Vaginas Are Beautiful: A Photo Project

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The best creative projects will leave a permanent impact on someone, whether that's the photographer, subject, or viewer. The best projects will move the world. Renowned sex and relationship expert Layla Martin set out to help women feel more comfortable in their own skin by showing them and their partners pictures of their genitalia, and the results are remarkably powerful and moving.

Martin describes the project as an attempt to capture the difference between how a woman and her partner view her body. There is certainly no shortage of videos and photo shoots that have the end goal of making people feel better about their bodies, but targeting a woman's vulva (colloquially referred to as the "vagina" by pretty much everyone) is a bit more of an unorthodox choice. But it shouldn't be, as it's a pervasive issue among women that's been swept under the rug. It's uncomfortable enough for most people to just say any number of words used to describe human sex organs, let alone have meaningful discussions about them. The fact of the matter is that over 70 percent of women are uncomfortable with at least some aspect their external sex, and even 50 percent of women have no idea what a "normal" vagina looks like. Everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin, and trying to reverse these statistics is a very noble cause.

The photo shoot itself is pretty straightforward: a ring flash, a camera, and a willing participant are all it takes to change lives. Aside from the intense and important subject matter, it's important to remember as a photographer and as a creative that the effectiveness of your work is measured by how it makes people feel. It's not about how many megapixels your camera has, how big your aperture gets, how few clothes your subject is wearing. Those are all merely tools and incomplete building blocks. Without a fully realized vision, you're left with merely a hollow shell regardless of how pretty that shell is.

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Sean Molin's picture

Sean Molin is an award-winning photographer out of Indianapolis who specializes in weddings, portraits, travel, and live music photography. He has had work featured in galleries and in magazines ranging from Popular Photography to Rolling Stone.

Coming from web development and IT, he's as much a geek for the gear as he is for taking photos.

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hollow shell = clam pun intended?

Different strokes

Girl with camera looks so excited :) She probably thinks about 60x40 canvas :)

Not sure I'd hang that on my wall, but hey, your things your thing.

They're not ALL beautiful. The participation trophy generation must be making their way into adulthood.

Very different shoot for sure but I really liked the interaction between the couples. The women seem so brave to participate. Proud of the guys for their support and understanding. Talking about uncomfortable things makes you strong. My 2 cents!

All the comments are from males. Interested to hear female response. Braves idea at any rate.

Hi. Female here! This is... interesting to me, to say the least. I guess I never realized I was supposed to care that much or have that much of an emotional embarrassment and/or connection to my vagina... Becuase I don't. lol

If you showed me a close up, I would probably just shrug and say, "Yup. That's what it looks like", and if you showed it to my husband, he'd probably just say something juvenile like, "All riiiiiiiiiight!"

But apparently some women need this so... more power to 'em. ::shrugs::

How amazingly refreshing you are!

I just laughed so hard. What a fantastically wonderful comment.

vagina or vulva?
it's not the same if you want to shoot a vagina (internal part of the female sex) with a 70-200 or the just the vulva which is the external part of the female sex...
My 2cts as a guy...

I mentioned it in the write-up, but vagina has become a widely accepted colloquialism for the external female sex organs, despite not being anatomically correct; much like how "literally" got used enough incorrectly for the dictionary to add the incorrect usage as a separate definition.

Words are defined by how we used them. It's certainly an interesting discussion!

While i understand the purpose of this "photo shoot" and its emotional impact for those that partake in it, i guess because i am a man, i dont see the purpose. All of the women i know dont feel embarrassed about their body parts. In fact the women i know cherish them. It seems more of a photo shoot exam of sorts with good lighting. But good for them in their per suite to feel better about them selves.

Women here :I find this to be a great thing! My business is centered around helping women find strength in the things they have been taught to fear and feel shame for. I also know that it isn't for everyone, but reading some of the comments I am seeing all the reasons I created my business . It isn't about putting a picture on the wall it's about seeing it and feeling good about it. I have pictures of myself from boudoir photo shoots and none of them are on a wall, but I pull them out when I need to be reminded that I am allowed to be a sensual woman! That my vagina isn't the evil so many are taught to believe.

Interesting to read your perspective. And interesting to understand that some women are taught their vaginas are evil. I had no idea...

It's not so much the actual words "your vagina is evil," but, at least in America, there is a widespread pervasive religious culture that shames sexuality, specifically for women.

Sad is women feel part of their anatomy as being shameful. Of small interest perhaps, but shameful? More power to strong women and women who support other females.

SMH. Just when I thought I had seen it all. So, being a female, let me get this straight: if women show images of their vaginas on "porn" websites, it is objectification of women. HOWEVER, this genius project.....well....this little project is just pure art and all-empowering. My boyfriend has been feeling a little down and unempowered/weak lately due to his corporate job....which, in turn, has made him feel like he has a small penis. He desperately needs to feel better about himself. I'm just going to suggest that he get pictures taken of his d*ck. That should do the trick. Anyways, bravo to this voyeuristic and clever sex/relationship expert.

I have so many questions. The most pressing is "did you watch the video in its entirety?" I ask, because your response seems to entirely miss the context presented.

Absolutely. And, I have a few questions, as well. One is, how is this different than if for example, I were to take my iPhone out and take a selfie of my vagina using its flash? This is just ridiculous, Sean, no matter how many ways you might be thinking of spinning this. It's offensive to me that we, as women, feel the need to see (but to especially to share this publicly for reasons, including validation, to address any insecurities, etc.) what are, essentially, macro shots, of our private parts. It's just boring, and I'm sorry that I'm not sorry if that offends you or anyone else.

You don't have to like it, and I'm not offended by anything you've said, but it is interesting that you are doubling down on totally ignoring/missing the point.

Almost as interesting as why you have yet to answer any of MY questions....

You asked one question: "how is this different than if for example, I were to take my iPhone out and take a selfie of my vagina using its flash?"

I think the video answers this very clearly. Some/many women have extreme self-esteem issues that are caused by any number of reasons that vary from person to person. This was a project to demonstrate that the way some women see themselves is not how others see them. It's not actual physical photo, it's using the photo as a mechanism to help someone through a problem they have.

If you don't have any major underlying self-esteem issues, than I'm happy for you. Consider yourself very lucky. But it's just silly and rude to be so dismissive and negative while downplaying something that is obviously really getting through in helping people.

So how is this different from just taking a selfie? I think these types of therapy tools only work in a structured environment where you're walked through it. Just taking a selfie wouldn't do anything, mostly because the people who would be best-served aren't going to just decide to do it themselves. Again, it's not about the actual photograph itself which is what you seem to keep alluding to.

We'll just have to agree to disagree. To me, this is neither art, therapy, or newsworthy, in my humble opinion. It's boring and something that could have just as easily been done in the privacy of their home while STILL being therapeutic, if that was indeed the result for these couples. Instead, this was made into a somewhat elaborate (though short) video production. One man talked about his wife's vagina and how it reminded him of their relationship at an earlier time or something to that effect.....ha, sure thing. Sorry if that sounds cynical to you, but I grew up with 4 brothers and have a husband.....and I guarantee that other emotions were swelling up inside these men, too. The therapist/photographer seems to have tried way too hard to make a clever video/photo series with an interesting story.....and, again, in my opinion (so I don't seem "rude" and hurt your feelings), it falls flat on its face. Finally, the whole scene with the bed in front of what appears to be a cyc wall gives the video a creepy feel with a tinge of voyeurism. It's nothing personal, Sean, for God's sake. You're a good writer, I'm sure a good photographer, etc. Do you want to keep going on about this? If not, great, because I have nothing more to say other than to say that I still love Fstoppers and will continue to visit this site as I do on a daily basis.

You are mistaking 'vagina' for 'VULVA'. Vagina is an internal organ and only the vaginal opening (vaginal introitus) is visible in the vulva. The lack of sex education is staggering!

Jesus Christ. Seriously? It's a vagina. Big whoop... Guess what? Most women have one... It's a part of human anatomy for Christ's sake.... It's not something to get all teary eyed about.... This whole buffoonery is definitely in the top three running for the libtard award of the century.

I'm not a doctor but i'll need to see those pics.....for science.

Curious as to why this was flagged as NSFW when the video doesn't show any nudity. Is simply using the word vagina in the article enough to flag it?