TRIBECA — Standing with a group of women on a secluded New York beach last summer, Rebecca Pine took off her top, baring a chest scarred by a mastectomy, and took a dip into the cool water — as a camera snapped away.
Pine, 40, and photographer Miana Jun have been on a mission for the past several years to help empower breast cancer survivors through photography by helping them celebrate and accept their bodies just as they are.
Next week, after more than two years of work, Pine and Jun will exhibit for the first time their collection of photos and stories of women who have lived through cancer, a series called “The Breast and the Sea,” at TriBeCa’s Soho Photo Gallery.
“We want to remind women that with or without your breasts you are whole,” Pine, a breast cancer survivor, told DNAinfo New York. “We want to say that with or without your scars, you are beautiful.”
The images of the topless women — swimming, laughing, floating — in the calm waters off Long Island are meant to capture the “strength and beauty” of each survivor, Jun said.
The project, Pine added, hopes to help the women participating, but also inspire a sense of healing and community for other survivors who see the photo series.
“When I was diagnosed six-and-a half years ago, I wanted to see images of women with mastectomies or with scars who weren’t just surviving, but were thriving and were proud of their bodies,” Pine said, “But I couldn’t really find what I was looking for.”
Pine, a mother of four, said she had this feeling that she wanted to be photographed after surviving cancer and then having another baby.
“I was able to breastfeed my child with my one breast, and that’s not something many women even know is possible after cancer,” Pine said. “It was this beautiful thing I just felt I wanted captured.”
Through a friend, Pine was connected to Jun, who herself had a close friend struggling with cancer.
The experience of being photographed left Pine feeling stronger, feeling as though she was reclaiming her body — and that was something she wanted to share with other survivors, she said.
Using water in the photo series was inspired by Pine’s healing process. “I live near the water and after I was diagnosed, spending time close to nature in that way became something that I used to help give me time for quiet and reflection,” she said.
The photo project, which also includes the personal stories of the women involved, is an ongoing series — and Pine and Jun welcome any who want to participate.
Even for those who don’t want to be photographed, Pine and Jun host workshops for survivors, meant to foster a sense of community and acceptance. For more information, visit their website.
"Every woman, even if she has all of her body parts, needs to practice accepting herself," Pine said. "We're just here with a message of hope."
The Breast and the Sea will be on display at Soho Photo Gallery, 15 White St. from Feb. 3 through Feb. 27, with an opening reception on Feb. 2 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The gallery is open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday and by appointment.