“F*** it, I’m doing this for myself!” With those words, the gorgeous 62-year-old cancer survivor plucked up the courage to reveal the mastectomy scar on one of her breasts to the camera lens of boudoir photographer, Charise Isis, and unwittingly birthed the idea of Grace Project Portraits, a photo series of beautiful ancient-Goddess like depictions of real-life women who bear mastectomy scars following breast cancer treatment.

Charise, who for many years had run a pin-up and boudoir photography business, was struck by the transformation that overcame her subject, who less than an hour before, had battled with feelings of being mutilated under her clothing, but gradually embraced the sensuality and atmosphere of the shoot. She said: “In that moment I had witnessed a woman let go of 12 years of shame surrounding her body. It was a complete metamorphosis. Extremely cathartic for both of us.”

Courage and beauty: meet the goddesses of the Grace Project

In the aftermath of the pink month, October, where breast cancer is on everyone’s minds, it’s easy to overlook the fact that behind the worthy fundraising and awareness-raising, the reality of what it means to deal with breast cancer can seem far removed. It doesn’t get more real than the images of these amazing women who have been through the battle and bear their scars so serenely. The regal quality of the images is not by accident. Charise said: “I wanted to create a context for which my subjects and the audience can shift their perception in order to see beauty within something that is often painful and difficult to view. I base the portraits on Hellenistic sculpture. Ancient Goddess statues such as the Venus Di Milo and the Nike of Samathrace, which have survived the passage of time and the trauma of history but in the process they have become broken. Despite this, we still value and view them as ultimate symbols of beauty within our culture, they are even more precious, their brokenness representing survival and the delicacy of life.”

Sadly, finding subjects for the Grace Project is never difficult, with one in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s a sad truth that everyone knows someone. Doing this project has given Charise a beautifully perspective. She said: “I have learned that there is great beauty in vulnerability. I have seen that when a woman is present in her body and owns her experience, she sends a powerful message out into the world and etches that message on her own heart. It is a declaration of acceptance and an understanding that a woman is more than the sum of her parts.”

We are awed by the magnificence in these images and leave you with one final thought from Charise: “We are all survivors of something, I hope that these images will allow people to recognize themselves within the portraits, and in doing so, reach a new level of acceptance for themselves and for others. Our scars both seen and unseen do not define us.”

View the images below:

Visit: Grace Project Portraits

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