“The things that you feel you should hide from the world are probably the things that make you the most beautiful.” This encouragement comes from photographer Kacy Johnson, who traveled through Brazil and the US to capture the bare backs of trans and cisgender women of all ages, races and body types. The result is FEMALE, a powerful portrayal of anonymous subjects shared along with reactions to their own photos and reflections on what they’ve come to feel about their bodies because of, or in spite of, traditional definitions of beauty. Today we’re using Kacy’s stunning work to begin breaking the ice on a larger conversation about the perceptions we hold on bodily (im)perfection, and how that impacts our mental and physical wellness…

Throughout FEMALE we see women’s scars, tattoos, moles, wrinkles, rolls and bones from perspectives that those women never experience themselves. What is your reaction to seeing these diverse bodies artfully celebrated? What do you think you’d feel seeing a similar portrait of yourself? Are those comments kind, harsh, detached, or something else entirely? Below we share a selection of project pieces that touch on issues of sexuality, shame, race and pride. In the coming weeks, we will build on this discussion to dig deeper into the role that community can play in supporting self care and appreciation.

Luana On Pain 

“The skin in Brazil is full of nuance. A mixed race woman often doesn’t know who she is.
White? Black? I am all of this and none of it at the same time. 
Racism hits the mixed race woman when her blackness is used to make her feel less than, 
And to be able to assume her blackness comes through the consciousness that there is no reason to be ashamed of roots that were always denied, stepped on, forgotten.
The skin in Brazil was mixed with pain, but this pain made me who I am today.
I am all of this and none of it at the same time.” 

Marcia On Community

Reacting to her portrait: “First, a discovery: that’s how others see me, when I’m not looking.

Then, an estrangement: is this the way I am? I never saw me/see me from this angle. And finally, a new identity – now collective. I am part of all of this diverse, varied. I am a piece of this mosaic Brazil, that the project reveals.”

Katie on Hate and the Process of Acceptance

“Hating my body is so uncool. I’d love to be one of those women who feel at home in their body, accept that their bodies are naturally ever changing, and confidently embrace their body as it is each day. The reality is I’m not there today at 27. I am closer than I was a year ago or even yesterday. The more exposure to body diversity I get, the easier it is to notice beauty in all sized bodies, and the easier it is to eventually see a speck of that in myself. I saw these photos instantly nitpicked everything from my tan lines to my posture, but sharing honestly how I feel about it makes me feel better. However, when women I think are beautiful talk about what they dislike or want to change in themselves, it makes me question myself and feel sad. So I don’t have the solution but I think it lies somewhere in us all focusing on what we like more than our flaws.”

Natalia On Pride 

“The spots, the pores, the stretch marks, the hair, the blotches, the tones.
Every detail communicates, embodies the essence, tells the truth.
Do not force me to cover it. Do not make me hide it.
It is my nature, and it has spots that appear to be stars. Let the skin dance.”

Ashley On Time to Heal Yourself

“the year I learned how to say ‘no’.
the year I lost friends. 
the year I spoke my truths,  especially the ones that made my mother uncomfortable.

the year I laid down burdens that were never mine to carry.
the year I identified what triggered my depression and anxiety.
the year I almost lost myself.

the year I practiced bravery instead of perfection. 
the year I learned the importance of collaboration, especially with other women.
the year I unlearned shame.

the year I learned how to not choke 
on my own salt water. 
the year I found my magic.
the year I learned to heal myself.”

Thoughts? Feelings? Share with us!

(Images from FEMALE)