For every few million images of an airbrushed model posing on a billboard comes one attempt to counteract the effect those images have on women. The newest uses unfussy nude photography of average women from across the world to showcase what the girl next door really looks like.
The Nu Project is a series of nude photographs of your average woman. While so much professional photography uses Photoshopped, unattainable images of women, The Nu Project showcases little traditional “glamour” and opts for the absolute reality of exactly how women look. The photographs are unapologetic about stomach rolls, scars, tattoos, and hair (or lack thereof).
It’s similar to what we saw with the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, which used “real women” in its campaigns. Even still, the women in those campaigns were still above “average,” in weight and looks, and far from all-natural. It was brilliant marketing that a company that sold products to reverse the effects of aging, to improve your hair, and to firm up your skin was simultaneously telling you that you are perfect just the way you are. The Dove campaign may have had pure roots, but it was ultimately all about being prettier.
But The Nu Project is different since it has no product to sell other than to show women what other women around the world look like. A lot of women—especially girls—can get tied up in feeling isolated by the images we see of other women. ‘Plus-size’ models are just barely the average size of a woman. Every female-centric magazine boasts new ways to lose weight or get better skin or ways that you’re probably having sex wrong. Men can gain weight in the public eye but women can’t. Not even if they’re pregnant.
There’s great power in showing an honest portrayal of what real women really look like. The uneven breasts, the skinny arms—there’s a representation of virtually every female body type. And when you feel like you’re a freak, and your body is rebelling against you, and you can’t make it look and feel the way you think it should, seeing someone else have some pride in how they look (just like you!) is a powerful thing. It’s in the same vein as the Show Your Vagina Tumblr. (NSFW)
It’s easy for nude images to become hyper-sexualized, but the photographs are so factual in their own right. It’s not about sex or being sexy or even being attractive. That’s one of the flaws of Dove’s old campaign: the images were altered to be more digestible to the viewer, and more palatable to women who want to look like something else.
Admittedly, not all the images in The Nu Project are perfect, but that might be the point.”There are a few that make me flinch,” wrote one woman in a testimonial about the photographs taken of her. “Even so…that some of the images are really, really lovely helps me remind myself to be compassionate towards my body’s struggles to find equilibrium.”
And I don’t know any woman, supermodel or not, who can’t use some body-image compassion.
Image credit: The Nu Project