It started with a message from a friend. A photographer who had an idea for a photoshoot. Her inspiration was to capture different women, black and white images, showing a different perspective to the stereotype of the perfect body. Not a new idea by any means. But it was something she wanted to do and asked if I would write something to accompany the images. I did not know what to expect. So I waited.
Slowly the images started coming through. Soft, beautiful images. Images that did more than break down barriers of body image or perception. Each image was a story to be told. A black and white canvas that not only sparks our curiosity, but holds up a mirror. In each of these images we see ourselves. A mirror into insecurities and fears that we all harbour. In each of these women we see our own heart ache, our own triumphs, our own struggles and our own joys.
Our story starts from within. A story that grows and nurtures as we move through life. A story that sometimes we are not even conscious of as the words scribe onto our hearts. It is a story that works its way from the inside out. A story that does not lie when we look in that mirror. Wrinkles, stretch marks, muscles, tone they do not define us. Scars, blemishes, bits we don’t like, bits we do like, they are not who we are. Our stories are who we are. They make us whole, in a way that we often forget to see.
Our judgement is quicker than our understanding. Judgement a reflex and understanding something we forget when we look in the mirror. We stand there and only see the failure, the disappointment, the heart ache. We do not see the story. We forget the compassion. We close the door to possibility and focus only on what we lack. We need to strip bare our judgement. Become humble in the compassion we start to show ourselves and then to show others. It is something we need to work on, be mindful of.
We are all so quick to judge what we don’t see. Quick to know better, assume more. The mirror is the holy grail. Whether it be a reflective cold glass solemn in each of our homes. Or a computer screen we stare at each day. An iPhone in our hands. A magazine we flick through. Or a conversation that tears someone apart. Each of these are our mirror. A judge and jury of social media and photo-shopped norms. We are both the innocent and the guilty. Yet, the differences we see should weave a narrative of similarity, unity and not create the division that has been set to default.
We are beckoned by each of these beautiful portraits. Lured in to want more, know more. We crave the story. We are spell bound by the secrets. We look into the mirror with a lust, a possibility of escape from our own story into the story of each of these women. We seek definition in the story, answers. Answers we dare not look for inside ourselves, questions that go unasked. We forget that when we look in the mirror, the story is complete. The image looking back at us whole and perfect in the eyes of love. We forget that they are the only eyes that matter.
“People are more than what they look like. The shape of our body, the colour of our skin, scars, freckles, all of that doesn’t matter, everyone is beautiful in their own unique way and that’s something to be proud of.”
“We need to love our bodies, our appearances and stop being so judgemental and harsh on ourselves. We are our own worst enemies. I feel really embarrassed and ashamed of my body. But then I think hey I’ve had a kid, I’m not perfect and even though there is always room for improvement I am happy with where I’m at in my life. We all have insecurities and dislikes, but there’s more to life than a bit of belly rolls.”
“I did it! I survived everything life has thrown at me and came out the other end full of achievement and love. I want to inspire other women to follow their passions and not be ashamed of their bodies.”
“I see joy and strength as I look at my photo, but I feel loss and sadness because it was such a painful time in my life. I knew that by having my much wanted daughter that I would have to say goodbye to one of the most important men in my life: my dad. I see a facade of strength but a person of weakness, a woman scared, unsure how to feel. Broken by the loss of her pillar. I look at my photo and I am so proud.”
“A woman’s body is a miraculous piece of art, capable of growing life inside her and nurturing her baby. It’s an amazing achievement. I’ve never felt more beautiful about myself then when I was pregnant and became a mum. It bought a whole new meaning to life.”
“When I first saw my photo I felt sad and ashamed. I looked old and fat. I put the photo away and cried. When my husband saw the photo his reaction was excitement, love and adoration. He said how beautiful I was and how proud he was of me. I only saw flaws. I kept looking at the photo, really looking at it, then I saw it: I have survived disease, surgeries, scaring, loss, grief, heartache, trauma and even self-rejection. The more I looked, the more I saw how amazing and strong I was. A mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a nurturer and more. My body was the physical story of my life: my heartaches and my triumphs. Every scar, stretch mark and saggy bit is a piece of art to be proud of.”
“So many curve balls have been thrown at us before and during my pregnancy, but in spite of all the stress bubs is doing great and my son is a loving and happy little man. I am proud of what my mind and body can do. I wanted to be part of something that was for real women, not just models that were pregnant doing a glamorous belly shot.”
“I felt vulnerable in front of the camera, it is easy to appear perfect on social media and here I was exposing all my flaws, did I really want to be part of something so real and terrifying? I knew the shoot would tell a story. A story of eight women with imperfections, flaws, fears, moments, real life struggles and even though no two images are alike there is a unity in them. For me it was a chance to stand back and embrace what truly makes me me. A chance to see how far I have come.”
The mirror is not an illusion, it is real. What do you see?
The beautiful images in this post were captured from the heart by
Natalie from Garden of Eden Photography.
Her inspiration opened the door of possibility to look deeper inside ourselves, past the stereotypes and honestly into the mirror. The brave women in this post have offered us far more than one photo stripped bare. They have offered us their story in a way that unites us and gives us reason to believe that everything is possible.
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Catch up on my last blog post The Seven Year Text Message