When local breast cancer survivor Angie Adams heard that an advertising campaign for cancer awareness had been canceled because photos of women with their breasts removed were deemed offensive -- well, she was offended. From that experience arose the germ of an idea: a 15-month fine-art photography calendar featuring nude photos of her support group, the Breast Friends. Key to the project was who would take the photographs -- a sensitive mission for someone who could capture the strength and beauty of women willing to bare their scars, both physically and emotionally. The Friends selected local photographer Carol Dass, and the result is a resoundingly beautiful publication. Dass' black-and-white images are startling and stunning, testimony to the power of art to tell a story of human tragedy and triumph.
How did you get involved in the project? Angie Adams called me and we talked about the idea. We had done a series of black-and-white, hand-colored photos called Real Women a few years ago. I wanted to do a series about how obsessed we all are with women's breasts, and I wanted to include women with breast cancer in that series. When she got this idea, I knew I wanted to do it.
How did you make the shoots comfortable for the women involved? Instead of going to everyone's homes, we would just say we were going to shoot on a certain Sunday between certain hours, and whoever was interested could just show up. The first shoot was kind of getting over the awkwardness. Everyone was a little uncomfortable, walking around covered with blankets. We did four shoots. Just to have chosen to be photographed was a big thing. A lot of the women said it was really difficult to be in front of a camera -- but it ended up being a lot of fun.
What did you gain from the experience? Oh, for me to be there, hearing them talk about their experiences was very powerful. I felt kind of like an outsider in a very special club. These are difficult images because what they show is really a maiming, It's hard for people who have no concept of what these women have been through. That's why I think this work is so important -- people can see that there is life after cancer. These are really vivacious and proud women.
One of the images shows a woman's torso and a sinewy, muscular arm extending from her powerful shoulder... Yes, I've had several people look at that photo and say "Why is she in there?" They can't conceive that she's had cancer because of that strength she projects.
I've heard before that you don't really consider yourself a photographer, even though you are very accomplished. (Laughs) Did I say that? I'm at a point where I love photography. It's just my passion. But my stuff is not exactly the kind of stuff people hang in their living rooms.
The Breast Friends Pin-Up Girl Calendar is on sale for $10 ($12 if mailed). Order forms are available by contacting Angie Adams at 535-7359. All profits will be used to support breast cancer survivors, awareness and education.