Friday, June 25, 2010

Bodies and Souls, The Century Project

For any of you who've read my blog for any time, you probably know I'm working on putting a book together of my paintings (and perhaps photographs) along with writings about/by my models about their experiences, their feelings about their bodies, or anything else they choose to write about.  A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that a man named Frank Cordelle has done a project which is somewhat similar - and done it beautifully!  His book is named Bodies and Souls: The Century Project (this link will take you to the author's website where you can see samples from the book). It is full of photographs he took of women from 9 months to 93 years old, all sizes, many different races, many with scars and mastectomies, etc.  The photographs are beautiful, and the writings by the women (and/or sometimes by him) are quite moving. 

Many of the women, sadly, were abused as children or raped as adults.  Many have had cancer.  It seemed like most of them had fairly gripping tales to tell.  Here's an example of what a woman named Leslie wrote:
I hope that my image and words will bring optimism to anyone facing a difficult challenge.  This diesease, which has confronted me with mortality unlike any experience I've had so far, has also heightened my sense of how precious each day is.

Recognizing myself in this photograph has helped me accept the changes in my body and absorb the knowledge that it won't ever be the same.  In some way, I've been able to regain a sense of control in my life as well.  I will walk forward from this image, call it the past, respect it, and learn from it.  But for now, it is a gift to know that I have the present, and the hope for a future, with all its possibilities and uncertainties. 


The author wrote a note afterwards:
Leslie had breast cancer and has had a mastectomy on her left side.  She also had a saline implant so as to be able to wear a bathing suit without attracting a lot of attention.  While surgeons are quite capable of reconstructing her nipple, she was undecided as to whether or not it was worth the effort.  She was clearly tired of surgery at that point.

The day after the photo session, she went for her last chemotherapy.

That's a good example of the quality of the text in the book.  The photographs are equally powerful.  I highly recommend this book!

When I told Chris about it, he asked how I felt since it seemed like Frank Cordelle had done the same thing I am wanting to do.  At one level, I feel a little bit disappointed since it is similar to my idea.  On the other hand, I'm thrilled that it's out there!  It's helping heal people by its existence - that's my goal with my work as well - it doesn't matter who does it - it just needs to be done!  I also feel like there's enough room for more than one book!  And the paintings I'm doing are significantly different than the photos he has taken, and the women have different bodies, different stories, different things to tell the world about themselves.  It makes me happy to know this project and this book exist and that people are interested in both.  I believe that will give me more of an opening to get my work into the world!

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