Confident, objectified, maternal, goddess, vulnerable... These are some of the words women in the inspiring photo series, Bare Reality, use when talking about their breasts. Breasts are a complicated body part: Are they a source of femininity or sexuality? Are they beautiful or cumbersome? All of the above? This relationship — and the raw, intimate, sometimes confusing emotions we associate with our bodies, specifically our breasts — is what U.K.-based photographer Laura Dodswoth is exploring.
“I have always been fascinated by the dichotomy between [breasts in] women’s personal lives and how they are depicted in the media,” Dodsworth says. “Between how we feel about breasts privately, and how they are presented for public consumption.”
Dodsworth spent two years photographing and interviewing over 100 women. The result is a powerful series that showcases each participant’s un-airbrushed breast portrait as well as her personal story. The project features women from age 19 to 101 and a range of cup sizes, from AAA to K. “Their perspectives and experiences are diverse: [they are] a Buddhist nun, a burlesque dancer, a career women, stay-at-home moms, a female vicar, nurses, strippers, social workers, full/long-term breastfeeders, cancer survivors, a club-night promoter whose pseudonym is Captain Hello Titties, and more,” Dodsworth writes.
Via a current Kickstarter campaign, Dodsworth is looking for backers to help turn the intimate portraits into a book. And, as part of the fundraiser, she is donating one euro for every book sold to Breast Cancer U.K. “10 women who have or have had breast cancer took part in Bare Reality,” Dodsworth explains. “Their stories were especially moving, as you can imagine, and I valued their participation so much. Baring their breasts meant sharing their scars, literally and figuratively.”
The moving series is both empowering and illuminating. And, it’s part of a much larger discussion about women owning their bodies. “Before I had my reduction surgery, I felt a mixture of distaste and shame towards my breasts," one of the women tells The Guardian. "I had a lot of physical problems, which were the main reasons I had the reduction.”
Click through to check out Dodsworth's Kickstarter video.
The female bodies we see portrayed on TV or in the movies are often enhanced, whether through surgery, lighting, or digital manipulation, Dodsworth explains. “We see images of breasts everywhere in the media, and yet images of ‘real’ breasts are taboo — hidden away, beneath clothes. Although, that’s not true in all cultures: There are societies where breasts are not seen as inherently sexual, and [going] topless is normal.”
Bare Reality highlights both the media's portrayal of breasts as well as our own feelings and complicated relationships with our bodies. “I felt compelled to embark on a personal exploration of what it means to be a woman," Dodsworth explains.
“One thing that surprised me during this project was how much my own feelings changed," she continues. "Bare Reality has changed me, and changed how I think and feel about women. It has transformed my relationship with my breasts. Quite simply, I like myself more as a woman, and I like my breasts more.”