The Big Issue : Edition 533
THEBIGISSUE24MAR–6APR2017 23 BOB CAREY DIDN’T expect to be a worldwide sensation. He didn’t expect to do three TED Talks. He didn’t expect a partnership with US department store Bloomingdale’s, or a tour through Europe where people travelled six hours just to meet him. The New York-based photographer probably didn’t expect to be interviewed by a magazine in Australia. “It’s just been...I don’t know, it’s been amazing,” Bob says, voice suddenly soft, when we meet over Skype. When he started taking photographs of himself, it was a type of self-therapy. “When things get hard I would usually go photograph myself, just to kind of get away,” Bob says. “I first started doing it after my mum died.” Then his wife, Linda, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Inspired by some work with Ballet Arizona, and in an attempt to inject some humour into a pretty humourless situation, Bob stripped down to a pink tutu and took a series of self-portraits in different landscapes. Linda says on their website: “It just made me laugh. It helps me to be positive. The more I laugh, the better I feel.” Then, three years after she was diagnosed, Linda’s cancer returned. So Bob donned his tutu and headed out again. Linda, who is also Bob’s producer, would take the pictures along to the cancer centre and show them to other patients. “They really loved them, and so I decided to see if we could get them out and share it with the world,” says Bob. The Careys also saw many of the cancer patients struggling to pay for elements of their treatment that health insurance didn’t cover. So they decided to publish a book and donate the proceeds to help them. While they were trying to raise funds to produce the book, someone sent their story to the New York Daily News. It exploded. Yahoo put the Careys’ story on their homepage. They went on the Today Show. They raised enough for their book in 12 hours. It’s now been about 14-and-a-half years since Bob started taking photographs of himself in a pink tutu, and The Tutu Project is now a foundation raising money for various cancer treatment charities and offering support to people who are suffering. It’s bigger than either of them could ever have imagined. “I don’t think I know anybody that hasn’t been touched by cancer,” says Bob. “It happens everywhere, all over the world, not just where I live.” After more than a decade, Linda’s cancer treatment is ongoing. The day before I spoke to Bob, she had started another round of chemotherapy. But Bob says the project keeps them both going and keeps them motivated. As he says: “This all sucks, and it’s stupid that it’s happening, but there’s no reason for us to suffer through it like this. I’m here to make people happy.” by Katherine Smyrk » For more, see @bobcareyphoto and thetutuproject.com. LONG ISLAND: LONG JUMP. THAT’S BOB.