'Body of Women': Hannah's Story

Hannah and I had been talking about doing this shoot for a while. It's scary organising to get naked in front of someone you don't know and often it can make all sorts of emotions surface which had been hidden. So we waited till it was right. I say this a lot, but it really is such an inspiring experience watching someone go through this experience and Hannah totally owned it. We'd already talked about why she wanted to take part, but when I read her story it really hit me all the negative thoughts about herself she'd had to overcome to get to this point. The photos were are part of that journey to self acceptance but it was Hannah who made it happen. So proud to have shared that with her and so grateful to her for taking part in the project.

In her own words (keep scrolling), here is Hannah's story and her favourite image from the set.

Body of Women:Hannah's Story
" When Naomi sent me the photos, I cried. I was away for the weekend with a new partner and 15 of my school friends in the middle of nowhere. The downloads were slow, on a phone in the corner of the lounge, trying to hide them from small children and a group of people who had known me for 18 years. I had put on weight but was also in a relationship where the man involved could not get enough of my body, and I had recently started to come to slowly accept that this was just what it looked like, and some people liked it, and maybe I liked it, and it could do all these wonderful things.
But when I saw the photos, it was there. My body. Everything about it hit me in the face with a magnitude I wasn’t expecting. How I feel about the tummy that has always and will always protrude further than I want it to, that is so ugly to me. My confusion about how the world will see a naked woman. The enormous spot that had erupted on my hip and stayed there for months. Feeling strong, feeling like I want to curl up in a ball and never let anyone see me naked again. The tattoos I’ll probably regret in a few years. My vagina, in the photos, over trimmed and shaved because I thought I should be neat on camera, but it doesn’t really look like her. So exposed. The big feet. The scar on my knee from falling off my (stationary) bike a few evenings before, tipsier than I should have been. The ovaries, the eggs, the womb inside, getting older, unsure about their role, waiting and not waiting to do something everyone tells me they should. The lips I love. My breasts, slightly sagging now, after years of my weight fluctuating as I try and make my body fit into this mould we women are always, constantly, unrelentingly told to conform to. The sexual assault - the one that gave me an anxiety disorder for a year and a half, the one that made me a fighting feminist, the one that made me feel like my body was no longer mine - it was written in ink over every inch of my pale flesh in every one of those photos. And then my partner's hands, all over it, erasing every last letter of the assault because together, at long last, he and I told the shit bag to go fuck himself - this body was mine, ours, and every new memory we made together with it removed my attackers violent hands until there was no trace left.
The shoot itself started difficult conversations with family members, finally telling them why I was so strange during that period, why relationships were hard, why I was always in my head. The day felt good - for the first time, I felt exposed and yet safe. My body was being so closely looked at, but it was not being judged, or sexualised. No one wanted to invade it. No one wanted to criticise it. It was just there, being a body. Trying not to fart or get too cold or be too hungry. Moving around rooms, lifting up limbs, standing, sitting - just doing all the things my body does.
When Naomi left, I cried (I’m a crier). Then I picked myself up and went to meet my partner. We drove to the coast and stayed in the world’s strangest B&B, that smelled like dog and had woodlice on the floor, and a bed with an electric blanket that creaked so loudly we had to make those body memories on the floor. We walked on the beach and sang 90s R&B at the top of our lungs in the car and ate terrible food and fought so hard the urge to tell each other that we loved each other, because it was too soon and because of all the terrifying things it implicated. And I didn’t think about my body once, about how it looked to him, whether my clothes were too tight, where it was going or what it was eating or whether it should do a shot of Apple Sourz in the pub (it did).
It was just mine. It was just me."

'Body of Women' is a platform for anyone who identifies as a woman to share their story about their body. Read more about it here. If you would like to be photographed for the project or just want to chat drop me a line: naomi@naomi-wood.com

Made My Wardrobe in Typical Girls Zine

So great to see Lydia Higginson talking about her project Made My Wardrobe in the latest issue of Typical Girls Zine alongside this portrait we took together earlier in the year.

Issue 3 of Typical Girls is available to preorder now, here. And throughout the summer Lydia is running a range of workshops, get involved with those here.

'Body of Women' - Mikaelas Story

If you haven’t already seen my last blog post introducing ‘Body of Women’ and the very personal story which started the whole thing off, give it a read here. Working with Jo on the photos was an incredible experience and as we work together now on the project, her story has inspired women to come forward for a whole range of reasons. Some very moving and all totally amazing.

Some have been on a journey of emotional change and for them the photos are a way of coming to terms with that change and owning their bodies again. For others it’s more about a physical change and how that physical change has led them on a journey. When I photographed Mikaela she was 7 months pregnant and bar a few totally normal nerves about being naked, amazingly relaxed and comfortable. She gave birth to her gorgeous son Otis back in September (he is totally adorable). Several months on, I wondered how she felt now looking back at the images and what effect being pregnant had on how she felt about her body.

Beautiful Mikaela for  'Body of Women'  last summer

Beautiful Mikaela for 'Body of Women' last summer

“It’s hard to say whether I feel super comfortable being naked, I think the relationship you have with your body is intertwined with a lot of things. But at that moment my body was changing really quickly, so quickly it was impossible to reflect on the magnitude of the situation. Even when I first looked at the photos, because I was still pregnant I didn’t see the beauty in my shape. Since giving birth to Otis I feel so proud of myself and my body for showing it’s strength. The photos are a record of the change I went through and a reminder of the power of my body.”

‘Body of Women’ is an ongoing project in which we aim to re evaluate the visual language used to talk about women’s bodies, record the stories they tell and celebrate their journeys. As the community of women taking part grows, we are looking for more women to share their story and collaborate with us. Get in touch by emailing me naomi@naomi-wood.com.

Happy International Women's Day to all of you