It was the early summer of 2008 when Curtis Gruninger first thought of the idea to photograph thousands of cleavages adorned by pink ribbon necklaces for breast cancer awareness and charity.
An unusual, even tongue-in-cheek project, some could agree. But the bigger picture, literally, is about hope.
“I think that it’s just all about the pink ribbon,” said Gruninger, who lives near Ahwatukee Foothills on the other side of Interstate 10 in Chandler.
Gruninger’s Pink Ribbon Mosaic is a collection of some 8,300 photographs, depicting pink ribbon necklaces dangling between about 80 different models’ cleavages. Each photograph was meticulously cropped and placed to create the larger image of the iconic pink ribbon.
The project took about two months to finish, and includes women, along with a few men, from age 19 to one who said she was “over 70.”
About a dozen of those depicted are actual breast cancer survivors.
During a shoot in 2008 in Wisconsin, one of the survivors told Gruninger after taking the photos that she “never thought someone would be taking a close up of my cleavage while going through chemotherapy.”
Though the project has drawn out a humorous response from many, Gruninger said he’s received countless emails and comments about the mosaic that were positive and encouraging.
Gruninger, who himself got teary eyed while telling the story, has been approached by survivors and relatives on how the project has brought smiles to the faces of patients, doctors, and others.
The project especially hit home for Gruninger, who knows many women and family members in the community who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Since completing the mosaic for an auction in his native Wisconsin, and giving it away to many other fundraisers, Gruninger moved to Arizona where he now works for a software company.
“They have been 100 percent behind my efforts,” said Gruninger about his company, MediServe. “So many people have helped me with this project.”
Recently, a publishing company even expressed interest in doing a book about his project.
To date, more than 6,000 prints of the mosaic have been handed out, ranging in forms of large canvases for charity auctions, to 11-by-14-inch prints. In addition, about 30 to 40 major hospitals around the country also have a copy hanging somewhere, Gruninger said.
“I never envisioned this would take on a life of its own,” Gruninger said. “I think hope is represented in the complexity of the mosaic itself — each story is unique.”
For more information about Gruninger’s photography or the mosaic, visit curtisgphotography.com.
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