This project is about womens’ insecurities and being able to voice the truths behind them, rather than the fears we hide from each other, and even ourselves.
I wanted to look at vulnerabilities. We already know that vulnerabilities make us seen when we are truly, most beautiful. Vulnerabilities are what makes relationships explosive, nurturing, addictive and the happiest commitments we can make for ourselves and others. Vulnerabilities are powerful moments, yet often are shrouded and infrequent because of how daunting they can be. I know this, you know this, we all do; my mental health and depression exploits this the most.
I set out to interview my close community to do some general investigation about what women in particular feel shamed about, feel insecure, make them hide behind other avenues with certain people. Women are not simply insecure around just men, they remain a driving factor, but women can be insecure amongst themselves too.
Every single interviewee, from teenagers to adults, gave me their first answer as body image: how they look, how others see them, before themselves even. Even in what aims to be a body positive, embracing and pro self-love society, it’s disturbing to note everyone still feels body and image conscious.
The second response was of a sexual nature; insecurities about sex, performance, partners, romantic entanglements, the mystifying thing that is consent (because it is WAY more complicated than ‘yes/no’), the subtle transition to something much more sexualised, much more sinister like rape, emotional abuse, objectivity and the cruel judgements made upon others.
The third mention was of life goals and events, the nervous parts of life; career worries, what is success?, personality, bullies, modesty expected of women, the insecurities around being a wife, a mother, peer pressures, mental health, sexual orientation, tricky self-worth and selfishness vs selflessness. Introverted vs extroverted, I noticed all the opposites and just how complex the reality is.
When I posed the question “what are your personal insecurities, how do you feel about them?” these are all the words that appeared. From real people, in real time, over a very real, raw and intimate question. I’m also proud to say, it helped. All the contributors, people I questioned including my own answers and insecurities, they all responded they felt much lighter and much more liberated and all it took was for them to voice what they had hoped to keep away from them for so long. Everyone began to feel more comfortable, more open, less tense and withdrawn around me and their daily influx of people, after mentioning single words at me. Me noting them, and letting them hang there; not questioning why or how, but just accepting that talking is the very first step to healing. It’s like once you commit to the initial drafts of a project, you’ll then always at least have the ability to finish it. That opportunity is open, so long as you start somewhere.
And the same principle applies. Making things open, is the first way to raise awareness and address a problem, yes? Hence our insecurities and vulnerabilities can be comforting after we look at them, voice them, and importantly create a safe environment where they can be looked at from a positive place.
So I’ve tried to embrace vulnerability much much more. I’ve painted my insecurities alongside others’ on my bare back, to get use to their feel. By running this site, by writing my poetry, by incorporating my experiences and therapy and feelings as well as those that have wanted to have a voice here as well. I’m open for anyone to message and become part of the community. I’ve opened up my loves, my abuse, my struggles, my cycles, my unruly yet routine patterns and every relationship I’ve encountered from this absolute game change onwards, has seen me show more of myself than I would usually be accustomed or comfortable with.
But vulnerability is much more complicated than to be expected. It’s about giving things a chance to show, to not expect similar extraordinary feats in return. Vulnerability comes down to being anything and everything at once; any action, any missed action. These photos represent me coming to some mutual understanding with them; to hopefully make it seem ok to vent and confide about these little vulnerabilities.
I am just an ordinary woman; who rides the bus to uni every morning, who cooks and cleans and showers before bed. Who falls for the wrong men and misses the right ones, who dresses up to feel beautiful when she feels so low, who makes treating her acne her personal religion, her constant fight to be more social, more outgoing, more sexy, more bold, meets more people, wins more hearts, travels through more love affairs. I reach the same life hurdles, the same joys and overcome as many defeats as any woman.
And this is what makes this shoot extra special and a powerful project for me; I’m just me. An ordinary woman. I’m not a model. I have cellulite, and curves and scars and irritated skin, I have imperfections. This idea is about looking at womens’ modern challenges and vulnerable places and wouldn’t be real if this was some high-flung, expensive professional shot with a professional model, a woman who would be there to make you feel betrayed by your own skin and bone and body.
I don’t want this to read like every other thousands of entries about positive body image, or embracing shapes and tones and sizes. About pushing aside skinny models and superimposing other ideals into us, about how to feel, behave look and embrace the way we look. Because that simply isn’t the goal and doesn’t work. Knowing all the questions and variety of young girls, to adult, older women I asked to contribute to the writing on my back, every single person mentioned body image and ‘how they look’ as still their number one insecurity…so obviously our society has put more pressure on something we aimed to remove.
And so my biggest insecurity is not my body, after this project. I love every nook and line of it, and this project has been a remarkable way of facing that fact. I took some real photos, untouched, that let me see the imperfections and lines and blemishes that exist in real time. I could now pick parts I felt most uncomfortable about, and bits I loved. But on the whole, using photography to capture a body that’s real, was fabulous. A fact I have come to realise I am exceptionally proud of, and I only wish every other woman could begin to recognise the fact their individual bodies are beautiful too. They take care of us, and I worship all human forms in their ability to do just that.
No, it is not skin, or fashion, or personality, or bruises and scars, or decisions and judgements, or toned summer bodies, or eating only juice and tiny crumbs of decent things, or being sporty and sprightly, or going out all the time, dressing up all the time so you get to see me at my best, my most made-up, my least realistic face.
It is relationships, for me. They are my biggest insecurity.
It is sex. Intimacy. How you view me when I simply stand before you silent. Turning off the lights every time we come near each other and take our clothes off. Allowing myself to be vulnerable, even with loves nowhere near as open with me. Jacky O’Shaughnessy, the 62 year old model for American Apparel noted something sincere that I think applies to a lot of women, particularly myself. She noted that she felt the most insecure standing naked in front of a man, but at the same time, she also felt the most beautiful standing naked in front of a man.
All these photos remain unedited; no polish over my bruises, no layered make up to become a woman of powder and contour apart from lipstick (the staple), no invisible shifting and shaping, no down-grade in size, no smoothing of wrinkles or dreaded cellulite. Even the lighting and the room was exactly as it appeared. For the sake of modesty, my lower half has been removed but I can tell you, the cellulite and squat height and big thighs, they were all there; all of me.
This is what empowerment looks like. This is how I explore a woman’s many vulnerabilities, insecurities and fears and release their burden on me, on us. Release and stretch out from our deep sadnesses, our moments of unequivocal self-shaming to bring us back to the honest truth; we are beautiful. In ourselves, despite the sex or the images or the activity, or the feelings or the cutting remarks we make of each other in order to try and find out this truth. We are beautiful.
*Model: Tamara Fraser (me)
Photography: Hannah Robertson
Contributors: My dear close friends and family members I am so grateful they unburdened their insecurities with me to make this shoot real.*