By NICKY CHAMP
It’s an amazing thing, pregnancy and subsequently giving birth to life – yet, somehow in our society we have reduced new mothers to abstract bodies, waiting for them to bounce back into shape and judging them if they don’t.
Take a look at the image above, a woman stands front on to the camera, her two children at her side, their small hands rest either side of her stomach, its shape evidence that she carried them both for nine months.
It was the image that started photographer Jade Beall’s photography book project, A Beautiful Body, and one that resonated around the world.
The woman, is Lulani Gray and she is only 29 years old yet has lived in shame of her belly for over a decade after having her first child. Previous to the image going viral she lived in fear of exposing herself in a bathing suit or to her partner.
When Jade Beall published a series of self-portraits of her postpartum body online and subsequently the one of her friend Lulani Gray (the image above) on her studio’s Facebook page, it was shared over 4,500 times and received over 7,000 likes, but more than that it started a movement.
Beall has been contacted by hundreds of mothers the world over asking to be photographed. Not only from America and Australia but Spain, England, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, India, Kenya, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Belgian, Japan and many more.
“I had no idea that so many cultures around the world would resonate with my project. I knew that in my American culture, post-birth mothers are often shamed for not ‘bouncing back’ and have little support for their possibly remarkably changed post-birth body.
“I am overjoyed to know there are women around the world who wish to be seen and that this project might offer them healing and empower them to feel beautiful,” Beall told Mamamia exclusively.
The images, along with a chronicle of each mother’s journey from low self-esteem to proud kick ass mama will appear in A Beautiful Body. The book is volunteer-based and crowd-funded on community site, Kickstarter. It didn’t take long for the project to reach its goal of $20,000 and within the 33 days the project was on Kickstarter it recieved $58, 425 from 1,092 backers. Beall plans to use the extra money raise to help people travel to her studio to be apart of the project.
The project has no doubt hit a raw nerve with women and mothers in particular, yet one of the most surprising things about reaction to the images has been from men.