Be happy with what you have and base your self-esteem on what you look like as you are at any age.
That message now has a Terrace edge as photographer / curator Nancy Pratt shows women how beautiful their bodies are, their breasts in particular, and shares her own, and other women’s, experiences of the pain and problems breast implants can cause.
The Celebrate Your Breasts Project, very much a collaborative project, invites women to see their breasts in a new way.
And it’s a show for men to see as well.
The many local women who took part as models, artists, photographers and helpers for this show did just that themselves.
Artists painted a design on models’ bare chests and photographers shot the results to show the beauty of what they already have.
A variety of ages are included, up to women in their 70s, and that includes a three generation photo of a grandmother, her two daughters, and a granddaughter being breastfed.
“I thought what a lucky little girl to grow up with that (self-esteem),” said Pratt.
“We live in a culture so rich in self-rejection but what if we just accepted ourselves at every stage of life.”
The upper gallery displays the many photographs, rich with colour and design.
The lower gallery shows photos that Pratt took while ill from her implants to show that even on her hardest day, she was still able to find beauty and create something.
The lower gallery also shows photos detailing her implant troubles and other women’s too.
There’s also two paintings in a corner with markers for people to write their feelings about their breasts on the paintings.
Pratt got implants after her husband suggested it – he knew people who had them and thought they were safe – and kept pressing it until she eventually caved in to the idea in 1991.
As she lay on the operating table – she stayed awake for the procedure – she thought ‘why am I letting them do this to me?’
That’s when she decided never to give her power away again.
What she didn’t know was that the Dow Corning silicone implants she received had been recalled so they remained in her body for 22 years.
They leaked silicone for 16 years undetected into her chest wall and she became so ill, she was on death’s doorstep by the time she got them removed October 29, 2013.
Doctors removed as much of the leaked silicone as they could but some couldn’t be removed – for example, the surgeon couldn’t go any deeper to remove silicone in one place because all that remained was a thin piece of membrane between it and her lung.
When she learned from her then-27-year-old daughter that she already knew women her age who had got implants, she decided to get her message out about how dangerous they can be.
And as her story got out, women around the world would share their stories and photos with her, making it their project too.
She wants to get the message out there for women to accept who they are and feel beautiful.
“I wish for a world where no woman would have implants but I realize that and respect that women will make their own choice,” she said, adding that these women need to be careful, be aware of the risks and act proactively to protect their health.
One thing women haven’t been told is that they’re human guinea pigs for several ongoing studies on implants – the first study that began in 2006 may have the first set of results ready at the earliest in 2016, said Pratt.
Health organizations are waiting for the results but as she’s been doing the project she realized its photos and details are those results, she said.
Pratt is looking to make a presentation that arose out of this project to the World Health Organization and in schools too.
The Celebrate Your Breasts Project opens with a reception at 7 p.m. March 6. Curator and artists will be in attendance. The show runs through March 28.