Jade Beall is the founder of the brilliant Beautiful Body Project. As a photographer and mum, Jade started photographing real mothers, celebrating bodies in all their glory, including the stretch marks, c-section scars, bumps and curves. Her beautiful photographs have stunned the world and become a global movement, expanding to include older women, cancer victims and women with disabilities.
Here, Jade Beall tells us more about how the Beautiful Body Project started and what she hopes to achieve.
1. Why did you first start the Beautiful Body Project?
As a teenager I suffered from feelings of deep unworthiness. I had acne and I was unable to look in a mirror for nearly 3 years, unless it was by candlelight. Fifteen years later, I posted a series of self portraits of my semi-nude postpartum body on my blog in 2012 because 95% of women will not see ourselves reflected in mainstream media. I gained 50 pounds with my pregnancy and that added to my personal history of oppressive self-loathing in a culture that praises mostly photoshopped images of women in media. I wanted to join the movement of redefining beautiful for self-empowerment, for women to feel validated and for the reshaping of media.
2. How did the project take off?
After my self-portrait blog post, hundreds of women from around the world wrote to tell me their story about their postpartum body and asked if I would photograph them, just as they were. A Beautiful Body Book Project began growing in the summer of 2012 with a collaboration of my photographs and the stories from the women photographed about finding freedom from feeling too fat, too skinny, too dark skinned, too pale, too wrinkly, too pimply or whatever other story inhibits us from completely loving ourselves, just as we are.
The amount of media coverage I have been gifted absolutely blows my mind. I was just a small town photographer with the desire to photograph the mothers and women in my community to redefine what is truly beautiful and my work traveled the globe! You can see all the media coverage here.
4. Given how self-conscious many women feel about their bodes, all your models look radiant! How do you go about capturing that positive image?
I work hard to facilitate ease and trust. I look into their eyes, I ask them questions, I listen and I honor them.
5. It is very rare that young people get to see images of real women with real bodies. Is it a lot for younger people to take in?
I don't think so, I think it's quite a relief for them. I have a freshman girl who helps me with some of my social media, and she loves the work.
6. What about a healthy body image for boys and men? Do you think you will ever include the male body in your project?
Absolutely. I am working on a project right now trying to get men to be nude. I just posted this.
7. What is the future for the Beautiful Body Project?
I hope the future is a media of truthful images of women to inspire feeling irreplaceably beautiful. I hope I am blessed with making a few more books and I hope I become even more masterful with my photographs so that I can show the world that we are beautiful, just the way we are, without photoshop alterations and without expensive and dangerous surgeries. It's important to feel beautiful, inside and out because then the whole world becomes beautiful!
You can pre-order Bodies of Mothers by Jade Beall here, publication date May 2014 (also available on Amazon in the UK).
If you are inspired by Jade's work and would like to get involved in the Beautiful Body Project, join the movement here.