Why our scars are beautiful and society’s views are not.
Updated: Jun 19
A Photographer's Passion Project: Changing the definition of beauty.
Your scars are beautiful.
I have spent the last few years of my life struggling with the concept of beauty. I stand in the mirror (38-years young I like to say) and am starting to grieve the loss of youthful beauty. I have been plagued with a terrible fear of getting "old" because society rarely calls older women beautiful. Men get to be silver foxes, and women, turn to hags. Guys can get road rash and it makes them cool, women tend to hide and are ashamed when we even have freaking pimples.
It's a pretty high standard to live up to, our breasts sag after children, our legs get cellulite, crows feet appear, wrinkly necks...... I can't tell you how many times as a photographer I am asked to edit out these "imperfections" and it breaks my heart.
I have to admit, many years ago, I modeled and was very comfortable in front of a camera - in fact, jumped in front of one anytime I could. Now, I feel the pressure of being perfect, I hear the echoes of those pressures in my client's pleas to alter their images and I hate it. For years I have hated the lines on my face, my thinning hair, and crow's feet, my cellulite and flabby arms, and I so intensely have wanted to band together with other women and redefine what beauty really means......
A few weeks ago, Tara Heinzen, an artist from Stockton, California, reached out to me to get headshots for a book who was publishing her story. Tara had made the courageous decision to have a double mastectomy when she began experiencing symptoms that her mother had experienced just before she was diagnosed with stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer. She followed the recommendations from her doctor to go through with a removal and reconstruction surgery in 2012. After she healed from this first surgery, she was continuously ill and suffered an incredible amount of pain and sickness from what she found out later was Breast Implant Illness. Through these past 8 years, instead of suggesting to remove her implants, her doctors continued to put her under the knife for a total of 16 surgeries. While healing, yet still not well from her 16th surgery, a friend sent her a Facebook group for Breast Implant Illness. After learning more, it became clear to her that she needed her implants removed, immediately. Of course, she was afraid of what she would look like, but a fierce drive emerged within her to face it so that she could live her life again. In August of 2019, she had her explant operation to wrap up a total of 17 surgeries within a seven and a half year span.
Her story is that the idea of what a woman is, or that breasts are a portion of the definition of feminine beauty was quite literally making her sick and it wasn't until she let that go did she feel the most beautiful. Her story moved me so much and ignited this passion project I have been dreaming about for years.
I am taking this moment to hopefully open some eyes and hearts, to those women who feel weakened by the pressures of society's definition of beautiful, or to think that those wrinkles and lines aren't stunning depictions of the wisdom you have, to be raw, to be open and to declare, in the words of Alessia Cara, No scars to your beautiful, we're stars and we're beautiful.
Below is a collection of images from what was supposed to be a simple headshot session, and turned into some of the most beautiful and powerful images I have ever taken. Thank you, Tara, for being real and honest, for being brave enough to show the world what real beauty is.
I am speechless.
Over the course of the next year, I will be looking to uplift and showcase courageous women just like Tara to model for me. I want to raise awareness and change the face of beauty in this world. Let's break beauty barriers together.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
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Photography by Preserve Studio