Living Beyond Breast Cancer has announced the launch of Body & Soul, a new online interactive media experience that will reside within our award winning website, lbbc.org. Body & Soul online will serve as the online extension of photographer Jean Karotkin’s book of the same name.
Rich in visual and emotional content, both the book and website are inspired by the bodies, spirits and stories of women who have been confronted with the physical and psychological challenges of a breast cancer diagnosis. “With Body & Soul online, we’re presenting the stories and photographs of these women; a collection that is interactive and captures the individual and universal impact of this disease,” says Ms. Karotkin.
Many of the women featured in Body & Soul used their diagnosis as an opportunity to reinvent themselves, as was the case with Ms. Karotkin when she learned she had breast cancer in 1988. “So, there it was,” she remembers. “One day I’m a 38-year-old single woman raising an 11-year-old daughter with a start-up business, and the next day I’m a 38-year-old single woman raising an 11-year-old daughter with a start-up business who’s just been told she has cancer having to make decisions about treatment, mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.”
The idea for Body & Soul‘s first incarnation was born from a series of events that happened as Ms. Karotkin began her post-diagnosis recovery. “At a point during my treatment, I realized I had to be the best I could be,” Ms. Karotkin remembers. “I knew what I was feeling and I needed to express it – preferably using photographs as the medium.”
When she was thirteen, Ms. Karotkin wore a brace to help alleviate her scoliosis. The experience left her feeling “incredibly isolated from the world. It seemed that I was always observing life from the outside looking in, which in retrospect I now have come to be thankful for as it helped develop my eye. During my early years of marriage when my daughter was little, I would experiment with the camera with little confidence that I could actually be a “real” photographer. After my divorce and surgery, I began to take some classes in black and white photography not really having a true sense of direction.”
But it was when she came “under the spell” of a New York Times magazine cover that she got the idea of compiling a book to celebrate and chronicle the beauty, power and spirit of women affected by breast cancer. For two years, Ms. Karotkin tried to assemble photographers to partner with her on the project. It was only after being forced into a lengthy recovery period due to a fall and after being urged by her sister-in-law that Ms. Karotkin came to realize that “(she) alone would need to make (her) dream come true.”
“It wasn't until I began shooting for Body & Soul that I felt I was a true portrait photographer,” she reflects. The first edition of Body & Soul was published in 2004.
In spring 2010, Jean Sachs, MSS, MLSP, CEO of Living Beyond Breast Cancer, became aware of Ms. Karotkin’s work when Ms. Karotkin donated a number of books to be given away at Yoga on the Steps®, LBBC’s signature education and fundraising event. “I was immediately taken with the beauty of the photos and how Jean was able to capture such an honest portrayal of women who had been diagnosed,” says Ms. Sachs. “The photos resonated so strongly with me because I saw them as a visual representation of LBBC’s mission to empower all women affected by breast cancer to live as long as possible with the best quality of life."
Ms. Sachs brought the book to the attention of her staff and assigned the task of creating the online Body & Soul experience to Michael J. Formica, MS, MA, EdM, Writer and Editorial Coordinator for LBBC. Mr. Formica managed the entire project, helping to create a place where he says “the images and stories of these women will be forever preserved. The site’s presentation of these women captures a subject that has touched millions of women and their families. The first phase in the creation of Body & Soul online was to establish a digital archive where the stories of the women and Jean’s amazing portraits can be viewed by people around the world.”
“The second phase Body & Soul online is being outlined now,” says Ms. Sachs. “Our plan is to create a place where women affected by breast cancer can upload their stories, photos and video clips adding their own unique Body & Soul experiences to help other similarly affected women."