These women would rarely be photographed in fashion spreads, but Jodi Bieber’s daring and intimate collection of portraits reveals the very real beauty within each and every one of them.
What makes a woman beautiful? We all have about a thousand different answers, but the one word most of us will keep coming back to is ‘real.’ Maybe confidence and dignity are some others. ‘Inner beauty’ can sound like a contrived term, but the thing about inner beauty is that it radiates outwards. Someone with a beautiful spirit, mind and personality will necessarily look gorgeous and inviting and captivating- if only we can open our eyes to see it.
Conventional assumptions about what makes someone ‘beautiful’ have a way of clouding our vision. But I would challenge anyone to look through this images and not find at least one women who makes them think, ‘Wow: she’s beautiful.’ Or even, ‘She reminds me of me.’
Jodi Bieber is an acclaimed South African photographer who has worked on assignments for large publications like the New York Times, as well as special projects for non-profits such as Medicins Sans Frontieres, and her individual long-term projects that are exhibited internationally.
This collection of images, entitled ‘Real Beauty’ as inspired by the now famous Dove advertising campaign, shows real women who live in and around Bieber’s South African neighbourhood. When taking each portrait, she encouraged these women to explore their own personality and fantasies, revealing themselves as they really are and as they see themselves.
The portraits are unflinchingly intimate, and each woman looks proud and dignified. They are black and white and of all different shapes and sizes- but each real, and undeniably beautiful in their own unique way.
The women in the photograph above is called Brenda. She would never be featured in a fashion magazine; she will never be seen on the runways. But she is gorgeous. She is comfortable in her body. She is healthy and she takes pride in her appearance. And that strong, powerful attitude in her eyes makes us believe in her beauty. Of course she’s beautiful- and the elegant, understated tone of the photograph allows us to just see that without forcing it.
It’s a simple idea, but I think this is a really wonderful project, and the message is powerful. We all need a reminder sometimes about what it really means to be beautiful. And Bieber’s images drive that message home in such a gorgeous and inspiring way.
Check out more images here, or watch the video below!