A new, empowering photo series courtesy of New Jersey professional photographer Jess Fielder is going viral — and for a good reason. The mother of two is reminding all of us “you don’t owe prettiness to anyone” with her “Project: Self Love,” a compilation of photos of women of all shapes and sizes, all with their own message.
Fielder’s inspiration for the project was a quote from Erin McKean, which reads:
“You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother. You don’t owe it to your children. You don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked female.”
She dressed each of the women “willing to bare not just their bodies but a little bit of their hearts” in black swimsuits and asked them to write down something “another person has said to them in their lives about their bodies that impacted their self confidence negatively.” Then she had them “write down something they know to be true of themselves that has nothing to do with physicality.”
“I loved the moment of seeing their faces and demeanors change when they held up the second card,” she exclaimed in her Facebook post. “They are all beautiful. Period. I hope that for at least those couple hours, they knew it to be true.”
“You would look prettier if you lost weight,” reads a card held up by one of Fielder’s models, looking sad.
The next photo features the same woman, with a lovely smile washed across her face. “I am compassionate,” the card reads.
“You need some meat on your bones,” says another.
In the following image, the same girl holds a sign saying, “I am confident.”
One mother holds up a card saying, “If you have kids you won’t be sexy anymore.”
She follows it with, “I am more beautiful after baby!”
In another photo, a woman stands with a sign that reads, “Wait until your metabolism kicks in.”
She follows it with, “I am super f*cking genuine.”
Another reads, “No one will ever love you.”
And she follows it up with, “I am a caregiver.”
The result is stunning to say the least. Fielder captured both the inner and outer beauty of every single woman who posed for her, some looking straight into her lens smiling, and others creatively captured looking pensively down or up into the sky.
As an individual who struggled with my own body image issues for several years, her project really gave me all the feels. I identified with the same society-imposed pressures to look a certain way that many of these women faced, as well as the negative impact that had on my self-esteem. It wasn’t until I finally realized my own self-worth was so much more than a number on a scale, the way my skin looked without makeup, or if I was prettier than the girl standing next to me, that my whole world evolved.
“The most important thing I wanted to address with this project is the fact that we are ALL so much more than our appearances and so much more than others’ opinions of us,” Fielder, who has a 6-year-old daughter, tells Babble about the project and about how she hopes it will teach her little girl about body love.
“This is something I don’t want her to question. I want her to grow up with body positivity everywhere. I want her knowing her worth. I don’t want her getting caught up in society’s expectations for her appearance. It’s a waste of time and she’s better than that. We all are. I feel this profound responsibility to teach her how to be a strong, confident, and brave woman. This project was her first big lesson.”
Amen to that.More On