Michele Taras

Michele Taras and friendTwo years ago, my grandmother lost her battle with cancer.

Two years ago, I decided to embark on a journey in order to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer.

Breast cancer is different from most cancers because if you are diagnosed with it, it can chip away at your self esteem, it can shake the very core of what defines you as a woman – and I can’t imagine how you’d feel having this and being a man. Not only are you now walking on the tight rope between life and death, but you also worry about your appearance and what others might think of you. A lot of women diagnosed with breast cancer keep it a secret, sometimes even from family members. I feel that it is important to help remove the stigma that surrounds breast cancer. In order to do my part to contribute to the cause in some small way, I turned to my camera. By showing these women that they were still beautiful, and by showing the world what it looks like to have a mastectomy, I felt that it could help alleviate some of the misconceptions and fears that women diagnosed with breast cancer have to face.

I proceeded to photograph over 30 women aged from 33 to 85, from Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Jamaica and the U.S…. it resulted in a beautiful series of 60 artistic photographs. A lot of women looked at their photographs and exclaimed: “Wow! I still am beautiful!” with a sort of surprise. It was nice to be able to show them that in essence, they were still the same, still beautiful in every way. Throughout the many months that I worked on this project I met so many wonderful and inspiring women. A lot of them had been breast cancer survivors for years, a lot of them had already had a second recurrence, yet they faced their cancer with real strength and courage. I was in real awe of these women. Not only were they willing to bare their chests for the cause, but they were also willing to share with me and others their personal stories, the ups and downs of their personal battles with breast cancer.

This was a project that I worked on so hard for two years, calling, emailing, printing till all hours of the night, and up again first thing in the morning… this is a project I am so passionate about on so many levels. Not only has this project been able to raise funds for the breast cancer research team at the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, but it also helped give a voice to those women who had suffered in silence for so many years. It gave them a chance to say: “This is me. This is me and my life with breast cancer. Look at me, I am still beautiful! I am still 100% woman!”

You can find out more about The Breast Cancer Project on my website www.micheletaras.com and you can contact me if you would like to do future exhibits of this project for The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation: michele@micheletaras.com
  Reviewed: October 2013