Phil Carpenter

Bernadette Leno had had a bilateral mastectomy two weeks before posing for this portrait in Vancouver, in 2011. She was one of fifty-three women across Canada who participated in photographer Phil Carpenter’s book project Breast Stories – Cancer Survivors Speak Out, which explored the issue of mastectomy and body image. “My aim was to raise questions about the role women’s breasts play in femininity and female identity,” says Phil.
The idea of a woman without breasts makes many people uncomfortable, something Bernadette herself experienced: “I can think of one ‘friend’ who stopped talking to me once I told him I was having surgery. He hasn’t spoken to me since.” Other women in the project spoke of broken relationships, of dreading how they would be perceived in public once people knew about their surgery, of struggling with whether or not to have breast reconstruction and whether their breasts defined them as women.
“I hope that images like this one, and the others in the project, will help us get used to the idea of a woman without breasts, thereby helping to ‘defang’ the idea of mastectomy. Hopefully it’ll help women who are afraid, but who must go through the experience to save their lives,” says Phil.

Phil Carpenter has been a photojournalist for fifteen years and is currently a photo and video journalist at The Gazette, a newspaper in Montreal. He recently published his first book, Breast Stories; Cancer Survivors Speak Out (Fitzhenry and Whiteside). Through photos and essays, the book profiles more than fifty women across Canada who had mastectomy, and addresses issues of femininity and female identity. He is also a member of the part-time faculty in the Department of Journalism at Concordia University in Montreal, where he earned an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies.
His work has taken him across the globe. Among other international assignments he has covered the aftermath of the genocide on Rwanda, Canadian peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and he was one of the first journalists to arrive in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.
Phil has been awarded for his work, including Society of News Design awards among others. He is currently working on a project to examine Canadian multiculturalism by documenting aspects of Caribbean identity within the Canadian culture. As a visual journalist Phil is committed documenting history and the human condition to encourage thought, debate and discussion.