After a slew of instagram hate following her body positive imagery depicting women's body hair went viral, it would have been easy for Seattle based photographer Ashley Armitage to take a step back from her bare-all approach to photography. But this online hate didn't deter her from portraying a realistic, photoshop free depiction of the female form. Instead of bowing to the trolls, Armitage decided to push the boundaries of beauty standards further, shooting stretch marks, scars, spots and more.
“I had one person comment on one of my Instagram photos saying something like ‘I'll admit, at first I thought your pictures were gross, but then being exposed to them made me get used to them and see them as beautiful and normal’”, she says. ”Seeing these kind of images can be initially shocking because we're so inundated with images of women in the media being edited to perfection. But that's why these images are so important, because they show real women's bodies in ways that we aren't used to seeing.”
“I create images of the female body because historically these images have been controlled by men. We were always the painted and not the painters. I'm trying to take back what's ours and explore what it means to have a body that has always been defined by a male hand”– Ashley Armitage
And it's not surprising that even the most liberal of people can sometimes feel shocked when confronted with her imagery. So called ‘essential’ behaviour such as removing body hair and squeezing spots are all ingrained into women from a young age, with anything deterring from the strict standard implemented by the beauty industry labelled as abnormal or wrong.
However, as opposed to acting defensively against a society that shames our bodies, Armitage believes discomfort is a natural part of the normalising process, “up close photos force us to face this discomfort we find in female body shapes and eventually become comfortable with it. It is necessary for people to see a broader scope of bodies represented”
With the recent shocking news that over 94 percent of American teenage girls have experienced body shaming, (in comparison to only 64 percent of their male counterparts), it's clear that work like Armitage's is essential. With more young, female photographers redefining what it means to be beautiful and taking control of their own image, perhaps in five years time we'll see a change in the statistics that isn't so disheartening.