PDN Photo of the Day

Aftermath (6 photographs)

Aftermath (6 photographs)

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Self-Portrait, Pre-Mastectomy, November 2005. All photos © Kerry Mansfield

San Francisco-based photographer Kerry Mansfield was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, and photographed this series of self-portraits during her treatment. In her statement about the project, she writes:

As a photographer, I’ve spent most of my career looking deeply into the spaces we inhabit. The idea of Home – what it meant and how it felt, preoccupied my thinking. Almost all my pictures were of the spaces we live in or the things we live with. But at the age of 31, a diagnosis of breast cancer forced me to redefine my ideas of home.

Needless to say it came as quite a shock. I had exercised and eaten correctly, and like many of my age, I felt indestructible, never thinking the most basic of dwellings could be lost. Faced with the nihilistic process of radical chemotherapy and surgery, my ideas of “where” I exist turned inward. As the doctors, with their knives and chemistry broke down the physical structure in which I lived, the relationship between the cellular self and the metaphysical self became glaringly clear. My body may not be me, but without it, I am something else entirely. I knew that my long held image of myself would be shattered. What would emerge would be a mystery.

It was in that spirit of unknown endings, that I picked up my camera to self document the catharsis of my own cancer treatment. No one was there when these pictures were made, just my dissolving ideas of self and a camera. And what began as a story that could have ended in many ways, this chapter, like my treatment, has now run its course. While I can’t say everything is fine now, I will say, “These are the images of my Home – as it was then”, and with a little luck, there will be no more to come.

Several images from the series follow, and more are viewable on Mansfield’s web site.

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Self-Portrait, Post-Mastectomy, December 2005

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Self-Portrait, 1st Cycle Chemo, January 2006

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Self-Portrait, 3rd Cycle Chemo, February 2006

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Self-Portrait, 4th Cycle Chemo, March 2006

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Self-Portrait, Post-Reconstruction, December 2006

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134 Comments

  1. Looks like you stayed positive through the experience, and are on the road to recovery.

    Kinda reminds me of the Youtube video where Noah takes a picture of himself everyday for six years.

    It’s amazing how the human body changes over time.

  2. I have never seen anyone face the truth like this.

    I have two sisters in law who are going through this. I never really understood until now.

    I hope you can adapt after this terrible experience and live strong. You must be one awesome woman. Thank you.

  3. Stop saying it is brave. You are brave for making courageous decisions that are not required of you. Depressing, beautiful. Those are words that describe this photo album. I would even describe it at excellent. But brave it is not.

  4. Very inspiring to keep strong. She’s a beautiful woman, and her bravery makes her stunning in these photos. All the best with the cancer. My mom has had it 3 times, but she keeps strong like you do.

  5. And I’m sorry Stephen but not to argue, but I 100% think it is brave. Judging by your name you’re a guy and for women to loose part of their body that men so easily define us by, it is incredibly brave of her to post these for the world to see. She made a courageous decision to bare all and document her home as she calls it, and no one told her to do that. It’s brave of her to stand up, and inspiring to all those who fight this battle like she does.

  6. Thank you for sharing the moments. I love the eyes. I looked through the pictures quickly, then again more slowly, and was completly captivated by the story the eyes told, even more then the obvious surgury. The fear and uncertainty in the first to the proud and resolute of the last. I cried. Your a brave and wonderful human.

  7. From the fear in the first photo to the look of accomplishment and triumph in the last. You truly are brave and despite any scars, physical or emotional, you are a rare beauty…

  8. I wish I had seen these pictures before my modified radical mastectomy. I would have known more about what to expect, been more relaxed, not feeling so much like walking into a dark mysterious cave of the unseen and unknowable. People try to tell you what to expect, and they don’t know how it feels nor can they tell you what it looks like. These pictures would have helped, and I hope they help others who must walk this path. Walk with love, all.

  9. And you’re still so beautiful.

    You can see the radical change just from the way your eyes look. I saw some comments that said you looked accomplished in your last photo. I think you look very tired and most definitely changed. And who wouldn’t be? I don’t think this is beautiful. I think it’s heartbreaking. But I think you’re beautiful and very wonderful for sharing this. I wish you all the happiness you can find.

  10. Wow..how fab are you!! I went through the same stuff and wish I had recorded it in some way. Thank you for these photos and thanks especially for making it easier for people to discuss. xxAmandaxx

  11. Hey, I wonder if some of you has a hystory or tryed this alternative. They advertise some bald claims and I don’t know what to say, I’ve seen the videos and i can say i’m a bit impressed. Can anyone tell if they had an experience with this “miracle soultion” they call MMS? I found it on this website cancermeds.themmsmiracle.info but seems there is an entire culture around the world.

    I kind of find myself in need, i’m a bit ill and my brother has cancer so i am willing to try anything that could heal this ilness. I would really appreciate your oppinions.

  12. I recall my mother after her radical mastectomy taking my hand to have me touch her chest bones where the breast she had nursed me with was removed. She went on to help other women who had radical mastectomies as you have done in this photo display showing the beauty-in-a-compassion-of-shared-suffering. By sharing our sufferings to help others bear theirs we embrace them as sisters and brothers and bring the world closer to the reality God embraced to show each of us what ‘true love’ is! Thank you for expressing compassion and the love I saw my mother give to others walking where she had walked! Your love has helped others and nurtured them as only a woman can!

  13. when I first stumbled onto this page i admit i was a little shocked and disgusted by a bare chest. that’s when i saw the lines. with an open mouth and watery eyes I looked at these photos…shocked in a different way. I honestly dont know what I would do if this happened to me…i have so much respect for you. i pray that you can live life to the fullest. you truely are an inspirational and powerful woman. bless you, and thank you.

  14. Hi Kerry. You are a beautiful person, and I’m so impressed with your willingness to share your journey. I’m an artist, and also a survivor of cancer- colorectal cancer. I created a cancer resource site on Facebook. I write about cancer advocacy. I’d love to write an article about you and your work for my feature on Examiner.com. You are helping other people by sharing your experience and photos. You can check out my links, if you would like to. Please contact me if you want me to write about you. We can communicate by Email, do a phone interview, and you could send me any photos you would like to use with the article. We can include hyperlinks to your web site and your professional work. Warm regards, Sarah Dees
    Cancer- Financial Assistance, Resources, Scholarships, Info (resource site on Facebook)
    http://www.facebook.com/cancerfinancialassistance
    Sarah Dees, Tampa Bay Visual Art Examiner
    http://www.examiner.com/visual-art-in-tampa-bay/sarah-dees
    Sarah Dees, Tampa Bay Cancer Advocacy Examiner
    http://www.examiner.com/cancer-advocacy-in-tampa-bay/sarah-dees

  15. Beautiful. Striking. Courageous. As a medical clinician. former photojournalist, but mostly, as a human being, thank you for sharing a glimpse at your difficult journey. I am amazed and moved. You are an inspiration to us all. Be well and go in peace.

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