“After years of talking about the project, it’s really happening—and we’re tickled pink.” Bob Carey 2013
What started out as a “lark” has turned into a very successful opportunity to help and support cancer patients and their families in a worldwide venture.
This quote from their website www.thetutuproject.com makes you giggle and want to find out more at the same time.
“The Tutu Project™ began in 2003 as a lark. I mean, really, think of it. Me photographing myself in a pink tutu, how crazy is that?” Bob Carey.
Bob Carey’s career nearly took a different route but fate had plans for this gentle caring soul.
“My passion for photography started after a skateboard injury. Once healed, I bought a camera and started taking pictures of my skater friends.”
Bob studied photography in college and assisted the top photographers in Phoenix. He continued working with these photographers after graduation.
“I eventually opened my own studio. We didn’t plan it but Linda started working with me at that time and helped build our business. We’ve been working together for over 20 years.”
Linda adds “March 17 1986 was our first date and we have been together ever since.”
Initially Bob was commissioned by a ballet company to use photography to express what ballet meant to him.
“I liked the idea of a tutu, because it was a simple and clean symbol and transformed me into something that I’m not. I kept the tutu and during our move to the east coast took another photo.”
Not long after their relocation to New York City in 2003 Linda was diagnosed with cancer.
“I had six months of chemotherapy, followed by radiation and a clinical trial for Herceptin; which lasted one year.
“The second time, which has been almost ten years of this treatment, I take oral chemotherapy and every three weeks go into the Cancer Centre for IV medication.”
Bob adds “Right after we moved to Brooklyn I took a few more photos and then Linda was diagnosed later that year.
“It has been a means of self-therapy as well as an extension of a self-portrait project; transforming myself to something that I’m not.
“It helped me cope with the intense changes in our life after we moved to New York and the news of Linda’s cancer diagnosis.
“It then became a great project for us to work on together. It was fun and brought laughter into our life. If looking at the photographs puts a smile on someone’s face, well, that makes me happy.”
Sharing these crazy photos taken in random places only wearing a tutu certainly made Linda happy and there was lots of laughter.
“It makes me laugh seeing my husband dancing around in a pink tutu. The more I laugh the better I feel. It helps me be more positive.
“I love that he isn’t afraid to be himself and just puts himself out there. I’m proud that he is being recognised for standing out.”
When her cancer reoccurred in 2006 Linda began taking the images into the cancer centre.
“I began taking the images with me to chemotherapy. The patients loved them. It was a great way to start conversations and entertained us as we had toxic chemicals pumped into our bodies.
“I came home and shared these stories with Bob and I remember him saying ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could publish a book of these images and get them into cancer centres across the US?”
“Once the question was asked, it seemed like an obtainable goal and we began researching how to make it happen.”
Fate decided to intervene and make their dream become reality.
“Each semester I lecture at the International Centre for Photography. One of the students was a producer at The Today Show, a major morning news program,” says Bob.
“He told me that when I was ready to go with the book he would take the story to his team and get us on the show.”
Linda and Bob decided to self-publish the book and raise money through the sale of prints Bob had taken wearing his pink tutu.
“Linda sent out letters with our mission statement to potential buyers. It was picked up by a New York newspaper and true to my friend’s word within a month we were interviewed by Matt Lauer on The Today Show.
“We sold enough prints that day to just about cover the cost to self-publish the book. From there the attention from the media was phenomenal, not just in the US but in other countries. Linda and I were speechless as we never anticipated that our story would have such an impact.”
Through social media Linda and Bob’s story continues to be shared worldwide. The proceeds of the book Ballerina (now sold out) and a subsequent calendar along with the prints and other products sold through their non-profit website enables them to help many other cancer patients struggling to meet the unfunded hidden costs.
“We never thought it would have this kind of impact and are honoured that so many people have become part of our “family.”
Bob has invested in four tutus over 13 years as he takes photos in all sorts of weather and conditions.
“It’s not about being hot, cold or wet. It’s about being vulnerable, similar to those experiencing an illness.”
Linda has an exceptional “bag of love” that has supported her through the dark times bringing her much joy and heart felt love.
“The bag of love contains the cards that I received in the first six to nine months after I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”
One particular card holds special memories for Linda which is from her friends in Phoenix after her and Bob had just moved to New York.
An excerpt reads “Linda, I have had the privilege of seeing how many people love you. Your friends all wish we could be there to help as you recover. In fact I think we would be lining up over who would get to visit and bring dinner to you each day if we were all in the same city.
“Since there is distance between us right now we are reaching out to you in the only way we can. We want to give you the things you need or want as you go through the therapies and recover.
“Too tired to cook – dinner is on us.
“Want to try out reiki or some other alternative therapy – try it out on us.
“Need a book to inform you or a book to escape to – we can give you that.
“We want to give you the opportunity to do these things that would heal you and know that these gifts come with love from all of us, your dear friends.
Linda continues “They sent me a cheque with the card and when I opened it I probably cried for half an hour. This beautiful card just means so much to me. When I felt really alone I had a lot of support and I know that, so to all of you whose names are on this card I say thank-you, thank-you and thank-you again for all of this love.”
Linda and Bob’s own experiences have made them very aware of the logistics involved in every-day life and are always looking for others that they can support.
“We currently work with four small non-profit cancer helping organisations but we are always looking for others that share a similar mission.
“We’ll be able to help with transportation to doctor appointments; wigs; lymphedema sleeves; childcare and counselling.
Linda and Bob both deeply love, care and support each other.
“My focus is about real life and moving forward in life and he helps me do that,” says Linda Carey
“The photos made her feel good and she likes to laugh,” adds Bob Carey.