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Undressing for visibility: Project captures women's raw beauty

An Australian photographer is the behind the 'Underneath We Are Women' project, a photobook that aims to represent diversity through "100 women, 100 bodies 100 stories."

It's a pretty simple premise — ask women from all different walks of life, with different bodies to strip down to their underwear, and take a photo. But it's doing a bunch of good, and not just for the women being shot.  

Amy Herrmann first got the idea when she was revisiting an old university workbook. "I'd stuck in a Bonds advertisement featuring a woman in underwear, and it had a note from me beside it that said 'use different bodies'," she told Mashable Australia.  

So she asked four friends to pose for her. "The four women seemed to love the whole experience," she said. "I thought this might be something other women would want to do. I put up a post on Facebook and got all these women saying 'I'd love to participate in your project!' 

"And I thought 'This isn't a project, it's just me mucking around in a studio.' But then I realised that it was something that could really help women." 

Once Hermann set up a website with a registration form, hundreds of women were lining of to join in. 

One such woman who got a lot of the arguably confronting experience was Melbourne resident Johanna Tan. She tells Mashable, "It was exactly as I thought it would turn out: my soft, scarred body looked like it belonged in the glossiest of magazines." 

Hermann wants to photograph women in a way that's true to them. Her favourite part? "When we finish shooting … and we pop the photos on a computer. They start looking through and saying things like 'Oh, that’s pretty.' But as we go along ... there’s a shift in how they see themselves. They start saying things like 'I look really powerful in that one,' and I think that's what these women want."  

She continues: "The biggest thing for me is visibility. The bodies we see in general in the media, they're fine. There's nothing wrong with those bodies. But there's not much diversity. When people can see these images and they go ‘She's got a caesarian scar like I do' or whatever it is, there's something there that's relatable. 

"For men, the project is just as important. They need to see women in different phases of their lives, and women that have comes from different experiences as well.” 

Tan agrees. "If I've never seen someone who looks like me represented as glamorous and desirable, I will have a much harder time seeing myself as worthy of affection and attention."  

Hermann is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to produce the photobook, which will feature stories from each of the 100 women involved.  

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