By Matthew Wieselthier SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Tula Goenka hurried from person to person, giving huge hugs as they began to see themselves on the walls.
Goenka saw men and women alike see portraits of themselves bare breasted, showing the effects of breast cancer, something she herself has faced as well. She went to support them and celebrate that they were survivors in the gallery she helped design.
“My aim for the project is to juxtapose the public persona of a person,” said Goenka. “The public persona versus the battle scars, their bare chest.”
Anywhere you look inside of the Point of Contact Gallery, you saw the battle scars from survivors, including Tula’s, who is one of 44 participants to be a part of this project.
The project is managed by Goenka, who worked with Cindy Bell as the photographer. Bell feels her situation as a breast cancer survivor helps ease the people she works with.
“It is not really about me, but it helps to understand what they are going through, and I think it helps the subjects to feel comfortable with me,” said Bell, who has photographed multiple galleries like this before. “I want to show people strength. And just by talking to people when I am working with them, it does help that they trust me.”
This gallery is filled with mostly women, but also has two men. The diversity amongst the subjects is also very prevalent, with portraits of people of all races and ages shown throughout.
The gallery also shows quotes from each of the survivors with messages about their journey. The exhibition is filled with positivity and emphasizing strength, a message that is shared amongst all those who came and visited.
People in the crowd looked at the pictures and then each other and smiled, excitedly beginning conversations knowing that all those there had survived.
But Goenka’s mission doesn’t just stop with the gallery. She does not like that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is now full of girls wearing shirts such as “Save the Tatas.”
She wants one thing for her and all those around her in the gallery.
“We are really trying to take it back in some way and take back the color pink.”