A photo in the paper

There was a striking photograph in yesterday’s ‘Sunday Life’. It’s a double page spread as you open the magazine,  showing a smiling, short-haired, blonde topless woman sitting on a chair, with her daughter in a ballet tutu playing on the floor beside her. The woman has had a double mastectomy.

It’s a breath-catching image. At first I felt guilty even looking at it, and turned the page quickly with an ‘Oh! as if I’d disturbed her, and seen something that I shouldn’t. Then I turned back the page and looked more closely. I’ve never seen a double mastectomy before. It’s confronting, but became less so the longer I looked.  You see her smile more clearly than anything else.

The caption reads:

This is what matters to Lisa Wilkinson. Lisa took this photo of Marina and her daughter Sydney to capture the beauty and incredible strength of women. Visit canon.com.au/shine to upload your own image and shine a light on what matters to you.

I really don’t know what to think.  It’s a beautiful image: stark, positive and you sense that Marina is in charge of the situation.  But I wish it wasn’t produced as part of some advertising campaign by a camera company.

What is the camera company’s purpose in paying for  this campaign?  (quite apart from the licensing and ownership questions that arise from the photos produced by participants). Would a photograph of someone with a colostomy bag have had the same effect from an advertising point of view?  It probably would have on me as a viewer- that instant flash of feeling like an intruder, followed by an almost guilty sense of curiosity – but would the camera company so ready to embrace it?

I’m trying to imagine the conversation around the board table when planning this campaign. I suspect that this blog post is exactly the reaction they were hoping for.  That (and not the photograph itself)  makes me uncomfortable.

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2 responses to “A photo in the paper

  1. Oh good one, Janine. I assumed as I was reading it was for some breast cancer program or charity. It’s hard to know where to start in thinking about this isn’t it … and what’s behind the campaign/why they chose this image for it is only part of it.

  2. I saw the same photo Janine, and had the same reaction as you. I opened it up and gasped- and I’m well used to double mastectomies. I didn’t like it at all. I’m not sure about these photos of mastectomy scars. As you say would a laparotomy scar, or colostomy bag bring the same reaction. I wouldn’t like the photo if she had breasts either though- I don’t like photos of women sitting about in undies and high heels, not matter the state of any scars. I find them exploitative.

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