LONDON — Never in a million years would Anna Beckingham have dreamed of posing topless.
But she arrives at a studio, peels off her sweater, then her tank top and then her bra, and without hesitation or embarrassment bares her breasts for a photographer.
Beckingham, a 46-year-old mother of two, isn’t scared that thousands of people will see these photos. She wants people to see them. She wants them to see that her breasts don’t look like one another.
Beckingham posed for photographer Julia Holland, tilting her head just so, jutting her body at various angles. Holland wrapped a swath of hot pink, silky Georgette fabric around her shoulders, framing the left breast, the natural one, and the right breast, which was reconstructed after a mastectomy.
Beckingham, another breast cancer patient and a nurse who specializes in reconstruction founded the charity Keeping Abreast in 2007 because they want women who’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer to meet and talk to other women who’ve been through it — to see what they might look like on the other side. Beautiful. Sexy. Feminine. Complete.
“It’s really important that these portraits capture the journey that women go through with their healing,” she said. “It gives you some power back in what is a very powerless situation.”
So far, 50 women have posed for Holland. Leaning on her fine arts training, she poses them in a classical style. The portraits have toured around various locations in England, and this week the topless photos have ended up at an unlikely destination: the venerable halls of Parliament.
Holland hopes lawmakers will learn what women go through after a breast cancer diagnosis, or after being told they carry the breast cancer gene and decide to remove their breasts so cancer won’t set in.
By Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield