Body & Soul: The Courage and Beauty of Breast Cancer Survivors is a beautiful book of photo essays by Dallas-based photographer, Jean Karotkin. Thanks to the non-profit group, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, the book is now available online in an interactive format at: http://bodyandsoul.lbbc.org
A survivor herself, Karotkin focuses on women who use their diagnosis as an opportunity to re-invent themselves or deepen their commitments. Karotkin has created stunning photo portraits of each woman – capturing each one’s spirit by finding the perfect setting and pose. It is wonderful just to look at the pictures of these strong women, and it is even more inspiring when you read the accompanying stories. These are women who have decided to live their lives to the fullest in spite of any obstacles, and that is a powerful message for all of us.
I was especially pleased that Karotkin included a number of women who are artists and talked about the ways that cancer affected their work. For instance, Susan Rafte and her sister, Jane Weiner, founded the Pink Ribbons Project in Houston in 1995. The project is the first dance initiative founded solely for the purpose of increasing breast cancer awareness and raising money to help fight the disease. The Pink Ribbons Project has raised over $4 million since its inception. Dancers Care, which provides emergency funds for dancers with cancer, grew out of the Pink Ribbons Project’s New York City office.
Oni Faida Lampley was a playwright and performer whose plays were produced in New York and regionally. After she was diagnosed, she wrote Tough Titty, a play about the emotional blow-up of a young black woman’s life after a breast cancer diagnosis.
Elaine Saltsman is a visual artist who created a chair, titled The Healer. She formed the fabric of the chair by weaving gauze with strands of her hair, which she lost during chemotherapy. She constructed the wire frame of the chair by twisting red wire, representing her life, with black wire, representing cancer. The red wire symbolically overtakes the black wire as the chair comes together.
Like the women in the book, Karotkin re-invented herself after she was diagnosed. “At a point during my treatment, I realized I had to be the best I could be,” Karotkin remembers. “I knew what I was feeling and I needed to express it – preferably using photographs as the medium.” She became a professional photographer so that she could realize her dream of creating “Body & Soul.”
Thanks so much to Jean Karotkin and to all of the women who shared their stories in this wonderful book/online exhibit. Whether or not you are struggling with cancer, I encourage you to take a few moments to look at this inspiring online exhibit at: http://bodyandsoul.lbbc.org