Displaying Postpartum Beauty Through Intimate Photographs

Displaying Postpartum Beauty Through Intimate Photographs

Even though postpartum bodies aren't something that our society likes to talk about or showcase for public display, we've all come from the same place so it's about time we started celebrating the processes women's bodies go through to bring a new life into this world. Which is why photographer Grace Elizabeth has created a "Gold Dust" project to look into postpartum motherhood.

The idea of creating a meaningful documentary project for this Essex, U.K.-based photographer arose through her interests of all things "motherhood, feminism, art, and photography." After finishing her photography degree and having done a dissertation on "the objectification of women and the male gaze," Elizabeth wanted to take on a personal project that's close to her heart.

Through her journey of creating a concept for her project, Elizabeth began researching the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which is "the beautiful art of repairing broken ceramic pots with gold; the idea being that they become more beautiful after they had been fixed, than before they were ever broken."

Taking partial inspiration from this school of thought, Elizabeth did not wish to focus on the "repair" aspect but rather to use "gold to highlight the beauty in something — this beauty being postpartum ladies' scars and stretchmarks." To attract her first subject, she put up a model call and ended up shooting a midwife, who's a mother of two and was more than happy to embrace the shoot concept.

The images are tender and timeless, all the while normalizing what the society has far too long considered unsightly. It's more likely you'll see celebrities and other regular women endorsing the concept that one must get back in shape immediately after giving birth, whether it's through natural means or laying on surgeon's table. We rarely see the scars, the changes in your body and the skin, although that is the most natural process in the world and yet we still choose to congratulate women on getting back in shape instead of asking "are you and your baby happy and healthy?"

If you'd like to get involved in the "Gold Dust" project, get in touch with Elizabeth.

Images used with permission of Grace Elizabeth.

Anete Lusina's picture

Anete Lusina is a photographer based in West Yorkshire, UK. You'll either find her shooting weddings, documentary, or street photography across the U.K. and Europe, or perhaps doing the occasional conceptual shoot.

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Easy to say as a guy.

The cesarean section is thousands of years old.

"Most women were having children jut [sic] fine long before the money making cesarean procedure was introduced." Except for the ones that died due to a host of labor complications that are alleviated (and have been for centuries) with cesarean births.

If nothing else, a fool with a loud mouth can be entertaining.

I'd tell you to quit while you're ahead if you hadn't lost from the get-go.

Read this site long enough, and his comments stop being entertaining. Read a headline and you can predict what he'll comment. Best to ignore him.

You don't get to tell people what's "best to do" here even if you think you have some sort of power over this forum. This isn't your little playground, so stop trying to silence others for disagreeing with your tactics or your positions.

This thread is evidence of a growing wave of resentment toward your ignorant posts and inflammatory methods.

And despite your attacks and threats, I'm still here...

Are "sientific" facts those that relate to the Italian city?


Don't become a #metoo subject dude.

Talking about the scars and stretch marks dude. You understand that many women (and men) get them right?

Uhh...no. (Edited...I should expand my thought...) It's a complete crap shoot as to how a woman's body will respond to the stresses of pregnancy and delivery. Some will get stretch marks. Some will not. Hell, I have stretch marks and I'm a thin man. Some overweight women will get away scott-free, some fit women will be ravaged by stretch marks. Every woman's skin is different. Gross generalization and a claim of scientific neutrality do not do the feat of child bearing any justice. We should absolutely admire women who take on the burden and gift of carrying a child. So yes, having stretch marks is beautiful and ok, and there is no way of reliably preventing them.

"We should absolutely admire women who take on the burden and gift of carrying a child." Very well said.


Sir, you are dead wrong. Your scientific facts are nonsense. Susceptibility to stretch marks and scarring are a result of skin tone, elasticity, weight, genetics, and environment. Simplifying it down to “not becoming fat” is just incorrect. Please point me to the scientific journals that show that being “fat” is the primary source of stretch marks. I’d love to be proven wrong.

Bob, you have a way of inflaming tempers in this site. If you want to put it down to a refusal to be PC or another reason, that’s fine. But you’re an intelligent man and I’m sure you know the response that some of your comments could potentially produce. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Also, I’m a lowly writer. If you have a legitimate grievance, I’m sure one of the editors would be happy to address it.

Bob, perhaps the phrase a I should have used was “You make your bed, you lie in it.” I care nothing for your or anyone else’s machismo.

On multiple occasions, you have passively needled people with language that is absolutely insulting. However, rather than saying “you are a so and so...” you say, “If you think this way you must be an ignoramus.” So, for you to stand back with your hands up and claim you always take the high road is disingenuous at best. I have defended no one. I’ve merely pointed out to you that the much of the drama you encounter on this site is of your own initiation.

So please, don’t attempt to pull the “I’m so disappointed in you” card. Everyone, including myself, needs to be able to look in the mirror and accept their portion of responsibility in a conflict.


Wow, trying to get people to come out against me? How low are you going to go on this witch hunt?

I know you're being sarcastic, but no, there is no evidence that this doesn't just normally happen in pregnancy. 90% of pregnant women have striae gravidarum (the scientific name for pregnancy stretch marks) and the root causes of it are inconclusive. Prenatal BMI is one predisposition, but so are equally family history, the gender of the baby, the mother's age and education level, and skin type. I pulled these actual facts (as opposed to the bs regurgitated on the top of this forum) from findings published in the National Center for Biotechnological Information, by the way.

What you were initially responding to is a fine example of what happens when someone speaks from an orifice other than their mouth.

Hmmm let me ask you something...do you have a problem with fat women?

Oh dude...I'm gonna go for a quick workout then grab a beer a popcorn. I think you just opened up a can o' whoop-ass up in here.

I really think there are a handful of things that just do not go with our thing...politics, religion and body-image issues.

and I sure hope you are super fit and good looking based on that commentary...sheesh.

This POS accused me of trolling and tried to get me banned from the site recently, and then he posts this ignorant inflammatory garbage? What a sad waste of space.

Great project, however. Powerful images.

Get off your high horse with your "silencing" and "dictatorship" martyrdom. I'm not the one trying to get someone kicked off the site because I got my feelings hurt when someone told me the truth.

The public admonition going on right now is directed toward your ignorance and inflammatory statements. And I have refuted your stupid points with facts that you have conveniently ignored.

Don't act like a POS, and I won't have to call you out on being one.

Bob Brady... Let's start with there are Regulations mandating that c-sections be medically necessary this rule has been in place for many years now. As a L&D nurse I see many thin/small women with stretch marks... as far as your science is concerned it has to do with the amount of collegen in your skin... black skin is less elastic than white... and as a women...I'm guessing your single.

{edited} Deleted my original comment because you are not worth wasting my time with a reply.

I'm going to have to follow your lead on this. At first, I felt it proper to call out abusive, ignorant trash here. But in this instance with this delusional hypocritical hack, best to back away.

Plus, he may try to silence you, pressure others to side with him through meandering tirades, and ban you from the site like he continues to do with me.

He obviously needs this forum to boost his ego and insesently claim his intelligence and moral high ground, as well as find a general sense of worth (at the expense of meaningful conversations on photography and culture, but I digress).

Pitiful, really. Good call.

The hypocrisy of trying to get you banned amazes me.

After a while, you'll start to see his comments are intentionally trying to incite a reaction from members of this site. In this day and age, I can't believe someone is that uneducated. If you watch how he words things, he's "gaming the system" so that he can't be banned. So, he must have intelligence, he's just using it poorly.

I do wish Fstoppers would finally kick him off. He ruins a lot of what is good about this site and he doesn't contribute anything of worth to the conversation.

So I just took a deeper look at this person and good lord, over 2500 comments?! Yeah, I have too much to do of meaning to engage with this nut. Thanks for the tip.

It is a shame he drags down conversations so constantly and predictably. But I guess everyone needs a hobby, lol (photography might be a more relevant one, however.)

I might disagree with you on the intelligence part. The posts I've read show more anger and loneliness than intelligence. He seems to get his jollies off getting people to respond by posting inflammatory rhetoric. Looks like he just needs to be heard.

Maybe I should start condemning men for their stretch marks. I guess body building is a result of getting fat really fast.

This is the last I am engaging in conversation with you. I'm sure you have some inflammatory response defending men's stretch marks. Your comments are boring and predictable.

Bob, I take your point that expressing a dissenting view should not lead to ire from others, but I guess there are different ways to do it. One that is gnomic, and one that is more along the lines of 'personally, I do not enjoy this project at all because I don't like stretch mark and this and that'. You mention scientific facts, maybe you would help your case by linking to studies or articles that would feed the debate in a more constructive light. Also, have you heard of scarification? I quote this article https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-africa/african-art-intro/a/ae... 'Among the Baule in Côte d'Ivoire, for example, a sculpture of the human figure should emphasize a strong muscular body, refined facial features, and elaborate hairstyle and SCARIFICATION PATTERNS, all of which reflect cultural ideals of civilized beauty'. Hence the danger of 'saying this or that is not ok'. It may be for some. It has been for some. I am not a big fan of this project either, but only my mum likes mine so it evens out.

Fact check: I called you a POS for what you did (trying to have me banned because you didn't like what I said), not for a dissenting view.

Which also makes you a hypocrite, because you've been banned from this site before. So quit whining: you're not the arbiter of morality and civil discourse on this forum.

Also: "I explain my reasonings for everything I say or believe in very simply and clearly." You didn't copy edit a sentence where you boast about the clarity of your explanations. That about sums you up here.

I've said all I am going to say to you on this matter; you're not worth it.

Well that's one long delusional rant.

Looks like you've proven my original "gem" that some lonely or helpless people just need a place to feel heard and vent. Thanks.

Now I'm going to take my own advice and ignore you.

Why on Earth would you say such a thing? No basis in fact, unnecessarily cruel and just plain rude. You are obviously a person with many issues who has failed to understand the point of the project. Why would you not just move past it if you do not like it? Please show some respect to these brave women trying to help others feel better about themselves.

What an amazing and powerful project.

In some ways it's a shame that the comments here got distracted by exactly the attitudes that a project like this is meant to work against. However, it's good that these conversations happen as they reveal the misogyny and closed minds that are too often the norm in modern society.

To not see the beauty in these images is to be blind to the importance of experience. Not seeing the beauty is to conform to stereotypical notions of what constitutes attractiveness as governed by a society that brainwashes young women into believing that the most important thing about them is their appearance. Of course scars can be beautiful; they can represent valuable, transformative, life-changing, life-affirming experiences. To understand them only as ugly is symptomatic of small, closed mind that can't see beyond superficiality. A life without scars is a life not lived, and for me, to find only ugliness there would be tragic.

I would like to see a project with men and their stretch marks from body building. Maybe it would educate the misogynist in this comment section.

I understand what you said, but sometimes I think the commenter on here is intentionally being obtuse.

Personally, I'm impressed with the creativity of the artist from this article. Highlighting scars and markings that are representative of the sacrifice one makes for the life of another by using an ancient Japanese ceramic method is ingenious.

Much more creative and generally beneficial to society than angrily posting on an internet forum all day, but I digress! :)

An article with examples of the original Japanese method for anyone interested: https://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/

Bob, I've neither the time nor the inclination to debate with you point by point. Our world views are so far apart that it's not worth the effort. I'm more interested in offering an alternative viewpoint, where beauty is more than what's on the surface, and where scars can be shown with pride because of the value of experience. My reason for posting was to show others reading these comments that misogyny and body-shaming should be subjected to scrutiny through alternative viewpoints, rather than being left unchallenged.

As mentioned, I'm not interested in a debate as I don't think it's productive. If you want to see that as my logic being flawed, then that's fine. And that's also part of the reason I'm not interested in a debate!

I'm happy that those with more malleable minds will read our words and hopefully consider that beauty is more than appearance, and that giving visibility to imperfection can be positive, healthy, and challenge the mainstream focus on superficiality, false ideals of perfection, and objectification.

Guys. This goes to everyone, here. Overall, please, can we limit the name-calling? It doesn't help anyone's case. I'd like to think we're all capable of intelligent, polite, mature conversation (and the disagreement that might come with it) without resorting to silly jabs that just upset people and completely detract from the merit of the work that we'd like to discuss.

This inflammatory stuff has to chill down just a bit. As to all the reporting of comments, reporting people isn't a way to get people banned because someone called you a mean name. However, that said, this is a bit out of hand. I'm not inclined to ban anyone or start deleting comments yet, but our position on that may change in the near-future depending on how this progresses (or rather, regresses).

Also (I can't believe I have to tell this to adults), calling someone a name or using a "bad word" isn't the only way to be inflammatory and rude. A number of people in the comments of this post (and elsewhere) have been inflammatory, crass, and impolite (that's putting it nicely) without using a single word our mothers would have scolded us for using in grade school. Again, please, can we just have polite disagreements with a grown-up approach?

We love different opinions. We love disagreements (how boring and depressing if we all just agreed). But please do so with a little a more understanding for people's opinions, hard work, and love of photography, and at least respond intelligently and politely. Trust me, your responses will inherently have more merit to them because of it. The minute anyone resorts to this stuff, it just completely detracts from both their own voiced opinions as well as from the actual topic being discussed.

Let's see if we can do better. Thanks.

I'm not pretending or claiming to be any type of person, liberal or otherwise. Not sure where that came from. But Bob, come on. My intolerance for dissenting views? Where? For what?

If you want to keep trolling me with this, go for it. But a lot of this is baseless and makes no sense.

I'm giving everyone (you, others, everyone...which logically means, well, everyone, because that's what it means) another chance to be kind and courteous and move on. If we can't do that, we'll approach this another way — simple as that. These comments aren't productive for the community or for furthering debate on photographic or even social/political topics.

You're right; this got way out of hand. I agree on all parts and will aim higher. Thanks for the post.

Thank YOU, Allen ;-)

I'm sorry. I wasn't going to participate and I'm ashamed to say that I got sucked into the thread.

Absolutely correct, and I'm sad to say I feel into the trap of engaging with such narrow-minded ignorance. Thank you for bringing the conversation back to the subject.

We know nothing of these women other than the sacrifice to their body they made for their children highlighted in these photographs. That conversation should devolve into minutiae over percentages of caesarians in the US (even though the photographer is from the UK, but whatever) is sick.

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