivor. Guests at Hedonism understand the fact that beauty comes in all forms, shapes and sizes and that being sexy is an attitude not an action…
    Contact us at [email protected] to learn more about this program.

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  9. Steen Schmidt Nielsen

    I think they are all happy to be alive.

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  10. Richard N. Cote’

    The beauty of these women has in no way been diminished by the surgeries. I could not esteem them any higher, especially after their suffering and valor. Richard N. Cote’, author, [email protected].

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  11. Barbara

    Hannsie, beautiful work! !!
    Very moving. Every single one of the images have a powerful story …. life and death and the courage these women have!! We forget …to easy. It is good to be reminded. Thank you.

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  12. Helen Portz

    After a lumpectomy I learned that there was more cancer. Because of the size, I elected to have a bilateral
    mastectomy. I did not expect to have anything but a straight line scar across my chest. Instead I have a road map with hills, valleys and curves. After 7 years it no longer matters but I certainly wouldn’t undress in front of someone. I feel for these young people who have been needlessly mutilated.

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  13. Samuel g Annan

    I was moved and touch by these images I saw. We men should respect every women from now onwards.
    May god help them in their life’s .

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  14. Juanita

    Every one is so beautiful and still so much a woman. I am a 3 year survivor of Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I had a lumpectomy, taking wider tissue. My breast is noticeably smaller in a mirror but not so in clothing. So many people don’t know this is what happens with breast cancer. Like someone mentioned, they thought it was just a little scar. The one this disease leaves on your soul is the biggest! And sometimes never heals because you live with the fear of reality of recurrence or metastatic disease.

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    • Hanssie

      You are amongst these brave women! God bless you! And thanks for sharing your story!

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  15. Paige

    I am so in awe of these women. My mother and my grandmother both had breast cancer. These women are strong and beautiful; if you think different you don’t understand what being a human is. Appreciate humanity; it’s what we all have. “Our task must be to free ourselves . . .by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Albert Einstein”

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  16. Viviene

    This brought tears to my eyes. These women are so brave and so beautiful and so, so strong. I pray for the day when a cure will be found for this dreaded disease. Cancer has touched my family more than once and it is hard to deal with. My prayers are with everyone who, in one way or another, has been affected by cancer.

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  17. Solifer

    They are beautiful because they are brave!
    Who says beauty is perfection?

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  18. Courtney

    Wow. What a stunning series. I feel almost wrong for peeking into such an intimate side of a woman’s life. But in my mind, it provides hope. Each story is different, as is each struggle…but the one thing that holds steady is that these women are beautiful.

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  19. John

    I have to say I still find them all very sexy…and brave. #callme

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  20. Elizabeth

    How beautiful and brave these women are. Breast cancer has touched so many people, changed so many lives, taken so many loved ones much too early. We must continue to pray for a cure. God bless all those effected by this horrible disease.

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  21. Helaine

    I remember when I was about nine years old, my grandmother was in her tiny bathroom directly off her bedroom. She called to my mother to come to the bathroom and, of course, I followed. My grandmother was standing naked in front of the mirror crying, and my mother immediately moved in to hug her. When they separated, I saw for the first time the scar of her mastectomy zigzagging from mid-chest to a cavernous removal of muscle under her arm. Needless to say, I started to cry then, too, mostly out of fear of what I didn’t understand had happened to her. My grandmother put on her robe and hugged me to her saying, “Don’t worry, baby; it’s just one less tit to get hung in the wringer.” The three of us cracked up and giggled for days after. Only now as an adult do I recognize the pain, bravery and incredible attitude my grandmother displayed that day, and to this day how she shapes the woman I am.

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    • Hanssie

      Your grandma sounds like an amazing woman! Thanks for sharing your story :)

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  22. Doug E

    I am a minister, but for most of my career I have been most successful in raising money for church building projects, either after the project is completed or before it starts. With photos of these brave women it would be so easy to raise significant funds. This was on my FB feed, not sure why I even clicked on it, maybe because the lady in the first picture was so young to be impacted like this, but what brave women and powerful images.

    In the hands of the right person you could do some serious fund raising. There has to be a way to end this disease so that no more are impacted. For some reason I’d thought there would be a little scar, I had no idea. Thank you so much for opening my eyes! The second picture brought a tear to my eye too!

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    • Hanssie

      I agree. This project really opened my eyes to the realities of the disease! And yes, it is way past time that we found a cure!

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  23. Christine

    I always thought women who went though breast cancer had plastic surgery afterwards if they cared for it. I would nver have guessed they had such a terrible scar. I know remember that one of my friend mentionned that she had breast cancer to explain somthing about her lack of sexual confidence…. And I didn’t understand

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  24. Jen

    Beautiful photos that show the real side of this disease. These women are amazing and courageous.

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  25. DenverSkip

    My mother is a breast cancer survivor and I KNOW the pain and embarrassment associated with a mastectomy. What a powerful and moving show of courage and human vulnerability. BRAVO!

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    • Al

      Never be embarrassment still amazing beautiful Woman

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  26. Daniel

    Such Beautiful,brave and awesome women in all Time . Powerful photography..Courageous women!!!!!

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  27. Manola Gayatri

    Find some of these images edgy and stunning. Some of the others deep with a compassion to the own self. I don’t feel sad. I feel inspired and awed. I also just like how gorgeous the women look- it’s an Amazonion edginess there. Some seemed to have moved passed being brave ‘survivors’ to entering a new freedom and abandon with beauty. Not romanticising any pain here, really do think these images are empowering! Love ’em!

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    • Hanssie

      Awesome way of seeing things! Thanks so much for sharing your perspective :)

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  28. Kurt

    Amazing group of ladies……..their faces tell the story of a gripping disease with no cure. I know of several friends who have had or known in their family of the disease. The emotions on these ladies faces is timeless and gripping at the same time. Ladies I am very proud of your courage to go before the camera. Thanks for showing these photos to the world.

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    • Hanssie

      I totally agree. The courage it would take to not only bare all, but to show the complete struggle and pain through their eyes. So heartwrenching.

      Thanks for commenting.

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  29. triana astuti

    Nice picture, all the brave woman… to all the woman in the world, we must see the effect and aware for this breast cancer..
    About 2 years ago I saw with my own eyes, that my mother got breast cancer and must mastektomi her left breast.. now she is a survivor and we love her very much…

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    • Hanssie

      So glad to hear that your mom is a survivor! Thanks for sharing your story!
      ~H

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  30. Mpumi

    These pictures brought so much tears in my eyes. I’m one of the victims through this cancer. I’m still struggling going through a lot but these women made me strong. Thank u ladies for being brave.

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    • Hanssie

      Keep up the fight! There’s lots of love and support behind you! God bless.

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  31. Alexise

    Stunning work. Beautiful images of such vibrant women, capturing courage, strength snd sheer grace. Thank you all for sharing, shedding, encouraging, healing, and inspiring.
    I’d love to see more work.

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  32. Doug Birnbaum

    Powerful work. I applaud these brave and beatiful women as well as the artists.

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  33. Brenda

    Powerful photography. I am a 3 year survivor of breast cancer and I am so grateful to be alive. Everyone has someone in their inner circle that this disease has touched; not everyone can share like these powerful, beautiful beings have.

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    • Hanssie

      Thanks for sharing your story, Brenda! You are amongst the many that are beautiful and brave just like the ladies in these images!

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  34. Jacob delaRosa

    A few months ago, I was priviledged to attend a gallery exhibition of these images in Birmingham, AL. Not only was I able to meet David Jay, I was also able to meet and talk to many of the portrait subjects who were there that night. Unfortunately, some were not able to attend, having already passed on…seeing that in person was something else. If I’m not mistaken, David was going to take the gallery on the road to different locations. Catch it if you can!

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    • Hanssie

      I would love to see it and I am sure i was incredibly moving. Hopefully, it comes to California soon! Thanks for commenting :)

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  35. Deborah

    First I’d like to say how incredibly strong these women are and second, I’d like them to know that there are doctors like Scott Sullivan at the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery who can restore your body’s natural look. He and his staff specialize in breast reconstruction with the patient’s own tissue. I was so thankful to be referred to the Center and believe that I am more shapely now than before my cancer – a blessing I never dreamed of! https:www.breastcenter.com

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    • Hanssie

      Good for you Deborah! I’m glad that you are one of those incredibly strong woman you speak of and that you found someone that helped you. Thank you for commenting!

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  36. Carol jissette

    Wow!!! An standing ovation is in order for all this beautiful yet courageous women who made all of us who have seen their pictures lucky! , for allowing us to see their beauty, and I emphasize BEAUTY, because nothing less can be said. I immediately cried because cancer has sadly ripped some of my loved ones away. they have taken their story and their scars and made something amazing! You guys will forever be warriors and great example of hope for many. Thank you! For sharing your story with us. :-)

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    • Hanssie

      I agree. The bravery of these women to expose their pain and fear is unbelievable. Thanks for commenting.

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  37. Amanda West

    Beautiful and brave women. Each and every picture made me think what that awful disease has done to those poor ladies physically and mentally and how it has affected them and their loved ones, it’s immeasurable. My heart goes out to them for their sheer strength.

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    • Hanssie

      My heart was touched by these extraordinary ladies as well. As a culture, we focus and give our adoration and adulation to movie stars, where these women are the ones we should be looking up to. Thanks for commenting!

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  38. Emma Richardson

    Brutally honest photography, and very brave models. A very powerful collection, it just drew gasps from me and my colleagues.

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    • Hanssie

      I agree. I will never be the same after seeing these images. Thanks for commenting!

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  39. Agi Bergman

    Beautiful project! The photos are just stunning. I feel so much for these ladies, my grandma died of this awful desease, my uncle, who also died of cancer two years ago was only 12 when she passed on. My auntie, her daughter had breast cancer, too, but she luckily survived but not without scars, both mental and physical. It is such a taboo in society, women who are survivors are asked to cover up on beaches because people cannot bear the sight of scared breasts yet young women are sunbathing topless, and that is ok. Courageous women!

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    • Hanssie

      Good point. These women are beautiful just the way they are and their beauty and bravery should be celebrated and admired.

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  40. Melissa

    These are so beautiful and so sad. The raw emotion in pictures 2, 3 and the last one leave such an impact! I have known several woman who have/had suffered at the hands of this disease. One was my Spanish teacher in middle school who I’m saddened to say passed away shortly after I graduated. Second is my current boss, a three time cancer survivor. She has had both her breasts removed and tells me that there are times she feels “less of a woman.” I hope these women understand that they are and will always be beautiful. Powerful pictures. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Hanssie

      I’m thankful that I don’t know anyone that is close to me who have had cancer but after writing this article, I will never see breast cancer the same again. Thanks for commenting.

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  41. Gigi

    Such brave and awesome women in ANY month!

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  42. Cesar Barrios

    Many don’t see that reality of Cancer. This project actually shows the pain women go through. The second picture really talk to me too. That tear is something else.

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    • Hanssie

      I was very moved by these images as I am one of those in the general public that don’t see this side of cancer. That tear just jumps out and rips your heart out doesn’t it? Thanks for commenting :)

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