I always knew that one aspect of creating Bare Reality: 100 women, their breasts, their stories would be doing my part to provoke more awareness of 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. Their stories were especially moving. Nothing puts your own problems, big or small, into perspective like someone else’s life or death story.
I was intrigued to be invited by Stella McCartney to collaborate on a new project, No Less a Woman, to raise awareness of breast cancer. I wanted to jump at the chance to extend the Bare Reality project and do more for breast cancer awareness, but I had stipulations. Would Stella be happy with un-airbrushed photographs of breast cancer scars on her website? Yes. Would she publish the women’s words, no matter what they said? Yes. Brave decisions.
I photographed and interviewed 12 anonymous women who have survived breast cancer, in exactly the same style as the Bare Reality book. That meant no airbrushing, no pink-washed sugar coating. The images are gentle but entirely honest. Just seeing a normal pair of boobs is shocking for some people (as I found out after Bare Reality was published) let alone the raw, un-airbrushed truth of breast cancer scars. How often do we see photographs which, while gentle and sympathetic, also present the un-airbrushed reality of breast cancer? And on the website of one of the world’s leading fashion brands?
The loss of a breast, or a scar, the diagnosis, treatment and recovery will mean different things to different women – we are individual, complex, nuanced. I wanted to tell these women’s stories and share the brave, sad, painful, moving and sometimes even funny truth. This is how they look. This is how they feel.
I am proud of this collaboration which takes a tender, truthful and inspiring look at the lives and bodies of women with breast cancer. It’s a bold and beautiful direction for a fashion house to take, I think it will probably surprise people. Lots of love to Stella for having the heart to do this with me, and to the 12 wonderful women who took part.
“There are so many different emotions attached to the tragic realities of having had a double mastectomy. Many cultures are unaccepting and terrible things happen to women both physically and emotionally. After reading Laura Dodsworth’s Bare Reality: 100 women, their breasts, their stories; in which 100 women bravely share un-airbrushed photographs of their breasts alongside honest, courageous, powerful and humorous stories about their bodies and their experiences, I knew I wanted to work with her somehow. We both share in the idea of making something that allows women undergoing breast cancer to have something to be proud of, something with no shame attached. We wanted women to know that you can still be feminine, have your sensuality, have all of the things that are attached to being a woman and that part of your body can still feel beautiful on the outside, as well as the inside. Together with Laura Dosworth and the Hello beautiful foundation we have created the #NoLessaWoman campaign to continue supporting women around the world.”
– Stella McCartney