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Meet the brave women sharing their journey of self-acceptance

For most people, being asked to be photographed in your swimsuit with no re-touching can be a very daunting thought. But that’s exactly what photographer Julie Adams asked of complete strangers. And the result?

A real, raw and relatable book titledThis is Me celebrating self-love and acceptance, at every age.

Mindful Life Founder Megan Gale is a contributor in the book and she sat down with Julie to find out everything from how the idea came about, to why she chose herself – a model – to be involved.

Megan: Congratulations on the launch of This is Me. Before This is Me was a book, it was a project that started in your local surf club  – can you tell us about that?

Julie: Being the Mother of two little girls – I had started to notice that even at primary school age body image had become a topic of conversation at home. Having grown up with a lot of friends who struggled with eating disorders and mental health issues it got me thinking a lot about how I nurture self confidence in my kids and raise girls who grow up feeling happy in their own skin.

Being a photographer I knew I played a role in this increasingly image based world and it started me thinking about how can I do a project that celebrates all women as unique individuals. I wanted to see all different women, of all ages stand up and really celebrate themselves.

I booked my local surf club – put up some flyers around the neighbourhood and literally invited the general public, women of all ages to come along and be photographed in their swimwear. The whole idea was to stand up and celebrate This is Me; natural and un-retouched.

Megan: It was an honour for me to be asked to not only write the foreword for the book, but also be photographed. I’m curious, what made you choose someone like me, a model – someone usually so comfortable in front of a camera – to be a part of the book?

Julie: I felt that having had such a phenomenal career as a model was a very interesting angle. It is an industry renowned for being highly critical and has set the tone over the years for what women perceive as ‘beauty’. I thought your experience of navigating that world throughout your career – would bring a rich insight to the foreword.

And most importantly; you are now a Mum to a beautiful little girl so I felt it was a topic you would feel strongly about.

Megan: Did you have any hesitations about asking me to be photographed in swimwear and un-retouched? 

Julie: I didn’t have any hesitations shooting you in the same way as the other women, and un-retouched felt like the right approach. However, I did realise that this was a lot to ask and I am just so grateful that you trusted me and what I was trying to achieve with the book.

Megan: Many women aren’t comfortable in their own skin and being photographed in a swimsuit can be pretty daunting…especially with no re-touching! How did you encourage the women you photographed to feel confident? 

Julie: It’s interesting, I think people making the decision to come, the decision to step in front of the lens – was the confidence step half done. As the fear of doing things can quite often be much greater than the action itself.

Even more daunting (in my opinion) was that the women were mostly shot with other women watching, as there was usually a queue. It was extraordinary though, all the women who took part were all so kind and taking part for all the right reasons – so it felt like a safe space for everyone.

Megan: Mums in particular can be hard on themselves after having a baby, is that something you witnessed? 

Julie: I found many of the mothers that took part were actually a little kinder to themselves. Many spoke of experiencing more self-doubt and body issues pre children – but becoming a mother had given them a greater respect for their body outside of just its appearance. Many too had experienced difficulties conceiving which also heightened their respect for what their bodies endured or overcame.

A lot of women actually came to the shoot with their daughters, a very special thing to do together.

Megan: What messages were these mums wanting to pass on to their daughters? 

Julie: I really sensed that mothers were trying to send a message to their daughters about loving themselves just the way they are, and for many mothers I’m sure they went outside of their own comfort zone to do this.

There were some mums with little babies and toddlers that wouldn’t understand the importance of the shoot – but I could tell instilling self-love was important to these mothers and they wanted to have these images for their children to reflect on.

I also thought the mums getting their mums to come along and take part was super special. There were women there in their 70’s and 80’s who had had such life journeys and were so at ease in front of the camera, many saying they wished they had been kinder to themselves when they were younger.

Megan: Many women who came to be photographed had important messages to share, is that right?

Julie: Without doubt as the shoots have progressed – more and more brave women have come along to say, This is Me and tell a little of their story. What began as a project about body image really evolved into a project about women’s journeys to self-love and acceptance. The amazing thing is, although so many of the stories are desperately sad all of these women are living to tell the story, they are sharing to help others, the book has an over whelming feeling of strength.

 

Megan: After this shoot, was the book a natural progression?

Julie: Straight after the first shoot – I knew this project should become a book. At the time I saw it very much as a book for the younger generation but as the project progressed and I realised that no one is immune to self-love issues – I knew it was a book for all women. There are women of all ages in the book – there is a message in there for everyone.

 

Megan: You collaborated with Georgie Abay (Founder of The Grace Tales) on the book and you’ve known each other for a while now. Tell us a little bit about your working relationship and how your partnership with This is Me came about.

Julie: I have been working with Georgie for about six years now. When we met Georgie was the deputy editor at Australian Vogue and she had just had her first child. Georgie had seen my images and contacted me as she wanted to launch a website for Mothers (that became The Grace Tales) and felt my work was a great fit. We met for coffee and have been working together ever since.

Megan: You’re a mum of two young girls, how do you teach them about healthy body image and embracing the way they look?

Julie: In a very grounded way I remind them all the time that I think they are beautiful … and not just externally but that they are beautiful people in their hearts. I think it’s nice to be reminded that your Mum thinks you’re beautiful just the way you are. We also joke a lot, the banter is always free flowing … there’s a lot of laughing at ourselves. The dinner conversation at home is very robust and there’s not much we don’t cover.

Both girls have been involved in the project since it was a spark of an idea, they have been at the shoots, they are in the book … they read all the women’s quotes … and I just hope that being a part of the projects journey will have a positive impact on them and how they feel about themselves.

 

Megan: Perfection is a dated concept, but still, something so many women strive for, how do you hope to change that perception through This is Me?

Julie: I am very much hoping that through This is Me  people will really acknowledge and recognise their unique beauty as an individual. A feeling that was discussed a lot throughout the project was the idea of ‘Perfectly imperfect’.

One of the women in the book Nadine Bush so beautifully sums it up, ‘I think society as a whole need to get over the obsession over this idea of perfection.  We are all perfectly imperfect, everything in this world is perfectly imperfect. I love the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi.

This is a concept or an aesthetic that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the cycle of growth and decay. If a teacup becomes cracked through daily use, that crack is looked at as a thing of beauty, this crack might even be filled in with gold to highlight the imperfection. I like this way of looking at life’.

Megan: How are you hoping women will feel after reading the book?

Julie: I am hoping it is a reminder to women of all ages that we are all special just the way we are.

I hope that through such a diverse range of women taking part and sharing their stories that women and girls may find someone in the book that really resonates with them and makes them feel a sense of joy.

At the end of the day, I want people to feel uplifted.

 

  • You can purchase your copy of This is Me by Julie Adams for RRP $39.95 via this link.