The women in Katrina Barker Anderson's photographs are not your regular nude beauties. Anderson, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, asked Mormon women to pose naked for her art project Mormon Women Bare in an effort to challenge the LDS' views on modesty, which include strict limits to acceptable attire and behaviour.
Anderson, who is based in Salt Lake City, launched the project in July 2013 after hearing a litany of stories criticizing Mormon women's alleged lack of modesty. On her website, Anderson explains:
Women around the world deal with objectification, body shame, and the burden of the male gaze. Mormon women have an added layer of complexity and heavy expectations: while being warned against becoming “walking pornography,” we also face immense pressure to be attractive and fit. We must both attract and protect against male desire.
Mormon Women Bare is about reclaiming. It is about women reclaiming our bodies from a culture that teaches us that we belong to men, to God, to the society that objectifies us. It is about reclaiming the female body as more than just an object of lust or resistance.
Knowing Anderson's own background is helpful in understanding how nude photography and Mormonism converge in her project. With a physician as a father and a painter as a mother, Anderson was raised Mormon in a small-town Ohio household where nudity was never a big deal. "My mom always had art books in the house and as a kid I spent a lot of time looking at them," she told Salon. "Nudity in art was never an issue to me."
The models seem to truly be reclaiming their bodies, choosing to show them on their own terms.
The power of Anderson's photography lies in each woman's subjectivity, nicely captured by the camera. The models seem to truly be reclaiming their bodies, choosing to show them on their own terms. "Each woman exhibited some nerves as I began photographing her, but soon relaxed and settled into ease with her body," explains Anderson on her website. "I was so humbled by their bravery and vulnerability."
Each beautiful photo is accompanied by a short blurb of text giving the viewer some background information on the woman pictured. The photos aren't trying to present some eroticized image of women. Instead, they normalize what most women simply see in the mirror: real women, real bodies, and everyday settings. Who knew bravery could be so beautiful?
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