"When was the last time you gave yourself a compliment? Whatever part of your body that makes you feel insecure, make it your favourite feature. Love it, embrace it, nurture it and speak over it."
Never, did I ever think that I would be photographing women from around the world for the Underneath We Are Women project. I was so naive when I first embarked on this project. I actually remember thinking "I'll photograph 10 women to show the diversity of womens bodies". I know, ridiculous right? So I upped the number to 100. I thought that seemed a lot. But I now know that even in 100 women with their images and stories, I will never truly be able to accurately bring visibility to the true diversity of the physicality, abilities and stories behind women and their bodies. But you know what? I can give it a red hot crack!
As I mentioned, I initially thought I would photograph just 10 women for the project. But after photographing the first four women in a small studio in Adelaide, Australia, I soon realised that I needed to make this a much bigger project. Women asked me to make this a much bigger project. I was something that was not only wanted, but needed.
In the early days of the project (back in 2015) my partner and I joked about travelling to other countries to photograph women. And given that we had received interest from over 12 different countries, it didn't seem like such a silly idea. But it stayed as just that, an idea. I continued photographing women from all over Australia and over the next two years, had photographed 79 women. During this time, I spoke with many women from all over the world. Some of them expressing how the project had helped them embrace their own bodies and stories, and others expressing how thy'd like to see bodies like their represented within the book. I listened and took on everything these women spoke about.
In May 2017, I received a message via Facebook from a woman in Mexico. She explained to me that she was born with moles of various sizes all over her body, one of which covered her entire left side of her torso, arm and half her leg. She told me that she had countless stories "in which people rejected me because of my moles, they look at me bad, I hear the things they say." She told m that she was interested in the project. She told me "Please, I want someone that hears me." Her message broke my heart, but at the same time, I knew I could do something. I could giver her a platform to tell her story, a platform to be visible. This was back in May 2017. I travelled to America in March 2018 and photographed Lorena in Los Angeles, California. Lorena and her story was the final reason for me to travel to the US and photograph women in New York City and Los Angeles. I photographed women that travelled from Interstate and even Internationally to be a part of the book, coming together to share their stories and raise awareness of their own personal experiences.
It's hard to put into words how truly wonderful and humbling these shoots were. The people I met, the friendships that were formed, between both myself and the women on the day was beautiful to witness. As with all the shoots, stories, struggles, triumphs, tears, laughs, were all shared and supported.
Thank you to everyone that has believed in the book, taken part, helped out, given support and shared in this glorious wild ride. I thank you. We thank you!
Now, enjoy some behind the scenes shots from both the New York and Los Angeles photo shoots.
A very big thank you to all our Hair Stylists and Makeup Artists that helped out at the New York City and Los Angeles shoots.
Elisa Lara, Jeanette Aguirre, Tania LosAngeles, Samelia Quioh, Madge Earle, Gabrielle Stevens, Kinshasa Hunter, Victoria Morillo, Monica Nguyen, Irina Kovacevic, Benny Askinazi, Asatou Sohna, Intan Sahrini, Rachel M.
Thank you Asatou Sohna for the beautiful behind the scenes video from the New York City shoot.
Thank you Edward Howie, Sovereign Howie & Pippen Howie for the behind the scenes photos
Thank you Pure Space Studios, NYC and Dust Studio, L.A. for the incredible spaces to work in.
Thank you Elisabeth and Alexandra for helping organise food at the L.A shoot. We would have been hungry hungry hippos without your help.
A HUGE thank you to my husband Edward Howie for supporting not only myself, but the women at each of the photo shoots, for greeting everyone when I was working, for answering everyones questions when I was too busy, for keeping our three children entertained on the day, for photographing me and for anything and everything else I've forgotten to list here.
Thank you Lorena Bolanos for reaching out to me all that time ago and instigating these shoots in the United States.