Breast cancer survivors take the spotlight with Project Shine
Local photographer Dana Klein’s Project Shine photographs help provide an avenue of emotional healing for breast cancer survivors. For information about Project Shine or to contact Dana Klein, visit photographybydana.com.
Local photographer Dana Klein’s Project Shine was inspired in 2012 by a friend of hers who had just beaten breast cancer.
Her friend, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina, had undergone a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy, and she was in the process of growing her hair back from treatment.
Klein, who calls herself an artist with a camera, decided to do something special for her friend in recognition of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“I didn’t know what I could do, so I tried to imagine what she was feeling as a woman,” Klein said.
After a few days of contemplation, Klein decided to give her friend a free photoshoot.
“I wanted to make her feel beautiful,” she said. “I wanted to help her feel feminine and pretty.”
The session lasted all day and included some pampering, according to Klein.
“We did her hair and makeup, and we picked out some outfits and did the shoot,” Klein said. “When I showed her the photos a few days afterward, she broke down in joyful tears.”
Her friend’s emotional reaction took the photographer by surprise.
“A lot of people don’t talk about the emotional side of things when it comes to surviving cancer,” Klein said. “Many people see and hear about treatments and physical healing but the emotional part is usually stuffed away. I realized that I needed to do this for more women.”
After that experience, Klein decided to establish Project Shine, which are makeover photo sessions for breast-cancer survivors.
“I found a hair and makeup artist who donated their time and talents, and we were able to do the same thing we did for my friend with five other breast cancer survivors to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” she said.
Klein brought Project Shine to Park City four years ago along with herself. Throughout the years, the concept has evolved, she said.
“The project started as a makeover photo shoot and I shot (the subjects) with unique angles and lighting to capture their femininity,” she said. “As I did more of these shoots, I started creating more storytelling images.”
Klein finds symbolism that reflects her subject’s careers, hobbies, families and interests.
“I try to get to know their journeys — the highs and lows — and ask them what got them through their experience,” she said. “I also use symbolism and images that will uplift them. I like showing strong images, because after treatment they can feel vulnerable and weak.”
Before any session, Klein comes up with a theme and then asks her subjects what that theme means to them.
“Right now my theme is ‘Mother Nature,’ and when I interview the women, I ask them what Mother Nature means to them,” she said. “I try to find some of the important concepts of Mother Nature they connect with.”
Then she asks them about their journey with cancer.
“It’s not difficult to get the subjects to talk,” Klein said. “I don’t know why. It may be because I’m a woman, but it’s easy to connect with them one-on-one, and I like to go deep.”
One of Klein’s subjects was one of her makeup artists, a single mother who dealt with cancer twice and who initially felt reluctant about the shoots.
“She came to the shoot we worked on and told me she would never feel comfortable being photographed because she had gained so much weight from the medication she had to take,” Klein said. “Then after we worked with me on the shoot, she liked what the subject was wearing and told me afterward that she could be photographed wearing the same outfit. It was amazing how her mind changed just in those few hours.”
Klein is honored that the women she works with feel comfortable enough to share their stories.
“I’m also honored that they will allow me to use my creativity to make something for them,” she said. “It’s like a team. It’s not just me creating something, but it’s their message of hope and resilience that we’re conveying.”
Klein said she has known the power of art all her life.
“As a kid I was very quiet and shy, and more of a watcher,” she said. “So I was visual from an early age.”
She started by drawing portraits, and still draws graphite portraits for families who have lost their children. The portaits are of the children as infants.
“That was a heavy topic, and I turned to photography because I wanted to add some color in my work,” she said.
Klein also wanted more personal interaction with her subjects.
“When I draw portraits, I usually don’t meet with the families, because I get requests from all over the world,” she said. “When I do the photographs, I need to be in the room with the subject.”
Klein has expanded the breast cancer survivor photo sessions to run throughout the year, beyond October. To do so, she is currently looking for hair and makeup artists who are willing to donate their time.
“The more help I can get, the more women I can help,” she said.
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