Many women are left with scars, stretch marks, and loose skin after giving birth. It’s a reality that women themselves often try to hide and the media never wants to show. But one photographer is on a mission to redefine the idea of the beautiful woman’s body.
One day early last year, Jade Beall – a new mother based in Tucson, Arizona – went into her studio with her five-week-old baby, stripped off, and took a series of photos.
It was a body she wasn’t really familiar with. There were bumps and lumps that she had never had before her pregnancy. And she didn’t much like what she saw.
But she decided to post the pictures on her photography blog – keen to share with others a side of motherhood that tends to be kept out of view.
The media is full of images of women’s bodies. But not these kinds of bodies.
“So many people tell me, ‘Oh, I’ve never seen a body like that,'” says Beall.
“I want people not to have to react as ‘You’re gross,’ but instead ‘Oh, that’s a woman who is incredibly human, or that’s a woman who has scars and lines with stories to tell.’
“My goal is to help these mothers feel worthy of being called beautiful.”
Soon after, Beall posted a photo on Facebook of the softly dimpled stomach of a friend of hers, with her two young children nestling up to her lovingly.
It went viral. Emails started flooding in, and hundreds of women wrote in to say they too wanted pictures taken of their post-pregnancy bodies.
Beall has now photographed more than 70 mothers who will appear in an forthcoming book, A Beautiful Body, due out in January. She uses no make-up artists, and there’s no touching up or airbrushing.
“When she sent me the first pictures via email after the shoot, I remember getting this cold, sweaty feeling,” says Nicole Meade, one of the women who volunteered to be photographed.
Most women who have taken part are deeply self-conscious about their bodies, and Nicole is no exception.
Ever since having her first child, she has tried to hide her stomach. A bikini on the beach would be out of the question.
Terrified, but determined to take up the challenge, Meade took her three sons to the photo shoot, and wanted them to be part of it too.
“I asked the boys, and they were like, ‘Um, well what’s the point of it?’ And I told them you would be doing this for all your female cousins, and the girls you might one day date or marry, and your own daughters – because there is nothing like this out there for us,” she says.
“I like the idea that my children will have a real sense of what their wives might look like when they are done having children.
“There should be nothing shocking or disturbing about a picture like that,” she says.
Jade says many of her clients don’t like the images at first, and focus on what they see as blemishes or problem areas – a roll of fat, a wrinkle, a stretch mark.
But she says the more they look, the more they start to see the beauty in the images.
Christina Berry, who took part in the book, says she has always struggled to embrace her body, but the shoot left her filled with a new confidence.
“It’s still a work in progress. I’m not going to say that every day I 100% feel the sexiest and the most confident,” she says.
“But I remember what I did and I go and look at my pictures and I say ‘Wow, I am beautiful!'”
Her husband Chris says men tend to have only the most superficial conversations among themselves about the way their partners’ bodies have, or might, change after pregnancy – and are largely unprepared for the reality.
“Seeing the pictures and then also seeing other women’s pictures, it led me to think, ‘Man, I’m kind of an ass for not recognising what the real, important things are when it comes to her physical appearance.’
“It’s what she’s done, and why she has those scars. I don’t have to bear any of that – and she does.
“I think these women are powerful. I think my wife is incredible, and I think that was something that I needed to see and needed to understand. And I hope the pictures continue to do that for other men.”
Jade was delighted when she googled “beautiful body” the other day and she saw what popped up.
“My black and white images are sprawled through all these airbrushed photographs.
“And I took such delight. It was like, ‘Oh gosh, it’s happening!'”
Check out A Beautiful Body Project here:
So today I would like you to join me in honouring and celebrating Jade and the powerful work she is doing for herself and other women around the world, helping them to see the beauty in their bodies…to see that the airbrushed images we are force-fed in the media are as fictional as Santa Claus…and that a real woman in all her glory is more beautiful by far.
Original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23276432
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