I had to look up the meaning, and when I messaged my friend to tell her that if she wanted me to document this journey that had been forced upon her, I’d be more than happy to do so. She said thanks, and a couple of weeks later reached out with an idea that came to fruition this past weekend.
Noni has been in Woman as Art before and done boudoir, but this was the first time she brought her whole family, and friends, and clippers, and scissors.
In fact it was the first time I’ve photographed anyone getting their head shaved before starting chemo.
The process was later something that she described as ‘therapeutic for all of us’ and accomplished something that she wanted – to be in control of some part of the process. She said, “None of this was anything we have control of. I love that this is one thing I can do on my own terms and not be “the victim”. I guess it just kind of feels like if I can do this on my own terms then I’m almost taking the control back in a way.”
She entered my studio a fighter and left even more so.
I ask client about a photo session.
Her reply, written later, “I found it awkward because any picture I do have of my self is for some sort of accomplishment. There is a reason or purpose in documenting that moment in time. I earned it. Never would I be photographed without reason and I didn’t have one. I felt to have a photograph of myself, aside from the usual selfie, would make me arrogant.
“If you find yourself asking why, here is my answer, “Woman by their very creation are walking, talking works of art. Way too many have lost the concept of their beauty. Woman as Art is a project that celebrates the masterpiece in all of them.”
Grace in women has more effect than beauty. ~William Hazlitt
I often tell the women I photograph, and they are usually surprised by it, that how a woman holds her hands and fingers gives quite the insight to a woman’s beauty. They usually say ‘these are just my hands’ and go on about how they, like the rest of them, are nothing special. It’s a simple thing but it seems to be present in every woman I’ve photographed in some way, and you can definitely see it here. Over the weekend in fact I saw that same grace in a young girl that I photographed as well.
I’ve always used my eating disorder to hide. It’s always been something I could use to hide from my own feelings and my own personality. I used it to ignore feelings and I let people’s comments on my body and my size be the only thing I based my worth on.
This photo session made me feel like I was breaking free of all of that. Like I was done hiding behind a physical body and was ready to be a real human that deserves validation regardless of her body. Like someone who deserved to let all of that go and love herself again for who she truly is and not the person she hides behind.
In the client’s own words:
Today, a man stared at me while breastfeeding.
My baby and boob were covered. At 8 months to be covered without so much as a flailing arm is a rarity.
Nevertheless the staring man confidentially said, while never breaking his stare, he confidentially said; “Breastfeeding and c-sections are disgusting. Such a pity for a beautiful woman to willingly destroy her body.” He continued to go on about how hideous both breast and scared tummies are.
I debated posting this, but I think a lot of times we see things on social media and casually think this isn’t an issue close to home, because we’ve not experienced it firsthand.
I was told it would be hard to find a man to love me, because my body was wrecked after I found myself a single mom at seventeen.
This is life.
My body has carried three beautiful babies.
Do not let selfish men or a backward world tell you that the process and proof of life is not beautiful.
We are not meant to be ageless and without cracks.”You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”-Song of Solomon 4:7
When I started Woman as Art it began I wanted to be able to make images that women would celebrate for themselves.
There’s a big deal about ‘boudoir’ now and while that’s something that I do a lot of, I always rejoice when a client comes to see me for images – for them, and not for someone else.
As I began to celebrate the art that women truly are in session after session I began to gather the best of those images into a website – and my wife and several others have suggested that Woman as Art become a book, and I heartily agreed to that statement.
But there’s a vast chasm between putting a few images on a website, and putting together a book. And I doubted that I could ever do it.
Recent events have caused me to re-think that, however.
So, as of today – Woman as Art is GOING to be a book. A book filled with images of strong, beautiful women. And their stories.
I have no idea how it’s going to work, just that it will.
What I need from my friends is – volunteers. Models who want to be part of the project. To reveal their skin and their soul so that other women can be made stronger by it. I might need later – advice, referrals, money, etc. But right now I need models. So, if you are so inclined, or know someone who might be – send me an email.
The skin of a woman is like a road map.
It shows you where she has been.
It shows where she still has to go.
It tells the ways she has been strong, and leads you to where she wants to be stronger.
She might think it shows where she is weak, but really it shows you where she is beautiful, and strong.