This incredible photography project by Sarah Hester brought women together in a raw and candid way to unleash their inner Goddess and be shot Naked in the Woods.
I came across some of her photographs and the brutally honest and heartfelt accounts spoken about the experience, and felt it had to be shared (with permission!)
The following extracts are copied from her blog —
“I approached a local group about doing a shoot naked in the woods. I made it clear that there wouldn’t be makeup or clothes or any editing done to their bodies. The idea was well received. VERY well received. Within a few days I had a group of nearly 100 willing to participate in the project. My visions for the project was to show what people really look like. To show how beautiful our bodies are without help from cosmetics or photoshop. Real life. Gritty and raw.
As the days counted down to the event the group numbers dwindled. We ended up with 16 amazing mothers who gathered in the woods for an all naked shoot. What I witnessed that day was wonderful, inspiring and absolutely beautiful! Here are some of the images and a few quotes from the those that participated.” SH
“Following along with a bit of my own reflections from yesterday. Body positivity didn’t become an active part of my life journey until motherhood. I wish I can say I implemented it successfully, but much of it has been trial and error met with pain and reluctant growth. In the last decade, my body has grown five little humans; endured the waves of fad diets, over exercising, and exhaustion; overcome the physical symptoms of mental, emotional, and sexual abuse; and, continues to adapt from the misconceptions of societal expectations and postpartum hormones. Being human is difficult, but raising humans is the most stressful, overwhelming, selfless yet equally rewarding part of existence. Somewhere along the path I realized that in all my effort to give my children a positive body image, I had forgotten how to love myself and provide the ultimate example. The thought of being naked in the woods with other women immediately spoke to my soul and brought much excitement, but on this day, life got hard. My ability to cope faded fast, and the day I had been looking forward to became an effort that I wasn’t sure I could acquire. In an emotional state of isolation, I could have easily stayed home but something pulled my spirit to my tribe; a place where social anxiety couldn’t survive and my soul was instantly recharged. It was an oddy natural experience that made me embrace who I am and give myself in ways that made me happy. My body has been put through the wringer, my mental and emotional health has been a battle, but I can truly say this experience affirms I’m happy and comfortable as I am, in my body. This life journey is a continuous strive for understanding and growth. Being amongst so many beautifully fierce and passionate women ignited hope that one day my physical appearance will not only be a positive representation of how I feel about myself, but my ability to care for myself as well as I care for others. Until then, thank you all for reminding me what it means to love and be raw without any inhibitions in every season of life.” – D
“Yesterday was the first time I’ve truly begun to love my postpartum body. I had come to be comfortable with self hatred which is why I was OK with doing this. (Doesn’t make sense, I know… But it was my reasoning.) While I know that I have room to improve my health, I am now pursuing health because I love my body and not because I hate it. Thank you all for sharing your vulnerability and making this happen. You all have inspired me with your confidence and the support you offer your fellow beings. Thanks especially to Sarah and her helpers for their time and effort to put this together for us. My life is changed because of you!” – A
“I love everyone, and I love all bodies. I am fairly comfortable with every body type! I have touched over 550 naked (or nearly naked) people in the last year because of my job. One thing that my job as a massage therapist has taught me is that: our bodies are all beautiful because they sustain our life, and house our souls. Even though we all look so very different we are all kinda the same! I hope this photoshoot goes insane viral, because I want all the people around the world to know what women look like. Real women, raw, untouched, and beautiful! I am so happy to have had this opportunity to do this with you all!” – B
“I’m a ball of emotions today. The photo shoot was lovely and everything I had hoped it would be. I’m so honored to have stood next to such sweet, loving, fierce, empowered people. And of course, Sarah has done an amazing job with the photos.
I’m going to be very honest and tell you that I’m so unhappy with how I look right now. Partially, I was unaware at how much weight I’ve gained. I’m actually shocked at what I look like. Having 2 babies in 2 years at 35&37 has taken a toll on me but I didn’t realize I allowed myself to gain so much weight. I don’t weigh myself and l haven’t had a full length mirror in over a year. I’m glad I did the shoot, but mad at myself for not taking better care of my body. I’ve given my kids and family all of myself and failed to save a piece for me.
Seeing all of this has made me sad, but also angry/determined to change things. I turn 40 in a few months and do not want to drag this weight into a new decade with me. So, thank you for the beauty of last night but also, the awareness to be healthy for myself again. 💜” – D
“All my life I was skinny, like I couldn’t even given blood in high school blood drives because I didn’t weigh enough and was a part of the itty bitty titty committee. Guys were always easier to talk to and hang out with cause I knew I wasn’t going to judged. I wanted to gain weight and have bigger boobs. I work at a pool during the summers and would literally eat snickers and Cheetos with nacho cheese all day long. Nothing.
When I got pregnant with my son, I gained over 40 pounds. I was bigger than I ever was and I don’t want to be. However, I gained 1 stretch mark on my tummy and all the rest on my boobs. They were huge! I went from a small B to a large DD. We struggled at the beginning of our breastfeeding journey but eventually made it to 15 months. I lost 30 pounds and was ok but not ok with my body. I learned to live with it.
Between the years of having my son and getting pregnant with my daughter, I lost a baby each year. The first was unsuspecting to us and I honestly wasn’t ready to have 2 under 2. Then I lost the baby and it hurt and hurt to have to re-tell everyone. There was no explanation as to why. That is when I very slowly started my journey to being healthier. The next year my husband and I took a motorcycle ride with friends. On our way home we had a wreck. He purposely threw me from the bike so I wouldn’t get hurt any worse. I ended up in a thorn bush and had blacked out. A week later I found out I was pregnant. This time we were ready, but because of the previous year we didn’t tell anyone. Two weeks later, I was going through a miscarriage. I literally hurt and my husband hurt worse than I because we both knew it was because of the motorcycle accident. I to ease my mind I trained and ran 2 5k runs. It helped so much. For the first time in my life I began to love to just run or walk.
The next year I became pregnant with my rainbow baby. I vowed to myself to not gain so much because I wanted to be healthier and more fit. I succeeded, I only gained 19.5 pounds. We were both happy and healthy. Through the next 2 years I was happy and learning to love that my body was ok and housed 4 humans even if for a short time. Then, I started to not feel like myself. I started gaining weight, I was tired, I was sad, I was depressed, i began hating how I looked again. I was nothing that was the normal for me. I finally went to a doctor and found out I had an autoimmune thyroid disease. It’s been a long year of healing and changing everything.
I am still not completely happy with my body and I was even more nervous for this photo shoot with a bunch of other women. Women scare me, because I know how judgey they can be. I was late getting to the location and when I walked up everyone was naked already. I thought I made a mistake, I was nervous but I pushed through it and quietly took my clothes off and sat down trying not to make a scene. My confidences was stripped with my clothes, but by the end of the shoot I had gained it back and was inspired to see how everyone was exuding confidence as if nothing was wrong. Thank you all!” – S
“I am not entirely sure how to start this out.. I have written, erased, and rewritten my words over and over and every time they still feel clumsy and rambling, but nevertheless- here we go!
When I saw Sarah post about this project I felt an immediate calling to be a part of it. I’m not sure where this urge came from because I am pretty much a hermit, my social anxiety makes me feel awkward and out of place in basically every situation, so I usually avoid group outings at any cost! In addition to that, I have not been at all happy or comfortable in my skin since I gave birth to my daughter in 2010. Before getting pregnant I was in decent shape, I danced ballet for many years as a child and into early adulthood. When I stopped dancing I had somewhat maintained my body- though I was completely unhealthy in my habits. These unhealthy habits, coupled with pregnancy depression caused a 100+ pound weight gain. My new body never felt right to me, I was completely uncomfortable with the marsupial pouch and pendulous breasts I developed. My body didn’t ‘bounce back’ because even after 6 years, and another baby, I never lost the original baby weight. Even before the weight gain I have never really had a positive body image so one can imagine what an extra 100 pounds did for my self esteem. Instead of looking at the miracles my body had created, and nourished, all I could see was the industry standard ‘fat, and ugly.’ I have started the slow and steady journey to get healthy in body- but most importantly in my mind. I think that is the main reason I wanted to do this project- I need to start being my loudest cheerleader, instead of my worst critic.
I’m not sure what I expected to get out of this experience. Half of me was filled with excitement, and the other half was completely terrified of the idea. I spoke with my family about it and received surprisingly positive feedback. I began to evaluate my insecurities. I worried about seeing the juxtaposition of my shape next to women way more beautiful.. I didn’t expect to feel like Cinderella, suddenly transformed into a beautiful butterfly.. But I hoped that seeing the differences and similarities might help me, and other women, stop being so critical. When I look at other women I always see their beauty- why can’t I look at myself in the same light?
Now having participated I can’t say that I am in love with my current form, but having interacted with so many women it has helped tremendously for me to see we all have essentially the same insecurities. Seeing women, who in my eyes are amazingly gorgeous, and hearing they are uncomfortable or unhappy with parts of themselves too has helped me realize that I am not alone and to come to terms with my own unrealistic and self depreciating feelings.
I’m a work in progress, and I am taking steps to be healthy, and lose weight in the process. I’m immensely proud of being able to push passed my insecurities, push passed my intense social anxiety, and let myself be completely vulnerable in front of so many strangers. This has helped me be able to see myself as (I hope) others might- not with criticism, but with love and appreciation.” – K
This adventure has really inspired us at PN and we are so thrilled to share it with you. Please check out Sarah’s website to see her beautiful photography and more shots from this awe-inspiring series. A Body Positive Experience