Today’s photograph from Tracey Derrick‘s body of work, 1 in 9, is a photograph of the plaster cast she made of her chest, post-mastectomy. Through the tender replication of her chest, she somehow manages to both powerfully AND gently obliterate the media’s ‘requirement’ for women to ‘build themselves back together’ into a state of ‘normal femininity’ —- and instead presents us with a portrait of herself simply as she is: pure, unencumbered, real and unutterably and beautifully herself: unique!
Whether we choose reconstruction, to wear breast prostheses or go breast-free, the power of choice lies in our hands: it is our choice, and our choice alone.
If you would like to share your story about your post-mastectomy body
and your new, YOUnique normal,
please pop us an inboxed message on Facebook!
RESOURCES & IDEAS:
ART THERAPY BLOG: Activites & Ideas
EXPRESSIVE ART WORKSHOPS by Shelley Klammer
- We love the idea of art journalling as creative ‘self therapy‘ (click here to read more!) but the website is full of other wonderful ideas – and we recommend signing up for her very helpful and inspiring newsletters too!
After chemo, Tracey wrote in her seminar paper about her hair:
“Then the hair dies. Initially, it feels as if one’s scalp is burning as the roots die, then the hair falls out. The first handful is an alarming relief; it is happening as you have been dreading that it would. The boundaries between public and private begin to melt, for all to see. My hair had been a physical, public security – it identified me and I felt naked without it. Then one experiences the head sweating constantly with no layer of hair to absorb it; the body chills quickly with no hair to warm it. As the hair on the rest of the body slowly falls too, all borders between inside and outside are laid bare.
Stacey describes it well, “the loss of pubic hair reveals what has remained hidden for years. Returned to pre-adolescence and yet prefiguring an aged body, time has nothing to tell. The nose runs without any tiny nostril hairs, sweat runs into eyes without eyebrows or eyelashes to catch it. Ears are tunnels for flies and insects to enter at their ease. The hairless body is uncannily silky smooth to touch, a familiar, yet strange state. A return to childhood and yet an inevitable ageing. A big bald baby but with adult organs”. (1997:84).
Physically and emotionally this “was me” but when I looked at myself in the mirror – was it me? I photographed myself repeatedly during this vulnerable time as an attempt to regain some power over my situation.”
“So, my future was clouded by new uncertainties – what are my chances of survival? The body tells a new story and so demands a reinterpretation of recent life history.
“Is it no longer to be trusted? Why has it withheld such crucial evidence? Whose side is it on anyway? While the mind has been full of stories of life, the body has been planning another story: the threat of death” (Stacey: 1997:5).”
Did you experience a sense of betrayal at your diagnosis? How did you process these feelings?
TAKEAWAY: Episode 1, Act 1 of ‘I Am Woman Leap of Faith’ where Tracey Derrick is confronted with a turning point in her life and has to make the ultimate decision.
‘I Am Woman Leap of Faith’ television series: produced by Lauren Groenewald and Miki Redelinghuys of Plexus Films & Lisa Chait (www.lifestories.co.za).
The exhibition catalogue for Tracey Derrick’s 1 in 9 project begins with these words:
“One in nine women contract breast cancer in South Africa. This statistic takes
into account the high prevalence of HIV and TB.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2008 and this project was undertaken
in response to my illness, its treatment and my survival. I am ‘one in nine’ and
as the active subject of my own investigation, it helped me understand my own
condition and integrate it into my life.”
How do you feel about photographs of yourself taken before your diagnosis?
Amidst October’s frantic flurry of *P I N K* in all its well-intentioned glory, we’ve instead chosen to unleash the provocative power of portraiture to get all sorts of balls rolling — whether in the arena of self-therapy or advocacy & awareness!
Selfies aside, the digital era is perfectly poised to make self-portraiture accessible to anyone with a phone — empowering us to make art from our lives, stripping away the need for formal fine art training or an expensive camera!
Check out Australia’s The SCAR Project here! What do YOU think a South African version would look like — and would you participate?
The Self Portrait, a Powerful Tool for Self-Therapy*
“Facing the camera lens and releasing the shutter immediately takes us to our first essential process of the definition of the self: the recognition of our image in the mirror.
By objectifying our ‘dark side’ in a photograph, we can separate ourselves from what we dislike and open up a space for catharsis or renewal.
During a self-portrait session we can start a dialogue between our thinking mind and our ‘gut’ to draw from an inexhaustible source of meanings, which must be expressed. The self-portrait can be incredibly empowering.
By forcing us into the Now, it can help us perceive and express our essential humanity in a photograph. The decision to represent oneself can provide what is termed here a ‘state of grace’: the feeling of centeredness that occurs in moments of creative work in which the emotions are naturally retained because our higher self is in command.”
APERTURES & ADVOCACY!
Additionally, self-portraiture holds incredible power to transform entire societies — making it an extremely effective breast cancer advocacy tool!
“The outcome implies that a reflective practice of self-portraiture focused on imagination is a valuable method of assessing the present and past, FREEing one up to reclaim a desired future, which is a powerful tool that can promote transformation in our society.” ~ Luciana Vasques Barbosa
(*wink* Yes! We have something up our advocacy-sleeve! Are you keen to know what it could be?)
*~ by Cristina Nuñez : European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling Volume 11, 2009 – Issue 1 | Phototheraphy and Therapeutic Photography