Photographer Jade Beall has recently completed a ground breaking campaign, The Bodies of Mothers—A Beautiful Project.
Jade has published a 168 page book which shares stories and images that focus on motherhood, aging, cancer, stillbirths, miscarriages, weigh-gain, weight-loss, dysmorphia, and more.
Jade is a world-renowned photographer whose work was highlighted when she posted a picture of her own un-photoshopped post-birth body on her Facebook account, and the picture went viral.
It’s incredible that as a society we celebrate the form of a pregnant body and hold it in such high-esteem, yet, once the baby has been delivered, many of us then find the body is open to judgements and criticisms; that same body that was once glorious, now seems to many as shameful and women try desperately to hide stretch-marks, scars and curves.
Jade’s mission is to show that all post-birth bodies are incredibly beautiful and unique. She is taking a stand against the airbrushed and Photoshopped images that are regularly shown in the mainstream media by ensuring more and more images of women in their glorious natural states receive the same recognition. Now women everywhere are feeling empowered to begin to love and accept themselves exactly as they are.
“I hadn’t seen any celebrated post-birth bodies that were the ones that didn’t bounce back. I gained 80 lbs. and lost 30, so I was 50 lbs. overweight—heavier than I’d ever been. I realized that I had this different body that I could photograph to celebrate a different shape. I didn’t realize that people would like it so much and that it would be an emotional catalyst for a lot of women once I posted them.”
The result of Jade’s campaign is that women all over the world, of all shapes and sizes are feeling inspired to share images of their own bodies, so that future generations of women can embrace their beauty, rather than hiding it beneath clothes.
This is Jade’s explanation for the reasons why her campaign is so important:
When I got pregnant, I gained 50lb and, after the birth, found myself having serious issues trying to lose weight. I knew the last thing I should be bummed out about was my body—it was an honour to be a mother and I had an easy birth. But it was a challenge to wrap my head around how much I had changed. Then I realised I now had the sort of body I’d been wanting to photograph—for some time, I’d been keen to expand my portfolio to show a broader range of body types, but I’d had trouble finding models. So, totally scared and suffering from post-partum depression, I dragged myself into my studio and took some self-portraits.
I put them on my website and received a flood of emails from women in similar situations, asking if I would photograph their post-pregnancy bodies, too. This photograph was from the first shoot I did in the series. The woman who posed is 24 years old and a dancer, but she always covers her wrinkly belly as she doesn’t want anyone to see this big “secret.” This was the first time she had shown her body in this way. Women often tell me that they’re flawed or ruined. I find it painful. So I photographed this beautiful, “ruined” part of her body with her children, who are so loving, pressed in to her sides.
When I posted this on my Facebook page, the whole project went gangbusters. Women from all over the world started contacting me, thanking me for showing a tummy that looked like theirs. Since then, I’ve photographed mothers throughout the U.S.: Kansas, New York, Boston, LA and Arizona.
It’s a huge step for women to come to my studio and show their bodies in this way because it’s something we’ve been taught to hide. Sometimes they can’t take their clothes off, it just doesn’t happen, and that’s fine. But some come in and start stripping before I’ve even had a chance to lock the door! They’re like, “C’mon, let’s tell the world—I’m ready to feel beautiful!” My goal is for them to walk out feeling elated, with increased self-esteem. Then they can go about their day in a much higher place, instead of being stuck in self-loathing.
I’ve come to be fascinated by these mothers—each body has a different story and a different shape. I’m particularly fond of stretchmarks: they’re like tribal markings and each one is unique. When they stand in front of my lens, most of the time I have tears in my eyes. I think: “Wow. First of all, you’re gorgeous. And second, thank you for showing up and wanting to present yourself to the world.”
Mindful tips for a Healthy Body:
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Travis May