We see breasts all the time. Online. In movies. On magazine covers. Across billboards. But how many varieties of breasts do we ever really see? Typically those readily available for public viewing are augmented or airbrushed — more than likely not what we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror.
Laura Dodsworth wanted to show what breasts really look like and tell their stories. So for two years she photographed breasts. The breasts of 100 women, all shapes and sizes, all with their own stories. Today the project culminates in the release of a book and the launch of an exhibition — ‘Bare Reality: 100 women, their breasts, their stories.’
Looking at some of the images on Laura’s website, it struck me how harsh I am on my own breasts. Before I had kids I didn’t really give them much thought. They were perky enough, suited my frame and didn’t get in the way when I was working out. After breastfeeding two babies (one for 13 months), it’s fair to say all the life has been sucked out of them. Don’t get me wrong, they’re ok. They’re just not what they once were. While I loved the act of breastfeeding — the empowerment, the bonding, the ritual — I didn’t like its effect on my breasts.
Of course I know — we all do — that all breasts are different. But it’s very rare to be faced with 100 topless women and given the opportunity to see exactly how different breasts can be. I can imagine my own breasts slotted into the grid. No better, no worse than any of the others. Just… different.
Photo credit: Copyright Laura Dodsworth
“I became fascinated with the dichotomy between how breasts are presented for public consumption versus how we feel about them privately,” Laura told me. “I felt compelled to look past the cultural mirror which had so long encircled me. What do women think about growing up? What do women think about sex? How do women feel about motherhood? Breastfeeding? What is our experience of health, body image, ageing? It is clear to me that Bare Reality was a search to find out what it means to be a woman.
“Bare Reality has completely transformed me,” Laura went on. “I have always liked women, but now I feel so tender about the female experience, and I like myself more as a woman. I have photographed 100 women and I know there is no such thing as ‘perfection’ — I like my breasts more. I hope that Bare Reality can help transform other people. I would like it to help people reconsider how they think and feel about their bodies and those of the women in their lives.”
The exhibition “Bare Reality: 100 women, their breasts, their stories” runs from June 5 to 11 at The Canvas, Hanbury Street, London. Order the book here.