Content Warning: This exhibition features nude images of breast cancer survivors.
One of every seven women has or will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
The breast is an organ rife with social and gender overtones, a universal symbol of femininity. To these women, it has become dangerous and threatening.
The prevalence of the disease and its cultural ‘baggage’ complicate the public discourse: On the one hand, there is a need and an effort to increase awareness; on the other hand, there is a silence which surrounds the revelations, the challenges and the process of coming to terms with the disease.
Women coping with breast cancer or those who are carriers of the BRCA gene must also deal with a loss of agency over their own bodies and a symbol of their femininity, without being able to conceive what their bodies will look like in the future or imagine interactions with loved ones such as partners, children and above all – themselves. Often, the disease and its treatment leave marks on the body, whether these are medical marking tattoos or changes to the torso. These marks serve as a constant reminder of the new hardships and identity foisted upon these women, and may echo deeper, invisible marks.
46-year-old photographer Shelly Padan Lorber was diagnosed six years ago, and has since recovered. Over the past year she has invited survivors to have their picture taken and become part of her new photographic archive. She makes use of the photographic typology genre, which is of an investigative nature and follows strict rules of visual unity, neutral tones and a mass of images displayed together.
Padan-Lorber has chosen to photograph these women’s torsos, ensuring their anonymity while inviting them to expose their new bodies – this time of their own free will and with full control.
The body of work presented here is a challenging social and personal document. It challenges Padan-Lorber herself, navigating between her dual roles as both photographer and survivor; it challenges the subjects, who are invited and empowered to reveal themselves in a freeing and liberating way; and it challenges the audience, who are confronted with an unprecedented view that has not yet been fully represented.
Shelly Padan Lorber
Sagit Zluf Namir