Photographer Michal Bendek, a breast cancer survivor, took semi-nude shots of 40 women for a social media campaign to raise awareness of the importance of early detection of breast cancer, in collaboration with the Israel Cancer Association. Female breast cancer patients and survivors across a broad spectrum of ages took part in the photo shoot to be shared on social media networks under the tagline: "If I would have waited, I wouldn't have been kept in the picture" to remind the female population that early detection is potentially life-saving.
Photographer Michal Bendek recounts: "I developed breast cancer at 32, which led to major changes in my life. I switched careers from a lawyer to an interior decorator and then a portrait photographer. When I took photographs I found it difficult to look at myself in photos due to the changes that my body underwent as a result of multiple surgeries. As a photographer, my aim was to show people their inherent beauty.
Taking into account that each photographed individual is self-critical and thinks she's unphotogenic, when I initiated the campaign I sought brave women, who would agree to be photographed topless, and are members of the 'cancer club'. I was surprised by the number of affirmative responses, and the women's readiness and the fact that they've displayed tremendous determination to boost awareness. Wonderful and courageous women arrived for the photo shoot, make-up artists and hairstylists. I prepared myself for a very emotional day with these women, some of whom find it difficult to even look at themselves in the mirror, expecting them to feel slightly self-conscious. However, I was surprised by the women's openness and how at ease they were.
It was a powerful and very cheerful photo session. The official objective was to heighten breast cancer awareness; however, a no less important goal was to reconnect women to their bodies by having to contend with a revealing photograph. In view of the photographed subjects' responses, the "secondary" objective was indeed achieved. I sincerely hope that the official target will also be reached, and that the campaign to be promoted in collaboration with the ICA will encourage more women to get themselves checked".
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women; according to ICA statistics it emerges that each year over 5,000 new cancer patients are diagnosed each year. Early detection is currently the most effective means of countering breast cancer. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the higher the chances of a cure - leading to a recovery rate of 90% and higher.
Marking International Breast Cancer Awareness Month, commemorated annually in Israel and worldwide throughout the month of October, the women who were photographed for this campaign, photographer Michal Bendek and ICA experts remind us that early detection is potentially life-saving and call upon women to take responsibility for their health, and become familiar with their bodies and the regular feel of their breasts, so that at any age and in any health condition if a change emerges, it is important that they contact their physician in a timely manner, and insist that the nature of this transformation be clarified.
In parallel, women may get themselves checked by a physician specializing in manual breast exams, once a year. It is important that women aged 50 and older undergo a mammography screening provided free of charge, once every two years as part of the National Breast Cancer Early Detection Program. Woman who are at high risk, who have a mother or a sister who developed breast cancer, are advised to undergo this screening starting at age 40, once a year, and sometimes even earlier, according to their attending physician's recommendations. A breast MRI is recommended for periodical screening in women who've been identified as BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation carriers. All these tests are covered by the national health package.
The photo shoot was made possible thanks to the donation of CrossFit Hazeevim, and the following helped in preparing the set: Ronen Bendek, Jacky Chen, Naama Bar Lev, Ami and Erez Matzkin. Makeup artists and hairstylists: Hagit Haran, Natalie Kleiman, Noi Tanami, Stav Siklai, Lior Lerer, and Hana Katz. Video stills behind the scenes: Lilach Netzer (Looly's Photography). A special thanks goes to Aki Hershaft for the donation of white undershirts.
Women of any age are welcome to call ICA's 24-hour Telemeida teleinformation hotline at: 1-800-599-995 if they have any questions or to receive free information booklets on early detection of breast cancer; they are also encouraged to visit ICA's website.