In yet another empowering photo series, tattooed women of all shapes and sizes take part in exploring the reality of the female body. In the series, the body is stripped of the ideals and pressures imposed by society and it is shown under a different light.
In Kacy Johnson's FEMALE, women participants bare their backs, giving Kacy's lens a view of their moles, tan lines, scars, bruises, tattoos, and indentations left from tight bras — all of which were instructed by society to stay the way they are — hidden.
Despite the facade of anonymity the women enveloped themselves in by exposing merely their backs, they unveil intimate sides of themselves before us by allowing us to see parts of them even they don't get the chance to view on a regular basis. From every tattoo and scar to every lovely curve and dimple, each photo tells a piece of a woman's story and the marks that they carry with them on their bodies. The very marks which they have been told tarnish their bodies are the very marks that make them beautiful — the kind of unspoken beauty we don't often see in the magazines and advertisements. Kacy Johnson shows them as they are in all their brazen glory.
“FEMALE is a collection of portraits that document the presence of anyone around with world that identifies as female, including both cis and non cisgender women, all ethnicities, ages, and shapes,” explains Johnson.
Unlike most projects that tackle women's body image, Johnson touches on the subject differently by asking her subjects to go bare in such a way that I can only describe as intimate anonymity. “Each portrait is shot nude, from the back, against a neutral backdrop. The project is collaborative in nature, and each woman is invited to author the caption that will accompany her portrait.”
“FEMALE is rooted in exploration of sexuality, gender, femininity, race, bodies, travel, and the artist's own struggle to figure out how to make beautiful photographs without being a part of the universe of images ‘perfected’ women that is so common to see in the media. The portraits focus on the body, but the body is really not the point.”
“Women are deep, complex and beautiful, and there is a lot to see and a lot to gain when we see the entirety of a woman. If we can resist covering up stretch marks and wrinkles, maybe we can allow women to feel complete and worthy exactly as they are and they will open up and share what is truly beautiful about them, things like emotion, intuition, understanding, inclusion.”
‘I've been working on FEMALE for two years now,’ Johnson told me. ‘I started shooting when I was living in Brazil, and I'm currently making portraits in San Francisco.’
It does not stop there. Kacy Johnson plans to expand her photo series by travelling to more cities. ‘I'll also do portraits in other US cities, and I hope to be able to travel to Asia, Europe, and Africa so that I can show women from around the world.’ She plans to take her adventure to South Africa early next year to expand the photo series even further.
Johnson emphasised that with the project, she is interested in:
‘understanding how realities of women differ from place to place, the threads that join us together, and how we can support one another’
Along with battle marks from tight bras to tan lines from short getaways, the women also wore their tattoos proudly as armor, as pieces of personal history. ‘Someone once said that my tattoos are a type of metaphorical armor and how they serve as a constant visual reminder of who I am and how I identify,’ says Dorothy, who showed off a large back tattoo.
The travelling photographer is currently seeking participants for FEMALE in San Francisco. You may reach Kacy on her Instagram.