TW: This post contains nudity and graphic images of post-surgical scars.
I’ve known Jen for years. She’s a wild adventuress, a lover of the desert and the mountains, a thrifting wizard, maker of delicious jams, baker of pies, and also just a damn fine friend. My favorite, FAVORITE thing about Jen, though, is the way her curiosity is much stronger than her fear.
That curiosity is one of the things that drew us together, I think. When Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer, I fully expected her to beat it because I could not imagine a world without her in it. I know it doesn’t work out that way sometimes, but she had so many interesting and weird insights into the process of treatment and recovery that it was hard to really feel the fear underneath it. Visiting her during recovery was fun in the weirdest sort of way that maybe only people like us enjoy, as she’d open her binder and show me what was going on underneath, and I would ask her every question I could think of. And when she asked about doing a session to document some of the reconstructive process, I was so excited to help!!
Jen’s Powerful Post Mastectomy Story
I asked her a few questions, looking for some words to tell her story, but her answers were so wonderful I’m just going to post them here. If you have something going on in your life that feels important but you’re not sure what to do about it, I hope you know that my favorite kind of challenge is telling the stories we don’t see all the time, and finding and sharing the beauty in them. I’m so grateful Jen let me share hers here.
Tell me about why you reached out to me about a photography session:
I wanted to capture both the reality of the damage inherent in the surgeries I’d undergone, while still emphasizing my strength. Coming to terms with such a huge change in my body has been a really nuanced experience and I was hoping to capture some of the beauty and the pain at the same time. That, and I think scars are pretty damn cool ☺
What were you hoping to come away with?
I was hoping for something that would remind me of how well I’m actually able to deal with situations that, in the anticipation stage, seem insurmountable. Vulnerability is something I’ve always feared and tried to protect myself from, and having somebody help me create beautiful, haunting images of that very vulnerability seemed like an amazing way to give that fear the finger.
Did you feel like we accomplished that during your photoshoot?
Was there anything you were worried or nervous about before your session?
Not especially. I’m always a bit awkward and shy in front of a camera, but I was pretty confident that you’d put me at ease.
Did you feel like I did a good job of understanding your concerns and putting you at ease?
Totally! You listened to everything I wanted (even though I was still hopped up on pain pills for the first session and was probably not making a lot of sense), you never once shied away or made me feel like a weirdo for wanting pretty photos of my scars, and I felt as though you *totally* got it.
How do you feel when you look at your photos now? What’s your favorite thing about them?
I’m grateful we could make something cool and beautiful out of something a lot of people think of as tragic. It’s kind of a metaphor, right?
Is there any advice you would give to anyone who’s thinking about a session like this?
Well, first of all, I hope not too many people are needing a scar/boudoir shoot, but if you are, or if you just want to work with someone who will help you to bring out your unique amazingness (instead of powdering you up and photoshopping out all of the glorious stories that only your real skin can tell to fit some bullshit boring societal standard), I’d say Chris is gonna be that person, hands down, every time.