Portraits of healing

Art by Joan Martinez Florido
Art by Joan Martinez Florido

Through their lenses, photographers reveal the unseen and make the imperceptible, perceptible. Photographer Ted Madamba recalled a 2021 project with breast cancer survivors and artists, capturing a vivid portrait of the profound beauty within scars.

As the world quivered in the shadow of the pandemic, these fearless women refused to let Covid-19 steal the tradition of raising awareness. They invited local artists to paint the scars of their breasts and from that moment, Ted was able to get portraits of hope—ones he continues to share across his platforms every October, igniting courage in all who behold them.


“My friend, Vivian Borromeo, wanted to have a photo exhibition with me,” said Ted. “The idea at first sounded strange to some since they are going to pose in nude displaying the body painting in their scars but Vivian was able to gather 12 daring volunteers.” It was during this reunion that Vivian revealed her journey as a breast cancer survivor and her involvement with the Pink Paddlers group.

Established in 2017, the Pink Paddlers group is an exceptional all-women dragon boat team in the Philippines. Comprising breast cancer survivors, they defy the stereotypes of traditional athletes. They have achieved numerous championships and runner-up titles, with a recent remarkable victory in the United States.

Ted’s next endeavor was to build a sense of comfort and trust among the survivors. Despite his prior experience in nude photography, he went the extra mile by engaging in one-on-one conversations with each individual, both in private and group settings, allowing them to share their stories and get to know him better.

The collaboration among the artists also resulted in distinct concepts inspired by personal stories of volunteers, turning scars into something of exceptional beauty. Beneath the layers of clothing and within the artist’s brushstrokes on their bodies, these surgery marks became a profound proof, uniquely theirs, each with a story to tell.

“The artist and the subject already talked about how they would do it and what medium to use. There was one volunteer who asked that hands be drawn around the affected body as it represents the helping hands of her family who supported her breast cancer journey,” said Ted.


At times, Ted found himself on the verge of tears, witnessing deeply moving moments when the children of these survivors enthusiastically cheered for their mothers. These heartfelt gestures brought a renewed sense of confidence as the mothers proudly posed, showcasing their beautiful scars.

Ted personally handed each of them copies of the portraits and entrusted the completed works to the dedicated volunteers. Photography, for Ted, was his heartfelt contribution to the community, a way to give back and make a meaningful impact.

“Once you press the shutter, the rest is history. That photo was taken seconds ago; tomorrow, the photo will be taken a day ago; next year, the photo will be taken last year, decades, and so on. That’s it; once you press the shutter, then you document the history,” said Ted.

“I’m not a doctor but if it was a dose of medicine for them, then I’m happy to help. I have to make them feel proud of their bodies and with the artwork sending messages to the world.”


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