"The photo shoot was the first time someone looked at me like a person and as not a specimen on the exam room table."
That's what one woman photographed for the upcoming book Woman: Redefined told the project's creators, Kristina Hunter and ML Kenneth. The pair have created a book of portraits featuring women who have undergone breast cancer surgery, which they intend to distribute free of charge to Breast Health centers in the U.S. and Canada.
(Some images below may be considered NSFW.)
Hunter, a college professor, decided to create the book after her own breast cancer diagnosis in the autumn of 2013.
"When the shock wore off, and we began to investigate our options, my husband and I were disheartened to see only very clinical images of women before and after their surgeries," Hunter told The Huffington Post. "Moreover, these photos were kept in a binder, in a drawer, in an office. Why the secrecy? Are we not talking about 1 in 9 women? Should we not embrace our new bodies? Doesn't the unfamiliar become the norm by seeing it?"
Hunter teamed up with artist and photographer ML Kenneth to take portraits of women who have undergone a wide scope of breast surgeries. The women included are a diverse group, pulling from all ages and ethnicities.
"The process of working on the Woman: Redefined project has been humbling, profound, and transformative," Kenneth told The Huffington Post. "Having these brave women share their bodies, stories and hearts with me has changed forever how I feel about art, beauty and life. Each body, imperfectly beautiful, each woman, completely inspiring. Cancer has taught them to not take life for granted. In turn, they have taught me how to LIVE."
Hunter and Kenneth hope that their book will help women facing breast cancer by reassuring them that they are not alone -- and that their bodies will still be works of art after whatever procedures their treatment may require.
Hunter told HuffPost: "We would like to influence the internal dialogue of women and their spouses when going through breast cancer, 'What will I look like? Will I still feel like a woman? Will I be sexy? Will I be me?' And if we can influence a broader social dialogue about women's bodies and help to improve women's self-esteem by showing real bodies in a beautiful light, then we have done something worthwhile."
The book will feature women's words as well as their photographs. The anecdotes will explore how the subjects feel about their bodies and what their experience with cancer has been like.
"As an artist, I refer to myself as a visual storyteller," Kenneth said. "How profound, that I get to help these women tell their stories."
Ultimately, Hunter and Kenneth intend for the book to be a source of hope to anyone affected by breast cancer.
"I want women going through breast cancer to see a future for themselves," Hunter told HuffPost. "To see that they are and will continue to be more than the disease. That they are whole, and beautiful and perfect."
Learn more about Woman: Redefined here.