is this real life

when i first heard that aimee was launching the is this real life project, i knew that i wanted to contribute my photography. my passion is creative writing and i try to remain very aware of the story that’s being told in front of my lens when i take photographs. my models come to me with a lot of trust and it’s my responsibility to capture their stories honestly, without covering anything up. i don’t ever airbrush photographs. instead, i like to highlight parts and functions of the body that are often shamed (or altogether hidden) for being too real. the stretch marks, scars, body hair, wrinkles, blood, sex, tears. the stuff that lets people know that they’re looking at a photograph of a real human person with thoughts and feelings and shit to say.

i shot fourteen models over fourteen days. before shooting, i asked my models to reflect on whether there was a story on their body that they wanted to tell through the photos. one model sat naked in tall grass hugging herself and caressing the acne scars on her back. “close your eyes,” i told her, “breathe through your mouth and take a moment to be with your body and thank it.” another model told me that the thing she has received the most shame for in her life is her voice. we put red face paint on her palm and she stamped her throat with a scarlet handprint to represent the pain of being silenced.

i got outside and adventured a little for this project. climbed trees, stole flowers from the side of the road, walked along the tops of trains. a highlight was stumbling upon a beautiful twig hut in the woods. six women met me there for a seance inspired shoot. we were mostly strangers when we arrived dressed in varying degrees of anxiety. as the shoot progressed, models peeled layers of clothing and nervousness from their backs until everyone was holding hands with their heads thrown back and their mouths wide open dancing in a circle. i witnessed an unraveling of ego as these women remembered the children they once were and shared love with themselves and those beside them freely.

for my personal contribution, i photographed myself having sex with my husband. we set up the camera on self-timer and began touching and kissing. he unclasped my bra, i bit his bottom lip, he ran his hands through my hair, i stroked the scar on his cheek. every so often, one of us pulled away to press the camera’s shutter button for another series of timed shots. when it comes to my body, the story i most wanted to tell is the one of how i survived abuse and learned to love again.

if there's a story written on your body that is yearning to be told, check out the is this real life project (@isthisreallifeproject) and founder aimee (@ripsnorter) on instagram.