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The scar project

The SCAR Project takes an unflinching look at breast cancer, celebrating the courage of survivors, paying tribute to the lives that have been lost, and bringing hope to the more than 10,000 women under the age of 40 who will be diagnosed this year alone.

This is a series of large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors by fashion photographer David Jay. Its tagline is ‘breast cancer is not a pink ribbon.’ Nothing is hidden here. These portraits show the raw, brutal truth of the disease, and all the physical and emotional scars that go along with it. They are bold, arresting, possibly confronting or even frightening to look at- this is the physical reality of breast cancer, complete with double mastectomies, lumpectomies, and reconstructions.

Jay started shooting this project in Sydney after his friend Paulina was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32. He was inspired by her courage and strength as she went through a mastectomy, the removal of lymph nodes and chemotherapy. She had just given birth to her second child.

So far, Jay has photographed 100 women ranging in age from 18 to 35- a confronting message of the reality that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in young women aged 15-40. It is an exercise in awareness, hope, and healing. “For these young women, having their portrait taken seems to represent their personal victory over this terrifying disease,” Jay says. “It helps them reclaim their femininity, their sexuality, identity and power after having been robbed of such an important part of it. Through these simple pictures, they seem to gain some acceptance of what has happened to them and the strength to move forward with pride.”

The mission, then, is in three parts. Jay hopes to raise public awareness of breast cancer, raise money for research, and to help empower young survivors by helping them to see their experiences from a new and inspiring perspective. “For them, it is a moment of acceptance,” Jay says. “They know these photographs are going to be out there for the world to see. They think, ‘What’s happened to me is horrific, and I’m not going to hide. I’m going to show other people what it looks like.’”

David Jay has been shooting fashion and beauty professionally for over 15 years, and his images have appeared in a range of international magazines and advertising campaigns. You can see more images from the SCAR Project here, and the portraits are now also available as a beautiful book.

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