'Beautiful' is a term that is frequently associated with women. From the time I was a little girl I wanted to be beautiful in the way that female icons like Grace Kelly were. Girls are pretty, women are beautiful. But what makes a woman beautiful? On one hand we all know that 'beauty is only skin deep' etc, but the reality is that from early on we learn that what is considered beautiful remains the decision of mass media and advertising. We are told that beauty lies in a pair of expensive shoes, in a bottle of perfume or behind an ever expanding range of makeup products, and we are told that this beauty all walks hand in hand with a fair amount of sexiness. Woman are photographed selling products to other women with sultry lips and partially exposed breasts. Magazine covers feature models with a 'come take me' pose, not men's magazines but ones designed specifically for the female market. The image of beauty we are sold is subtle yet ubiquitous and permeates throughout society.
It wasn't until I was in my early thirties that I started to grasp the difference between beautiful and sexy, subconsciously I felt that one could not exist without the other. I was no different to the masses of young women approaching adulthood today who post selfies on Facebook with lips pouted and bodies arched. Yet this pervasiveness does not belong entirely to teenage girls, a night out with friends is rarely over before someone has pouted at a smartphone to ensure their best side is seen on the impending Facebook feed.
Am I being critical of people wanting to look their best? Not at all, you'll even catch me wearing make-up occasionally, when I'm in the mood. What concerns me is the time and energy women devote to looking beautiful and equally lamenting over their flaws, never content with their imperfections. Imperfections which exist in us all but are never seen on overly touched up women in magazines where the image maker becomes painter in their goal to improve and improve until the subject ultimately presented before us is as much removed from reality as a cartoon character.
I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said before, we all know it, the thing is very few of us really believe that what we are is sufficient, is truly beautiful. We may try with all determination and sense of self-worth to combat the barrage of false imagery that comes our way, look in the mirror and say 'You are beautiful', but ultimately, and sadly, the battle remains. Hence, I've decided to put together a little project of my own which intends, in some small way, to paint an alternate reality to the conventional image of a 'beautiful woman'. And so, here it is.
These photos show Jenna pregnant with her first child. When you meet Jenna her warm, ear to ear smile and sparkling eyes make you feel special. Jenna's smile is her gift she gives freely to everyone who crosses her path.
What I love about Jenna is the confidence she has in herself. Jenna doesn't feel the need to cake herself in make up or dye her hair, she is content to present herself to the world just as she is, knowing that who she is, is enough.
This series was taken over a year ago now in a park near Jenna's home. She and her husband had been trying for a baby for sometime with many hiccups along the way before finally conceiving properly. I know that finding it difficult to have children can challenge a woman's feelings of completeness and cause them to question their identity, and for Jenna these feelings also raised their head. Ultimately it all turned out well, Jenna knew almost instantly that this pregnancy would stick. A year later and they now share their lives with a happy and healthy boy.
Jenna is a beautiful woman.