A pink tutu with pink shorts underneath — that’s Bob Carey’s outfit of choice.
No, Carey, 51, is not a cross-dresser nor is he a former ballet star. He’s a professional photographer who began taking tutu self-portraits nine years ago, around the time his wife Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer
“I’ve been photographing myself since 1993, and I did a few of these images before she was diagnosed,” Carey told ABC News. “But then it became a way to cope. It’s a form of therapy. And it also got me away from her, which also helped her.”
Carey’s tutu has traversed the United States. From the Grand Canyon to Times Square and the Golden Gate Bridge, Carey can be seen dangling tutued from a tree, or posing pensively in pink in a vast, green landscape.
Each of the 125 scenarios will no doubt put a smile on your face — which is exactly what the Careys hope to achieve through this Tutu Project.
“You know, I’d be sitting in the waiting room at the cancer center, and I’d have my laptop, and I’d show the women around me Bob’s photos. It just made them laugh,” Linda Carey said. “When I told Bob about it one day, he said, ‘I’d love to have a book with all my pictures and put one in every waiting room,’ and it just kind of went from there.”
Last August, the Careys, who have been working together for their own company, Bob Carey Photography, for the past 18 years, began selecting prints for a Tutu Project book. They decided to donate future proceeds to two organizations that have been helping Linda Carey cope with her illness: Cancer Care, and the Beth Israel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Both provide women diagnosed with cancer therapeutic treatment, such as a massage, acupuncture and consultations with a social worker.
“She calls those her ‘spa days’,” Bob Carey said affectionately.
“I know the expense of cancer,” Linda Carey added. “It’s not just about health insurance. Like, I have a good friend who can’t get access to the extra things she really needs – even if it’s just someone to bring her meals or give her a massage.”
Said Bob Carey: “I get very emotional and it makes me angry that people who suffer like that can’t be comfortable. And I just want to make people comfortable, make them smile.”
The couple stayed true to that goal even when no publishers bid on their project. The Careys decided instead to set up a website, raise awareness and self-publish Bob Carey’s tutu portraits. In January, their idea went a step further.
“We said, ‘OK so we have the images, the cancer support. Now, let’s not just donate, let’s start a foundation,” Linda Carey said. “So now we have our business, the book, and we’re in the beginning stages of the Carey Foundation. We each have three jobs right now.”
The couple plans to kick off the Carey Foundation, which they are in the process of registering as a not-for-profit group, after the book is released this September. It would allow women with breast cancer to apply for grants to help subsidize medical costs.
Last year, Breastcancer.org reported that it expected almost a quarter of a million new cases of invasive breast cancer in women and anticipated around 39,520 breast-cancer-related deaths. According to latest statistics, one in eight women develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives.
“I don’t want to be defined by cancer,” said Linda Carey, “I’m a very feisty woman, and I don’t have time for it. I need to live my life.”
She added that she even accompanied her husband on several tutu shoots. But was she ever tempted to don pink frills?
“Never,” she said, laughing. “People sometimes ask, ‘Well, why doesn’t Bob take photos of you in a tutu?’ And I say, ‘It’s Bob’s tutu, not mine.’”