Inaugural Photographic Exhibition and Panel
The Athena Division of the Grace Project is presenting a photography exhibition, artist reception, and a panel featuring active military and women veterans affected by breast cancer. These events will be held at The Military Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Athena Division takes up arms with those enlisted in the battle against breast cancer and body image. True warriors, the subject of the photographs, are United States Veterans and active military personnel, women (and some men) accustomed and trained for battle. A 2009 DoD study found that their service gave them a 20-40% increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Most of the subjects were photographed in the Hall of Honor at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery we draped these brave women in the camouflage fabric of their service and armed them with ancient Hellenistic weaponry. The portraits are based on Athena, the Goddess of courage and war, the results are powerful. The subjects of these portraits have disrobed revealing their scars, giving witness to true courage.
Through these images, stories are revealed of women who continued to work, serving their country right through chemo treatment, or those who were forced to quit their jobs and leave their service due to botched surgeries. Women who opted for prophylactic mastectomy which they had to seek out on their own due to an increased genetic risk, that combined with potential toxic exposure could have proved fatal. Women who had never allowed themselves to feel anything about their cancer, or shed tears, until now, stuffing down feelings in order to keep up with their male cohorts. Women who had been abandoned emotionally by husbands, partners, family, and friends that were unable to handle the emotional weight of the C word. Women left in the wake of cancer, struggling with the devastation that it leaves behind on their bodies and the collateral damage left on their hearts.
During the process of these portraits, tears were shed as the layers of stories unfolded. Pain that had been endured carried with them like a soldier’s kit. Within the safety of their comrades in arms and in this magnificent setting, these women were able to lay their burden down for a moment in front of Charise’s camera and share with the world something rarely shared by a soldier… vulnerability.