David Jay is a photographer with an incredibly varied body of work. He was primarily a fashion photographer until he took a photo of his friend, a model in her early 30s who had been diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer and had a mastectomy. David, already waging a battle against a violent emptiness he felt from his life and work, salvaged himself with a new mission to capture the scars of humanity. Through his work, he challenged the traditional concept of beauty that was his former livelihood, and began to see the true beauty of humanity in our scars. This endeavor led to an Emmy-Award winning documentary about his experiences taking honest, raw portraits of women grappling with the new version of their bodies and soon after, Jay released The SCAR Project (Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon,Volume 1.
The SCAR Project soon extended to male breast cancer survivors, and then to a completely different sub-set project called The Unknown Soldier, in which David Jay photographed and documented young men and women who had just returned home from combat with plenty of scars, both visible and invisible. Those photos are now included in the Library of Congress, and David Jay has won many accolades including a LensCulture Portrait Award, a partnership with designer Stella McCartney, and recently conducted a Ted Talk which beautifully explains the entire journey in his own words.
All of this being true, David Jay shot a series of photos recently called RED! These photos are meant to embody a sense of passion, desire, delight, a dynamic movement of life — a quickening — that he has also felt and experienced. For me, (yes, I am inserting myself in first person now) this is almost like (spoiler alert) the ending of my favorite play RUINED by Lynn Nottage — a sudden and unexpected jolt of energy that reminds the onlooker that joy is always possible, and that it promises to be infinitely richer, deeper, and more blindingly redemptive when it comes in the wake of unbearable pain.