Currently scheduling portrait sessions in Detroit. If you're interested in participating in the project, please JOIN THE MOVEMENT
Click on each woman's portrait to read her personal reflection.
"Women's backs are naturally beautiful. We don't adorn them with makeup and generally keep them mostly covered. Yet, in reality, we are proud of them, they are the unseen support and strength of all we do." ______ Ruth Detroit, US
"I see this body and I am shocked. I've never seen my own back, so I don't recognize it. It's a relief, really. To see myself stripped away bare in a flat, unmoving photograph, free of the weight of the world. It's nice to see it like this. It makes me feel a little kinder, a little softer towards myself.
As a woman, the way I view my own body is never fixed. Somedays I feel completely let down that the rounded edges of my hips pinch too tightly in my jeans. Other days, the effortlessness in which I take one step and then another feels like an utter miracle. Then I am simply grateful, no matter the circumference of my thighs. To be able to get out of bed without thinking, to dance, to run, to climb, to stretch, to even just breathe seems like a gift on those days. Yet the world delivers a cold, strict vision on how you are supposed to take up or not take up space.
I've learned hard lessons on what it is to have your body become sick. Weak and vulnerable. Incapable and collapsing. A fragile vessel. A victim.
I've also learned the beauty in the opposite. My body is strong. My body is forgiving. My body is a seemingly impossible configuration of cells and fibers and energy that allows me to physically manifest anything that I want.
So why is it that somedays I feel like my shoulders are too broad? Why does that have to matter?
There's a relief to see my body frozen and freed like this. Still. Steady. Just shapes."
"My initial reaction to the photos was one of shock, and it quickly turned into disappointment and shame. My once, strong, toned back, is now soft with folds and some sagging, brought on by gaining 50lbs during pregnancy some 12 years ago. It is hard to process. I used to be an athlete, I exercised regularly. I held that strong, toned shape of my body dear to me. Maybe it was/is vanity. I keep thinking that I'm a mother, I should be happy that my body was sacrificed to bring another life into the world. And 99.99% of the time that's how I feel. But seeing my soft, shapeless back, brought up that 0.01% that wishes things were slightly different."
"Be bold & willing to be stretched
in your faith in rebuilding in loving others AND yourself in the goals you've set in giving of your time & resources in loving your city in shining your light
Be the woman God created you to be. Bold & Beautifully strong." ___________
Terra Detroit, US
"What's interesting to me is when I first saw my photo/s, that my initial reaction wasn't the same as my reaction to your other photos. And although I don't want to admit it, I think....it's because I'm so critical of myself. If I don't see me the way I want to see me, it's disappointing. And then to realize that after all these years - the teen years, my 20s, 30s, and now my 40s, I'm still so judgmental of my physical self...it's not where I want to be. (to clarify, I've never had an eating disorder or anything of that nature. I blame my father's absence, my sister's uber-intelligence which I did not get and the baptist church, in a nutshell.). I think part of it is getting older and feeling older physically. There is beauty in aging, but it is difficult to embrace in oneself. Not quite a revelation because I knew this about me, but the fact that I love, love, love all the other photos of the other women and not mine - that was definitely telling. And in a way, kind of a relief. Because, knowing that, that I'm so critical, means that the photos you took ARE in fact, beautiful, even though I may not have thought so initially (does that make sense?) There are so many pressures on women. (today and always, right!?). I think learning to love and accept yourself - your physical self, your internal self, what have you - is a constant process. But if we can do that, be in the process of learning to love ourselves, that a lot of those outside pressures would be easier to face and easier to overcome. For me, having two young daughters, this is very important to me. Can I teach them how to love themselves and be confident in who they are when I'm not always certain of my own self? I think the answer is yes. And that to me is really hopeful. That in spite of everything, I can still empower them and give them the confidence to celebrate their bodies and their inner beings and embrace all the things that make them different."
Lani Detroit, US
"Spirit. Human. Black Woman."
"I am human just like you.
This is my vessel and it carries my soul.
This is my vessel, and like a constellation, I'm marked by patterns of learning experiences.
I've learned to stand tall, taller, despite my height.
I've learned to say no when I disagree with the situation.
I've learned that I deserve better than allowing myself to be walked all over on by those who care little about my well-being.
I've learned to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be."
"We share this universe. The stars are ours. Each sunrise and sunset, shared. When the rainfalls, it kisses our cheeks. The lightning illuminates our hearts and the thunder reminds us to breathe. But this back? This back is mine. In all of it's strength and vulnerability; it's beauty and flaws it belongs to me and me alone. You can't read the words that have been etched into my spine and my foundation, but you know them by heart. You know the story because you're hearing through my eyes and feeling with your heart. My back is turned but don't mistake it for defeat. I will love without regret and not look back, but I will love myself first."
"My mother (in all of her Tlingit wisdom) has always taught me to embrace patterns of femininity. She let me know that our bodies transition with the seasons, skin tans in the summer and bellies plump during winter. Honestly, it’s not always easy to view my body in that light, but the fleeting nature of flesh encourages me to stay present and appreciate its subtleties."
Kirsten Detroit, US
"Upon seeing the photo, I was immediately struck with negative and judgmental feelings about my own body.
I am a huge proponent of feminism, body positivity and fucking beauty standards, but I really struggle to apply this to my own body.
Despite knowing in my rational brain that women have been taught from a young age that their value is appearance based, and that the standards of beauty are set by the patriarchy and perpetuated by companies that stand to gain monetarily by women’s insecurities, it’s difficult to feel acceptance and love towards myself.
I am more than my body. I am an artist and a teacher and a friend. It’s a continuing journey, and I’m grateful to this project for celebrating women and their bodies."
Meghan Detroit, US
"I hold my emotional stress in my back, and I feel varying levels of tension every day.
In this moment I was feeling insecure—"Is this angle flattering?" "What if I don't like the photo?" "What is the photographer thinking?" "Am I doing enough? Being enough? Why can't I do it all?"
But when I look at this picture, even though my mind was racing and jagged in thought, even though I was feeling anxious and my back was tight, I see a mellower side of myself. I see stillness. I see tenderness.
It’s a reminder to me that life is full of contrast—of joy and sorrow, bravery and fear, confidence and insecurity. That anger and laughter and comfort and heartache are normal. That it's about learning—over and over and over again—how to stand still, as I am here, and embrace it all. It's about learning how to stand or sit or lie, maybe even curl up and cry, with what is and work with it, not against it.
For when I accept my darkness and make an effort to understand it, it ends up giving me light.
This, to me, is the most beautiful paradox in life."
Brianna Detroit, US
"I live in my body, move in my body, feel in my body, yet don't always truly see it. What a feeling to really see my back for the first time. There's a deep beauty in the transition from lack of recognition, to a new perspective on my own strength."
"I used to always shy away from pictures that felt like they weren't my best me. Then as I got older and lived through things I didn't think I could live through I started to cherish the pictures that told me more stories than just my best self. I started to look back and feel that this person, this body, this woman. Survived. And that's a different level of beautiful. That's truth. And it's everything."
"an unnerving path of search and recovery...
i refuse to be silent and "sit pretty"
my body is mine
and my strength finds light thru solace
i'm a queer, butch, curvy woman and i harness beauty"
"Hair, once curly, now relaxed with age and laced with silver strands.
Neck, adorned with wedding jewelry made, lovingly, by a friend.
The clasp, a butterfly, symbol of transformation.
Shoulders, kissed by sun while cheering from the sideline.
Back, straight, grown strong from carrying responsibilities and woes.
Curves, inviting caresses, giving pleasure.
Hips, widened to make way for new life.
My body, a canvas where the story of my life is being written."
Leslie Detroit, US
"Among your mess & in all of your magic, you are worthy of knowing and loving. Give yourself permission to be you, without filter- in this very moment and every one after"
Rachel Detroit, US
"This is a great reminder of how I am growing into a woman. I am still maturing mentally, emotionally and physically, but I am glad I can stop, reflect and have pride in where I am today."
Allantè Detroit, US
"Seeing a part of my body I don't ever see so fully and naked is jarring, plus having a tumultuous history with my body and its changes made it feel intense. I was eager but also apprehensive because I know how complicated seeing photos of my body is for me. A photo I deem 'good' of myself can leave me feeling confident and 'good enough' for days, while a photo where I see the way my body looks negatively can take me out for days feeling, ugly, worthless, and not good enough. This is not a habit I'm proud of, in fact I'm real embarrassed of it. Hating my body is so uncool. I'd love to be one of those women who feel at home in their body, accept that their bodies are naturally ever changing, and confidently embrace their body as it is each day. The reality is I'm not there today at 27. I am closer than I was a year ago or even yesterday. The more exposure to body diversity I get, the easier it is to notice beauty in all sized bodies, and the easier it is to eventually see a speck of that in myself. I saw these photos instantly nitpicked everything from my tan lines to my posture, but sharing honestly how I feel about it makes me feel better. However, when women I think are beautiful talk about what they dislike or want to change in themselves, it makes me question myself and feel sad. So I don't have the solution but I think it lies somewhere in us all focusing on what we like more than our flaws."