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5 years ago
Creating Bare Reality has been an incredible two-year adventure. I’ve met some amazing women who shared deeply personal stories with me. It’s transformed how I feel about my breasts and my body. I feel more tender about myself as a woman and for the female experience in general. Now I’m finally ready to share some of the project and hopefully – if the Kickstarter campaign hits its target – publish the book. I can only hope it will inspire and move others.
Sometimes, as I drove across the country to meet a complete stranger, I’d feel surprised at what an unusual project I was undertaking. Meeting, photographing and interviewing 100 women about their breasts is a little left-field. But each and every woman made an impression on me. All of the interviews moved, inspired and transformed me in some way. These courageous women opened up and shared fascinating, intimate stories about their breasts, bodies and lives. Breasts, interesting in themselves, were also a catalyst to discussing personal and important aspects of our lives as women.
I have always been fascinated by the dichotomy between women’s personal lives and how they’re depicted by the media; between how we feel about breasts privately and how they are presented for public consumption. We see images of breasts everywhere in the media and yet images of ‘real’ breasts, and actual breasts themselves, are almost never seen. Breasts are taboo, hidden away beneath clothes and bras.
Growing up, I never thought my breasts were very attractive. They didn’t seem to measure up to the breasts I saw all around me. I grew up believing my breasts were objects that should be ‘perfect’ and desirable for men, and that they fell a long way short. The breasts we see in the media are often surgically enhanced, professionally lit, and photo-shopped. Airbrushed breasts, belonging to models and actresses, not only create an unflattering comparison but present an unobtainable ideal. If a model can’t live up to the ideal of perfect breasts, how can anyone else? In creating Bare Reality I felt compelled to share un-airbrushed photographs of breasts.
We love telling our stories, and hearing other people’s stories. I wanted to re-humanise women through honest photography, present our breasts as they really are and burst the ‘fantasy bubble’ of the youthful, idealised and sexualised breasts presented by the media. But the interviews are at the heart of the project. Bare Reality explores what it means to be a woman, and makes women subject, not object.
I always knew that one aspect of Bare Reality would be doing my part to create a conversation about breast cancer. But I couldn’t have anticipated just how profoundly important it would be to me after meeting and interviewing the women who took part.
Ten women who have or have had breast cancer took part in Bare Reality. Their stories were especially moving, as you can imagine, and I valued their participation so much. Baring their breasts meant sharing their scars, literally and figuratively. Sometimes they cried, sometimes I cried. Although there was sadness there was also healing. I believe that by sharing our stories we can heal ourselves as well as the ones reading or hearing our stories. The interviews with breast cancer survivors were notable for their bravery and inspiring positivity. I hope they will also ignite an interest in breast cancer and the risk factors associated with the disease.
Even among those ten women, how they felt about the impact on their breasts and lives varied. They coped in different ways. They underwent different surgeries and reconstructions. They were unique. We are all unique. I hope that Bare Reality will help us all to celebrate the real woman, the ordinary woman, all of us, whether our breasts are healthy or not.
So, why did I choose to support Breast Cancer UK out of all the possible charities? Only 3% of cancer research goes towards prevention; that seems unbelievably tiny to me. Surely we don’t just want to diagnose and treat cancer, surely we want to avoid it in the first place? One in eight women in the UK will get breast cancer. That’s a huge number, and I think we need to focus our attention on bringing that number down.
There has been much good work in recent years to create awareness of breast cancer, encourage early diagnosis and research new and more effective treatments. It seems to me that the big conversation we need to have next, in fact surely the most important conversation we need to have, is prevention. Breast Cancer UK is the only UK charity focused on primary prevention, which made my choice easy. Everyone who supports Bare Reality on Kickstarter is also supporting Breast Cancer UK. I will donate £1.00 from every book sold.
This is how we look. This is how we feel.
Support the Kickstarter campaign here.
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