Whenever a female celebrity has a baby, we can expect a certain narrative to follow in the press: First, “exclusive photos” of the new little one will appear in a major magazine. Then, within a few weeks or months, there will be an article about how [Insert Celeb Name Here] “got her pre-baby body back,” a phrase which implies that babies are actually malevolent aliens bent on stealing normal human females and replacing them with disgusting flesh monsters. (Thankfully, a few awesome lady celebs have taken exception to this media trend). This approach to women’s postpartum bodies — treating them as exceptional and wrong when they are in fact completely normal — teaches women from all walks of life that the natural physical changes that come with motherhood are unacceptable, unattractive, and shameful. Photographer Jade Beall is trying to change all of that with "A Beautiful Body Project," a photo series that works to expose the beauty and uniqueness of women’s postpartum bodies.
Beall launched the project five weeks after giving birth to her son in 2012. Based in Arizona, Beall photographs mothers as they really are — no erasing stretch marks or smoothing out bellies in Photoshop. The results are beautiful, intimate images of mothers alone and with their children that celebrate the physical reminders of pregnancy for what they really are: evidence of the amazing power of the female body.
In an essay for The Guardian, Beall writes of the project:
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.
She goes on to say:
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."
To find out more about the project and Beall's recent book, The Bodies of Mothers, visit Beall's website. (On an unrelated note, how stinking cute are these babies??)
Images: Jade Beall Photography/Facebook (14)