Fascinated by the split between women’s real lives and the often falsified way their bodies are portrayed in the media, 41-year-old British photographer Laura Dodsworth asked 100 women to show her their breasts. The result is Bare Reality, a searingly intimate art and social project that features untouched photos of women’s breasts alongside personal stories of how they feel about them.
Dodsworth has launched a Kickstarter campaign so she can complete the project and publish the book. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to Breast Cancer UK, a breast cancer prevention organization. Dodsworth’s campaign deadline is October 10th. If you donate, you will receive a free copy of Bare Reality. Below is the photographer’s own story about her breasts, and how the project changed the way she feels about them.
Growing up, I never thought my breasts were very attractive. They didn’t seem to measure up to the ones I saw all around me. I thought that my breasts were objects that should be “perfect” and desirable to men, and that they fell a long way short. The breasts we see in the media are often surgically enhanced, professionally lit, and photoshopped. Airbrushed breasts belonging to models and actresses not only create an unflattering comparison but present an unobtainable ideal. If a model can’t live up to the ideal of perfect breasts, how can anyone else? In creating Bare Reality, I felt compelled to share untouched photos of breasts.
In the course of doing Bare Reality, I’ve seen 99 other women’s breasts. I know they come in all shapes and sizes; none of us is “perfect.” I am fortunate to feel relatively at peace with my body and breasts, especially since creating Bare Reality. I am lucky my breasts are healthy. But still, like many women in my project, I feel self-conscious about my breasts and their “imperfections.”
Having babies led to a major evolution in my attitude towards my breasts. Breastfeeding was empowering. But I think that creating Bare Reality has caused the biggest change in my relationship with my breasts. Quite simply, I like myself more as a woman, and I like my breasts more.
I am deeply grateful to the women who have taken part in my project. Their stories have moved me, opened my eyes, inspired me, and healed me. They bared their breasts and their souls. I am honored that they shared so much with me. I feel tender about my own experience as a woman, and full of admiration and warmth for female experience.
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When I read about Dodsworth’s project, I thought about my own breasts, how they’ve changed as I’ve aged, and how I feel about the way they look now. I was a gangly, insecure bookworm when, at 16, my breasts brought me a sudden torrent of male attention. I wasn’t used to being an object of desire, and I became dependent on the external validation. I thought of myself as inherently flawed — but my breasts were “perfect.”
I nervously scrutinized the appearance of my breasts as I aged. There didn’t seem to be much change after breastfeeding two babies, and I was relieved that my breasts still looked “young.” Then, at 47, I had two benign tumors removed from my right breast. I was told I would have a scar, but I didn’t know the surgery would also leave a pocket from missing tissue. Although I felt a twinge that my breasts were no longer “perfect,” I took it in stride because I was married and my husband still thought I was sexy.
And then, at 50, I got divorced. When I began to date, I was faced with the decision of when to tell my lovers about my breast: before or after I disrobed? I’ve tried both ways, and it doesn’t seem to matter. So far, no man has kicked me out of bed.
When I did my first boudoir shoot, I asked my photographer to take a photo of the scar and pocket on my right breast. I wanted to show the way a mature woman’s breasts look, after fifty years of wear and tear.
I love this photo because of my imperfections, not in spite of them. I don’t just see body parts, I see a woman who has weathered a series of life challenges, and has finally learned to stop letting a man define her self-worth. “Perfect” breasts won’t bring you love, or keep a marriage together. And if you depend on your looks to cover up what you think is wrong with you, you’ll never become truly close with anyone.
With all the social media censorship, I’ve been on the fence about posting this photo — until I read about Dodsworth’s project. It feels scary, as I write this, to reveal such an intimate part of myself. But it also feels important to show myself stripped of latex and lingerie, and how I really am.