Warning: Graphic images below. Some may be disturbing to readers.
"In our society, breast cancer is hidden behind a small pink bow. The public needs to be educated."
This is the message behind The Scar Project, a photography series dedicated to young breast cancer survivors. Shot by fashion photographer David Jay, the large-scale portrait endeavor features the faces and bodies of over 100 women who have battled and bested early-onset cancer.
As the project's name suggests, the photographs showcase the many scars of women age 18 to 35 who have undergone mastectomies as a result of a breast cancer diagnosis. The series shines a spotlight on the fact that over 10,000 women under the age of 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone -- a stark reality that younger woman often overlook.
Jay's photographs aim to raise awareness of these breast cancer statistics as well as provide a platform for survivors to confront their harrowing experiences. “For these young women, having their portrait taken seems to represent their personal victory over this terrifying disease," Jay explains on The Scar Project website. "It helps them reclaim their femininity, their sexuality, identity and power after having been robbed of such an important part of it."
Jay began the project after his 29-year-old friend, Paulina, was diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently decided to have a mastectomy. He asked if he could photograph her after the surgery, and from there, the project mushroomed, leading to over 100 portraits of various woman and a Facebook page supported by over 40,000 fans. The works have been published in a book and, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, are currently on on view in an exhibition in Houston.
"Through these simple pictures, [the women] seem to gain some acceptance of what has happened to them and the strength to move forward with pride," Jay explained to The Huffington Post.
Scroll through a preview of "The Scar Project" below and let us know your thoughts on Jay's striking portraits in the comments. How are you honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month?