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?"

Postpartum Mother showing her belly.

A mother breastfeeding her baby.

A mother holding her baby by a window.

A newborn being breastfed.

A mother holding her newborn.

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

Images used with permission of Grace Elizabeth.

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Previous comments
Deleted Account's picture

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.

dennis young's picture

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.

Anonymous's picture

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.

Anonymous's picture

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.

Nikki Mann's picture

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.

Andy Day's picture

What an amazing and powerful project.

Andy Day's picture

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.

Deleted Account's picture

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.

Anonymous's picture

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! :)

Anonymous's picture

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

Andy Day's picture

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.

Andy Day's picture

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.

Adam Ottke's picture

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.

Adam Ottke's picture

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.

Anonymous's picture

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

Adam Ottke's picture

Thank YOU, Allen ;-)

Deleted Account's picture

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

Anonymous's picture

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.

Anonymous's picture

[Sorry, don't know why this posted twice] 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.

dennis young's picture

'Of course scars can represent valuable, transformative, life-changing, life-affirming experiences': you see, your sentence works also if you remove beauty from the equation.

One doesn't have to see beauty in something to interpret it correctly.

Not finding beauty, by the way, does NOT equate with finding ugliness.

Not seeing the beauty in something can come from a MYRIAD REASONS, so to state coolly that it is to 'conform to stereotypical notions of etc' seems to me like a gigantic impoverishing of the complexity of aesthetics, psychology and the human mind in general.

In my eyes you have committed the same mistake as Bob, that is: a sweeping statement that creates a necessary 'us' and 'them', especially when 'us' is here so underlined with the word 'good'. Aesthetics have never fared well with morality, history can teach you this.

A comments' section may not be the best place for a big dollop of subtlety, but the second best option is certainly not to simply reduce the spectrum of philosophical/commonsensical lights to a contrasty B&W.

Andy Day's picture

Yes of course. My comment is a simplification of a very complex subject, otherwise I'd be writing another MA thesis, - something I don't have time for.

As I said to Bob, I'm not interested in plumbing the details in a comments section. Instead I'm just briefly offering another viewpoint that's provocative and suitably polemic as a balance to the parochial misogyny presented elsewhere.

Rashad Hurani's picture


Anonymous's picture

Here's the mission statement and description straight from the artist (rather than the ramblings of some fools on a forum): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkzjVUqFM3Y