Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Photo Recreation Project

I noticed it the very first time I opened a magazine.

I must really need those pants, I thought to myself, I don't look like that. A page later, I thought I would need some lash blast mascara, too. By the end of the magazine, I was looking for a way to ask my mom for a new eyeliner pencil, two facial cleansers, toning spray, high waisted pants, new leather boots (I already had two pairs), and a hair coloring because mine clearly wasn't cutting it anymore. I found a pretty convincing advertisement for a diet pill, too, but I knew my parents would never go for that.

I was twelve back then.

Since then, I have been haunted by those magazines. I self check-out at the grocery store so I won't have to look at them. And I'm not sure what bothers me most... The fact that they photoshop their models to distort true beauty, or that they openly promote sex appeal rather than the heart of a woman.

I avoid Victoria's Secret at all costs. And if the skimpy angels weren't bad enough, I saw a Dove Chocolate commercial once where a girl was wearing lingerie, eating chocolate covered strawberries (in slow motion of course). Her chestnut hair was chopped at her shoulders (as any Dove girl would have her hair match her chocolate), and her brown eyes would roll into the back of her head as she would indulge in the treat, licking her firetruck red lips while groaning toward the camera. Ahh yes. Eat Dove chocolate, and you can look just as glamorous as her. 

Every Cosmo girl knows that if you eat that much chocolate, you will not look like that. And besides, most girls I know eat chocolate in their sweatpants. Not in their bra.

That's when it hit me. These girls didn't just look fake because they were enhanced, filtered, altered, and distorted. They looked fake because it was only one aspect of their identity. And a lesser known aspect, at that.

It used to burn me up inside that women were expected to be so sexy. Like I said, I was twelve back then, and such a thing never occurred to me that I would one day be desired. I also grew up in church, which didn't necessarily help. Please understand: my faith is a huge aspect of who I am today, but women found in the southern churches I grew up in (much in contrast to the alluring women in advertisements) were tired women in thick stuffy sweaters and long denim skirts. I didn't want to be objectified, but I didn't want to be so conservatively trapped in my own turtlenecks either. Do I agree with the ideals of modesty and purity? Absolutely. But do I agree with diminishing the natural beauty God gave you and wrecking the feminine charm automatically instilled within your soul in an effort to remain "pure?" Gonna have to draw the line there.

Why are we only given two options as women? We are either sexy or ugly. We are either hot or unappealing. We are slutty or we are unfashionable.

Ladies... There is so much more that we could be.

What about happy? What about fun? What about enchanting? Is that even really possible? And if we are pure and stylish, if we have somehow managed to accomplish both together; why must we remain boring? 

Why can't we be modestly fashionable? Why can't we be whimsically appealing? Why can't we be both positively happy and powerfully sexy? 

It bothered me so much that I sought help to prove my point. A woman is not generic. She is not a standard model; there is no such thing. Therefore, she should not be portrayed one way. She should have more options than to be a seductive temptress or a goodie-two-shoes. She should be allowed to be completely and unapologetically herself. She should allure. That is an aspect of her identity. But she should also motivate, inspire, and encourage others around her.

I find those magazines plenty alluring. (Ehh, more like toxically addicting.) But I can't say I've ever found them motivating, inspiring, or encouraging.

Model Rachel Boekhaus agreed, and we partnered right away. Joined by photographers Nulifar Zaifi and Jamie Napier, we sought to create the same photo shoot two ways: one representing the alluring, captivating beauty of a woman, and the second representing the whimsical, playful side of a woman. The ending result was absolutely astounding, and we feel we were able to fully capture the identity of a woman, as so many advertisements and enhanced photos do not.

See for yourself...

Standardization is not possible. Not for politics, not for education, and certainly not for human beings. Don't buy in to the lies you are fed. (Or force fed.)

You are so much more than what you are told to be.

Be sure to tag us {@taxistotsandpolkadots} in your own photos of unfiltered beauty with the #PhotoRecreationProject. 

More photos by Jamie Napier can be found at Napier Portrait Collective
More photos by Nulifar Zaifi can be found at Zaifi Creative
More work by Rachel Boekhaus can be viewed at RachelBoekhaus.


  1. So you're telling us you've never bought a pair of VS underwear? Or even gone in the store?

    1. Didn't say that. Just said I avoid their store. I don't speak for everyone, but I know their ads make me feel inadequate. Personally, I don't shop there. There's no offense to anyone who does. :)