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The Molly Project seeks to comfort women with cancer

From left, Kristin Atkinson, Tara Polcaro and Kristin Johnson pose with two of their favorite photos on display at The Red House. The three women founded The Molly Project, which provides free photography sessions to women affected by cancer.

From left, Kristin Atkinson, Tara Polcaro and Kristin Johnson pose with two of their favorite photos on display at The Red House. The three women founded The Molly Project, which provides free photography sessions to women affected by cancer. Photo by Sarah Hall.

Atkinson said she thought her mother would be thrilled with The Molly Project

“I think she would love it,” she said. “She encouraged my sister and me to follow our hearts. She was very into women’s rights and thought women could do anything. She would love that we’re doing it together, because her friends were so important to her.”

The project has been successful because each of the three friends brings something different to the table. Johnston is the organizer and “people person;” she answers the phone, email and Facebook inquiries and organizes everything. Atkinson brings her family history as well as a background in communications, to the project, while Polcaro takes the photos and meets with the families.

“To be able to photograph these moments is a gift,” Polcaro said. “It’s such a private and intimate time for people. I’m just a stranger when I walk into their house for the first time. Hopefully I leave a friend. But for all of us, it’s a gift that they’re so trusting to let you come in there and do this for them and letting you witness their life. It really is beautiful to me.”

It’s not only a gift to the three women, but to their subjects, as well.

“After I did that session with Wendy, we were on the phone, and she said to me, ‘For three hours, I forgot I was sick,’” Polcaro said. “That was huge. That was something we weren’t expecting.”

The photos also leave a heartwarming legacy in cases like Wendy’s when the subject loses her battle with cancer.

“I wanted to be able to get people laughing,” Polcaro said. “Laughing smiles are the best smiles to have, and to remember. Sitting on each other’s laps, holding hands, telling each other jokes, getting that crinkle in the nose that only comes from her when she hears something funny. Those little tiny insignificant moments that everyone takes for granted that become huge things for survivors of those families.”

It’s an emotional experience for all involved.

“We cry a lot, but, again, that’s the beauty of doing this together,” Atkinson said. “We cry. It’s all part of it. It’s also the happiness, too. When we open up those prints, it was like Christmas looking at the images. You are seeing the joy as well. It is bittersweet.”

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