For this project I wanted to address taboos or topics people don’t often discuss. I originally wanted to focus on one culture such as my own Indian culture, or to address something related to the perception of women. I decided on the latter and kept it broad initially, deciding to cover different types of women. I chose the topic of women and body hair, as I felt it’s a subject that people don’t often discuss openly, reflecting the current state of mind within socially and within media of the perceptions and expectations of women and beauty.
I started creating photographs experimenting with documenting and exploring this. I initially started with documentary images, taking close ups of body parts to show hair on a women’s body, creating interesting landscapes, not knowing exactly what we’re looking at. Whilst I liked these, I realised that I wasn’t happy and that I wanted to create something different and beautiful and empowering, as women with body hair are often considered manly and ugly. I then did a shoot with a baptised Sikh woman. Some portraits were subtle, and some were more raw and ‘in your face’. Some portraits reflected editorial shots, and I wanted to pursue this further. I experimented combining the two styles to create something different and unusual, I received feedback on this saying it worked well, but equally questioning its subtlety, as it drew more attention to body hair rather than demonstrating its normality. I decided against doing this and developing this. Suggestions from my peers reflected interest in telling the story of body hair and normality within the Sikh culture, and this would still be accessible to all women.
I took photos of an English model, however because of her fine blonde hair the hair wasn’t clear enough. When comparing them to the photos of the Sikh model, I felt the latter told more of a story. I continued researching Sikh women and their experienced with body hair, as I realised it’d be a better route.
My images are presented as a pitch for an editorial spread within a magazine. The publication that interested me most was ‘the gentlewoman’. I felt it reflected the values of my project and that my photos matched its style. I designed a spread and front cover, with my project proposal accompanying the photos alongside a poem to inform readers.
Overall I’m happy how my project developed. I enjoyed exploring this topic learning about social norms and values. I faced many struggles along the way, e.g. how and where to photograph, what route to take, whether to niche it, and finding models. In future if I expanded, I’d do more casting calls as I struggled to find models with body hair at short notice. I would search for models earlier, and contact organisations, groups and societies. Niching the project allowed me to focus on one thing rather than many. If I were to develop this, I think it would be interesting to go deeper into the values and beliefs of a Sikh Woman and tell people more about this culture. Another possible route is to continue with body hair and photograph a larger variety of people. Another option could be to look at various other ‘taboo’ subjects to do with women and the perception of beauty.