I paused on the publish button for some time before I sent out the ‘portrait of a mastectomy’. The image of embracing my condition had grown to the point where it was a meaningful action for me. I thank you for the positive feedback, it has meant a lot to me. You guys all got it! And my brothers comment is true- now you have seen it we are both scarred for life. But where did my drive to do it begin? When I first met with the surgeon I asked to see images of mastectomies. If you have not experienced it directly, as I hadn’t – what picture do you get in your mind when someone mentions the surgery I wonder? Are these images better or worse than the real thing. The images she showed me were understandably clinical – a record for surgeons. Very professional. To the uninitiated they presented as decapitated torsos on limp bodies which resembled crime scene photos (as a fellow traveller suggested to me), mug shots (minus the mug) of prisoners at the point of incarceration awaiting their prison numbers or the kilogram sign for what weight of turkey was being presented in the supermarket! There was a kind of terror at the inevitable and I made my mind up on the spot that I would find an aesthetic in all this! I knew also that I would have both breasts removed as prophelactic ( advised on statistics of return of the condition) and for aesthetic reasons- I also knew in my heart of hearts that I would not be wasting any plastic surgeons time on remodelling me or wearing false breasts in adapted bras, although I respect the desire of many women to take those paths and support them in doing so. I asked Mike to plan the photo shoot with me and he selected the site. I had been standing perfectly still and serious of expression when the final position grew out of a spontaneous move enjoying the strong south easterly that came up just before the rain. In reviewing his many shots I found a statement that I could live with at this stage of the healing. Jinx was more interested in the jewellery of course! The necklaces were from Nepal- the closest I could get to Inanna and the cradle of civilisation! Ironically they are decorated with rupees bearing the image of George the Fifth – echos of colonisation! They were used as dowry. The bride connection, the symbol of wealth, of value were not lost on me. An image so complex, like the experiences surrounding this transformation. What had I hoped for the viewer? I hoped that everyone would turn to their partner ( men can also develop breast cancer) and appreciate anew the beauty of their breasts, caressing them with love. That fellow travellers dealing with mastectomy would find their own unique way to appreciate their future bodies and even celebrate them.
Why a portrait?