Image: photographed by Ashley Armitage. Image source.
In this day and age we’re so used to seeing images of girlhood, womanhood and everything in between derailed by the sexualisation of the male gaze. But fortunately there are now some progressive female photographers subverting all of that and reclaiming the female gaze. Photographers like Ashley Armitage are focusing on shooting real bodies with all of their so-called flaws. “I think it’s important to show real bodies, and a various sample of bodies, so that we can oppose the toxic beauty standard,” Armitage explained to Catalogue.
With women like Armitage and her peers — Evangeline Davis and Maisie Cousins among them — producing more inclusive imagery now, it genuinely feels as though we’re moving towards a much broader definition of female beauty. One that is no longer restricted to a thin, white ‘ideal,’ but instead accepts all body types and allows the space to portray them in ways less sexual and more relatable than ever before. Through the lens of these five women in particular, womanhood has never looked quite so inspiring.
1) Maisie CousinsImage source.
Maisie Cousins takes hyper-saturated photos that explore the relationship between the beautiful and the grotesque. “Nature is always beautiful and also disgusting. Even the most beautiful people leak, bleed and shit,” she explains of her inspiration. This presents itself in extreme close ups of female body parts, juxtaposed against nature in bizarre and compelling ways. And the result is a certain raw femininity that feels far more genuine than the highly photoshopped and ‘perfect’ images we tend to see in glossy magazines.
2) Ashley ArmitageImage source.
Ashley Armitage doesn’t just reclaim the girliness through her saccharine pictures of tampons, razors and the like — she also believes it’s important for all minority voices to be represented in contemporary photography. “Women need to have a voice, transfolk need to have a voice, People of Colour need to have a voice, disabled people need to have a voice,” she explains. “Without a multitude of voices, we only hear one story, and one story is not the full picture.”
3) Faith Couch
Faith Couch, Instagram handle blackpowerprincess, is a photographer using the medium to highlight both the political and the personal, developing (in her words) “intimacy between the viewer and her works.” Examining what it is to identify as a Black, American woman via relationships with her friends as well as creating political works, Couch wants to “reinvent the image of Blackness through her photographs.” The results are amazing.
4) Harley WeirImage source.
Harley Weir’s images tend to make you look twice. Which is to say that there is often more than meets the eye when it comes to her imagery. Using illusion and hyper reality, she manages to render the female form in ways both original and yet reassuringly familiar. Brazen with her focus on public hair, bodily fluids and the like, Weir certainly isn’t shy when it comes to her depiction of relatable female beauty.
5) Collier SchorrImage source.
The sense of connection between photographer and subject is highly palpable in Collier Schorr’s work. Her imagery of prominent female figures like Amber Valetta or Jodie Foster are stripped back in a vulnerable way that takes a great deal of trust. And also allows us to see these women as we’ve never seen them before. Above all, Schorr’s images are incredibly sexy without being sexualised. There is an important distinction here and it’s an incredibly powerful one.
6) Evangeline DavisImage source.
Evangeline Davis is all about reasserting femininity. Pushing back against idealised beauty standards, she celebrates diversity through her beautiful book Touchy. “Touchy captures post-pubescent perspectives of femininity that transcend the struggle and shame of conformist ideals of beauty into a celebration of diversity,” she tells Catalogue. “It reflects on a period of life, relatable beyond the ages of these subjects; using features of body hair, stretch marks and menstruation to question society’s selective censorship of truth. I traveled throughout New Zealand and shot with over sixty female subjects.”
Liked this? Read more about some of these photographers here: