A group of New Zealand breast cancer survivors will bravely reveal their battle scars in a collection of moving photographs that aims to remove the mystery of mastectomy.

The exhibit has been organised by Devonport mum Nic Russel, whose website hopeemerges.com hit the headlines in the New Zealand Herald when Facebook pulled artistic pictures of her reconstructed breasts last year.

Nic spent her 30s undergoing radiography and a double mastectomy, while her two-and-a-half-year daughter lost her fight with the "horrific" disease.

To "slam the door" on the end of a rough decade, and wanting to help other women deal with making the decision to get a mastectomy, Nic had a series of tasteful shots taken of her topless, athletic, body thoughtfully posing around Auckland's beaches.


Hundreds of women wanted to do the same, but ultimately three women - Rosemary, Anna and Carol - were bold enough to go through with somewhat "crazy" photo shoot as part of the Hope Emerges exhibit.

"We were all looking at each others boobs going, 'My goodness, they look really good!'," Nic says, laughing.

However, when one looks at the collection of colour and black and white prints - some solo, others group shots - it's not the reconstructed breasts the eyes are drawn to, Nic explains, it's the contentment on the lady's faces that radiates.

The collection casts its message far wider that those who have battled breast cancer, or known someone with the disease. These women want to shake up all of the body beautiful constructs that we've come to believe.

"You're always made to have this quest for perfection, but we're trying to say 'love the skin you're in'," Nic says.

"We've had to make tough decisions, but we're still feminine, we're still beautiful, we still identify as being women.

"When we're pushing for body perfection all the time ... it's changing that ... do what you need to do. Be proud of your body - gosh, they do a lot for us, they go through a lot. It's like - embrace it!"

When your days are numbered it's not the size of your bum or the width of your hips that you remember, Nic says. It's the compassion and empathy from friends, it's the moments you spent laughing with your loved ones that counts.

The free Hope Emerges Photo Exhibit will open on Friday night at 6pm at the Museum of the Vernacular, 16 Kerr St, Devonport. It will run Saturday to Monday from 10am to 4pm. For more info visit the website www.hopeemerges.co.nz.

Gallery: Some of the images from the Hope Emerges exhibit

- www.nzherald.co.nz