Elizabeth takes photos of mothers in their own homes, with their little ones (or pregnant bellies!), whether a few weeks postpartum or years postpartum, and decorates their scars with body-safe gold paint. As showcased in Love What Matters, her photos show new mothers breastfeeding or smiling down at their babies. In her latest project, she shoots close-ups of stretch marks and C-section scars. Instead of editing out or focusing away from scars, Elizabeth has chosen to highlight these “imperfections” and help new mothers find their beauty with the help of body paint.
“I feel that there is something very special about the connection between a mother and her baby,” Elizabeth tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I feel that the postpartum period of motherhood is often not documented, or rather that when it is, the focus is on the newborn rather than on mother and child and their journey.” In her photos, she shifts attention away from the newborns and to the mothers themselves.
In her experience photographing mothers, Elizabeth has seen the “dramatic” effects of pregnancy on women’s bodies. Postpartum women often struggle with body image, she says: “Many mothers feel body dysmorphic, and, from a mental perspective, many experience guilt and a lack of connection to their new stretch marks, scars, or other changes to their bodies, whether they are reversible or not.” Her project aims to help women feel more comfortable in their own, changed skin.
Elizabeth drew inspiration from the Japanese art of Kintsugi, a ceramic art in which broken ceramic pots are glued back together. But instead of making the pots look as they did before, Kintsugi artists use molten gold glue to highlight the broken pieces. “The concept is that the pots became more beautiful post being fixed, than before they were broken,” Elizabeth explains.
When Elizabeth decided to do a project focused on motherhood, she decided to use Kintsugi-inspired gold to highlight “imperfections.” “I absolutely did not want to focus on the women in my project as being ‘broken’ — because they are not, and their scars and stretch marks are not battle scars, but marks on their journeys to motherhood, which should be celebrated,” she explains. She chose body-safe gold paint to draw attention to the new aspects of mothers’ bodies.
The photo shoots have been therapeutic for the mothers, she says. Elizabeth travels to the mothers’ homes for each shoot, and she works to make the session a laid-back, comfortable experience. “All of the mothers across the project so far have been so encouraging and positive towards the work, and many have been shocked by just how many stripes, scars, and marks they have, and how beautiful they look when painted,” she says.
In the dozens of photos of mothers that Elizabeth has shot, her favorite also happens to feature a 6-year-old girl who calls her mother her “scar buddy.” She was born with spina bifida, and her mother had a C-section scar. “To paint it gold and see her face light up with excitement was just the best feeling in the world,” Elizabeth says. “She immediately showed it off to her sisters, and her mum since told me that it’s been very difficult to get her to wash it off, as she’s so proud.”
Whether or not your scars are painted in gold, these photographs can hopefully help mothers on the path to embracing their bodies just as they are.
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