Body of Love: A Serenity Project Origin Story

While attending a conference for creatives a few years ago, I was asked by three women to photograph them together. None of us knew what to expect when we were setting up for the shoot, but it quickly became apparent that something magical was happening. That shoot impacted all of us and sent ripples out in to the world that are still being felt. 

These three women were survivors of breast cancer. All three were post mastectomy. One had chosen reconstruction, one had chosen to stay flat, and one had the reconstruction, but after ten years, was facing another surgery.

Our session started with a simple group shot. By the time it was over, they had all posed nude, both individually and together. It was one of the most powerful and meaningful moments any of us had ever experienced.

That was the beginning.

Since that day, I have been asked to photograph many thrivers – with cancer, of disfiguring surguries, of poor self image. Somehow, all of them found their way to my studio, not really knowing what to expect. Every single of them one left with a newly found strength. The experience of being there… being photographed… it changed them. It changed us both.

When Ren and I started incorporating the body paint, people began coming to us to become living works of art. The process of being painted allowed them to see themselves differently. Some saw beauty. Some saw strength. Some seemed to see their inner selves for the very first time. The photography became even more powerful. I found myself creating talismans of their experience… a physical manifestation of the change… something tangible that could draw them back in, to remeber their experience for years after.

Despite all of the overwhelming evidence, it still took me a while to realize the power of what was happening. It took a client messaging me after a photo session, describing how healing the process had been, and how much he appreciated me taking the time to photograph his scars.

In that moment, I realized the the true power of this work. In that moment, I knew I had to take a step into a bigger world.

Photography. Body paint. Artistic nudes. Humans in water. Whatever opened the door. I wanted to remind people that they are still people… not defined by their disease. I wanted people to know they are loved and appreciated for who they are, not just what they are going through. I wanted people to see their beauty.

The Serenity Project was born. It is about healing. Acceptance. Embracing what is. Finding beauty in the moment. It is about the healing power of art. Holding a sacred space. About really listening.


It is about hope. 

It is about being seen.


And it is about telling our stories.

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  1. Susan E. Barrett August 10, 2017 at 8:54 pm #

    Dear Keith and Ren, I’ve just looked at the Serenity Project photos and am crying. We humans are so fragile, yet so strong. And vice versa. The work the two of you do individually and together is exceptional. You’ve seen my comments before. It touches me to my soul to read about these women. And I presume men. Continue, please. Your art is a gift to the humane world. susan

    • keithdixonstudios October 29, 2017 at 2:18 am #

      Thank you so much, my friend <3 This work comes from not only the creative artist inside us, but from the heart. It is an honor to be a part of this work and to be a part of these people's lives and legacy. Much love.

  2. Heather Youngs August 10, 2017 at 11:37 pm #

    Thank you for showing the world what true and beautiful art is: as a 10 year breast cancer survivor– (and MBC for 2 years), you have touched my soul.

    Heather Youngs

    • keithdixonstudios October 29, 2017 at 2:16 am #

      It is a pleasure and an honor to share this work. To know that something that I helped create touches people… there really is nothing better <3. Much love.

  3. Jean M Rhea August 11, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    Keith, this is very, very thought provoking! While reading this, several people came to mind that I would like to share this with and plan on doing just that. Thank you and Ren Allen for these beautiful works of art. Also, thanks to these strong women who came forward to share their stories and pain and most of all, strength. Beautiful pieces, beautiful souls.

    • keithdixonstudios October 29, 2017 at 2:15 am #

      Thank you for your kinds words <3 I really feel like this work could help so many. I sincerely hope that it will be shared and will open the hearts and minds of others. Much love, my friend.

  4. Sharon Martinelli October 26, 2017 at 6:47 pm #

    I’m so happy to be a part of this truly important project. Thank you and Ren for your powerful and transformative work.

    • keithdixonstudios October 29, 2017 at 2:13 am #

      Thank you, my friend. Our first encounter at Camp truly opened my eyes to the power of this work. It was an honor to witness and share in the connection between you ladies, A life changing experience, for sure <3

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