With the goal of ‘normalizing nudity,’ a new photography project featuring naked Mormon women hopes to shed light on the religion’s strict codes of modesty.
Salt Lake City photographer Katrina Barker Anderson, who is a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, launched Mormon Women Bare in July 2013 and has so far had more than 30 Mormon women volunteer to be photographed.
‘I know that images can be very powerful tools for change,’ the 30-year-old told MailOnline. ‘For the women who chose to be photographed, this act of artistic expression helps them reclaim their bodies while protesting a system that has told them they must remain covered and careful.’
Mrs Anderson, who hopes people will view the images ‘with open minds and hearts,’ says the idea of Mormon Women Bare began in 2012 after several news stories surrounding modesty in Mormon culture came to light.
‘A story appeared in the Church’s children’s magazine about a young girl shaming her friend for not dressing “modestly” enough — the story involved a young girl wearing a skirt without tights,’ she explained.
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‘Then a BYU-Idaho student was not allowed to take a test because her jeans were too “form fitting”. And one of the Church’s magazines altered a Carl Bloch painting of angels by removing their wings and adding cap sleeves to their dresses. After hearing these stories and others, I became increasingly frustrated.’
Mrs Anderson hoped that she could answer some of her own burning questions though her project: ‘Why has the modesty culture of the LDS church gotten so extreme in the past few years and what can we do about it?’ she asked.
Despite the possibility of being reprimanded by their community, Mrs Anderson said it was ‘surprisingly easy to find volunteers.’
‘I think everyone who has volunteered has taken that possibility seriously, but has ultimately decided this project is worth that risk,’ she explained, adding that ‘as of now, no one has been reprimanded by church leaders.
‘I certainly hope it stays that way. I think this project is absolutely defensible artistically and is not a reason for church discipline.’
But Mrs Anderson also hopes that the photography series will touch American women outside of the religion.
‘By seeing what women really look like proves incredibly powerful,’ she said. ‘We are so bombarded with reasons to feel shame about our bodies.
‘Most of the images we see of women’s bodies are very thin, very “ideal”. In reality, very few of us fit that so-called ideal. It is unrealistic to expect all of us to be perfectly thin and sculpted, with perky breasts and no cellulite.
‘For women to see that other women are not perfect and yet are absolutely stunning is immensely affirming. . . Women of different shapes, sizes, and ages demonstrate that bodies need not bring shame but can be owned, celebrated, and honored.
Mrs Anderson strives to show diversity of age, body type, ethnicity and race in her project, however she admits that has come across several hurdles.
Kathy, pictured, said she wanted to show off her ‘abdomen so stretched by seven pregnancies,’ her ‘lopsided breasts’ and ‘upside-down butt that was flat and round in all the wrong spots’
‘Because I live in Utah, finding women of color has been difficult. Also, finding women over age 50 has been hard, although I do have a few older volunteers that I will be photographing soon.’
Mrs Anderson says she has received an outpouring of personal and positive reactions to her project, which she feels confident will continue.
‘I hope that women see this and have more compassion for themselves and their bodies. I hope that men see this and realize that women should not be objectified, even if seen nude.
‘I see the project as a celebration of women and the human form. I hope others see that as well.’
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