For the first time 100 women bare all, promulgating un-touched photographs of their breasts as catalysts through which they’ve shared intensely intimate stories of sexuality, motherhood and health, as part of Bare Reality: 100 Women and Their Breasts. As of this week, each week of the five-week Kickstarter campaign, 41-year-old photographer Laura Dodsworth of Bare Reality will disseminate one woman’s photograph and story in an effort to engage followers, garner support and raise funds for the production and printing of her associated book.
“Women’s bodies have long been scrutinized and adored, criticized and controlled. I think that a conversation about the relationship between women’s bodies and their rights has been getting louder in recent years,” Dodsworth said. “The public and media response ranges from sexualized and also objectified, to an ever-increasing conservative, prurient form of feminism,” she explained.
Inspired by both the human body and human relationships and driven by socio-political and spiritual questions, the idea of Bare Reality was conceived about three years ago. “I have always been fascinated by the dichotomy between women’s personal lives and how they are depicted in the media; between how we feel about breasts privately and how they are presented for public consumption,” she said. “We see images of breasts everywhere in the media and yet images of ‘real’ breasts are taboo hidden away beneath clothes…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 also present an unobtainable ideal. If a model can’t live up to the idea of perfect breasts, how can anyone else?”
But the notion of privacy made public is both a complex and nuanced conversation, Dodsworth said. “The question isn’t whether breasts are shown in public or in the media, but who decides, who has the power? The woman? The media? The government? Social norms? Think of Amina Tyler, the former poster girl for Femen, and the slogan she painted on her bare breasts in Tunisia, a Muslim country: ‘My body belongs to me.’”
Thus in an effort to re-humanize women through honest photography and interviews, Dodsworth has presented their breasts as they are—reaching out to speak with women via social media and even going to lap dancing clubs. Among a variance of sexualities and ethnicities, 19-to-101-year-old burlesque dancers to Buddhist nuns, sized AAA to K, agreed to share their most public private parts to provide an in-depth understanding of their life experiences through their bodies.
While all 100 women had fascinating stories in common, Dodsworth said, “Breasts mean different things to different people. Their primary biological purpose is to feed our babies. At the same time, in Western culture they are considered a woman’s single most significant sexual attribute—our sexual calling cards. To some they are a symbol of motherhood and womanhood. They can be erogenous zones. Yet, to others, they bring disappointment, inconvenience and even health problems.”
10 of the aforementioned women have or have had breast cancer and thus with every book sold, £1.00 will be donated to Breast Cancer UK. “The interviews with breast cancer survivors were notable for their bravery and inspiring positivity,” Dodsworth said. “I hope they will also ignite an interest in breast cancer and the risk factors associated with the disease.
One in eight women in the UK will get breast cancer, but just three percent of cancer research goes towards prevention. Recently, there’s been a keen dedication to bringing breast cancer awareness to the forefront of the public health concerns, encouraging early diagnosis and researching effective treatments. “It seems to me that the big conversation we need to have next, in fact surely the most important conversation we need to have, is prevention,” Dodsworth said. “Breast Cancer UK is the only UK charity focused on primary prevention, which made my choice easy. Everyone who supports Bare Reality on Kickstarter is also supporting Breast Cancer UK.”
While she is not hoping to raise awareness of a single issue, however, Dodsworth said she does hope that the photographs and stories will inform, move and inspire people, and perhaps transform their relationships with their breasts. For herself, she explained, “[Bare Reality has] transformed how I feel about my breasts and my body. I feel more tender about myself as a woman and for the female experience in general. Now I am finally ready to share some of the project and hopefully—if the Kickstarter campaign hits its target—publish the book. I can only hope it will inspire and move others.”
Dodsworth’s photograph and story are the 100th in the book, where she, herself, describes in depth the motivations behind her social art project. Support her project, here.