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.
No Less a Woman runs alongside the launch of The Louise Listening post double mastectomy compression bra. Proceeds from bra sales benefit breast cancer charity Hello Beautiful.