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  • Writer's pictureMara Cabral

the beauty in women

A few weeks ago I launched a model call on my Facebook photography page in which I asked for a couple of women to do one studio photoshoot and one outdoor photoshoot. My main aim was to work on posing and light with one adult, as I am more familiar with working with children and families, often in a very spontaneous and natural way. I had a good response to this call and the thing that struck me the most was how many women asked to take part and/or nominated other people to take part, mentioning the fact that they could use a boost in their confidence. I have noticed through my work in photography that we, adults, are very self conscious in front of a camera. I have also noticed how vulnerable one can feel in front of a camera, but at the same time, how amazingly empowering it can be as an experience.

woman beauty penllergaer woods wales
The first model to be photographed in the context of this project: stunning Joelle

When I went through the list of all women willing to take part in this project, and their reasons for wanting to take part, which all had to do with, in one way or the other, improving their confidence, empowering them and stepping out of their comfort zones, I realized I couldn't turn anyone away. I realized I had a powerful project in hands and that it had to do with a lot more than posing and lighting. Photography for me has always been about the feelings. The emotions. The expressing of oneself. And what these women were asking was for the opportunity to express themselves in front of the camera. For the opportunity to be seen through different eyes. For the opportunity to celebrate who they are in all their beauty.

We live in a strange society. The way we look seems to be highly valued to the point that we are often left feeling inadequate for just being ourselves, but then, at the same time, we seem to be ashamed of spending time on ourselves. There are so many must do's in our lives, that spending time looking after us and celebrating who we are, sounds like self indulgent. We feel pressured to please so many people, to accomplish so many tasks, to comply with so many roles, that we often forget who we really are. We often forget we can and should be nothing more than who we really are. That being who we are is ok and wonderful. Which is why I think the lyrics from 'This is me' from the incredibly popular film 'The Greatest Showman' resonated so much with so many of us. They certainly did with me. They gave voice to something I had been feeling for a long time, that I want to reclaim the right to be myself, with pride and no judgement. And as I spoke to other people, I understood I wasn't the only one.

We need time and space to be us. And we need to be looked at for what we are, not what we are supposed to be. To have space to be who you are is empowering. It is also essential. And this is what I want to have in the project. I want to build a space where this amazing group of women can feel they can be themselves. Where they can step out of their comfort zones and express sides of themselves they want to express, whichever they are. This is a discovery process for all of us involved. For all these brave women taking part, and for me. I am discovering other sides of me as a photographer, as I step out of my comfort zone of capturing spontaneous children and step into capturing adults. Not trained models, but beautiful, amazing, wonderful, real people. People who are both vulnerable and powerful in front of the camera. Because once you are able to face your vulnerability, you become much more powerful. Beauty photography shouldn't be only for models. Beauty photography should be for everybody. Our bodies are not empty decorative shells, they carry a world inside them, and that world is who we are. I really believe that who we are shines through. When you place yourself in front of a camera, it's not only your body I want to capture, it's your personality. Your particular sort of beauty, yes, but you can't separate how you look from the light that comes from within. They come together, as long as we are willing to look carefully enough.

This journey has just began, and I am truly excited for what we have ahead of us.

The first shoot was with Joelle, a gorgeous young woman, mother to a beautiful toddler girl. I have only praise for her courage to face her insecurities and come in front of the camera. And as much as we can all clearly see she has nothing to be insecure about in front of the camera, insecurities are not rational. We all have them. We had an absolutely lovely session in a stunning setting and Joelle said she felt more relaxed as the session went on. I would have gone on forever photographing. Joelle is easy going and sweet, not only gorgeous on the outside, but with a beauty of personality that shines through. Thank you so much for this session, Joelle!

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