According to the American Cancer Society’s figures for 2013-2014, one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. 36 percent of those who are diagnosed with it in stage I or II and 60 percent of those diagnosed with it in later stages will undergo mastectomy as part of the battle. These women are the focus of the "Grace" photography project; capturing them in all their glory, these images display their strength for all the world to see.
The work of photographer Charise Isis, the "Grace" project takes its inspiration from Hellenic sculpture. The photos depict women who have lived through breast cancer and had mastectomies not as survivors, but as warriors. Contemporary perceptions of body image and beauty get turned on their head in these powerful portraits; the women shown in them are posed as mythological figures like Athena, Venus, and Nike. Writes Isis on her website, “These dismembered artifacts have survived the trauma of history and are still valued as objects of beauty within our culture.”
Isis has worked for many years as a boudoir and pin-up photographer; it’s therefore perhaps not entirely surprising that “Grace” saw its beginnings during a boudoir shoot. A woman Isis was photographing spent much of the shoot with her clothes on — unusual, perhaps, for a boudoir shoot, but not unheard of. “A boudoir shoot is about expressing a sensual side of yourself, not necessarily being naked,” Isis recently told the Daily Mail.
As the shoot went on, however, the woman revealed that she was a breast cancer survivor; 12 years earlier, she had undergone a mastectomy as part of the battle against it. There came a moment when, Isis said, “suddenly she threw off her clothes and said, ‘F*** it! I’m doing this for myself.’ In that moment, I witnessed a woman who had carried 12 years of shame surrounding her body let go and accept herself, scarred breast and all, as she was.” Powerful, indeed — and thus “Grace” was born.
The project is ongoing; Isis is currently raising money through the New York Foundation of the Arts. To donate, learn how you can participate, or simply to leave a comment for Isis about the project, visit The Grace Project.org.
Images: The Grace Project/Facebook