Photographer's '4th Trimester Project' Shows the Beauty of the Post-Baby Body (PHOTOS)

4th trimester bodies projectHow did you feel about your body right after giving birth? For most of us, pregnancy and childbirth leave us feeling like our bodies have been "ruined," or at least altered in ways we're not altogether thrilled about. But what if we could change that? What if we could see our post-baby bodies as powerful and beautiful? Pinup and boudoir photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson has made that her mission. Her 4th Trimester Bodies Project is a series of photos showing mothers' bodies in all their post-baby glory, seeing them through a loving, empowering lens.

So how did a pinup photographer end up focusing on post-baby bodies, anyway? We talked with Jackson to find out what her inspiration was and what these photos mean to her subjects.

More from The Stir: The Best Post-Pregnancy Body Article You'll Ever Read

Jackson began the project soon after becoming a mother herself. She experienced a very traumatic pregnancy and labor that left her struggling with her strange, new body. But she'd been thinking about issues of body image for women even before then. Through her work photographing everyday women looking to transform themselves through pinup photography, Jackson gained an innate sense of how women feel about themselves. No matter what her clients looked like, how traditionally beautiful or otherwise, everyone seemed to have body issues. Everyone felt they had flaws.

4th trimester bodies project

After Jackson had her baby and conceived the 4th Trimester Bodies project, she knew that in order to find subjects, she'd have to "pull the trigger, too." So the first photos were self-portraits. She posted her photos on Facebook (she didn't have a website yet), and invited her friends to join the project. She assumed it would be hard to get volunteers, but to her surprise, other women were eager to join the project. "It grew organically from friends, to friends of friends, and so on."

4th trimester bodies project

It could also have been her approach. Jackson has no screening process. "We don't ask a lot of questions," she says. All you have to be is a new mom willing to do a session. Once a subject arrives for a shoot, they start off slowly. Jackson has her subjects' hair and makeup done (lightly) even though most of the portraits are taken from the neck down. The hair and makeup session gives her a chance to visit a little with her subjects, and helps them get more comfortable and bring their guard down.

4th trimester bodies project

By the time Jackson goes to take the actual photos, her subjects are feeling more comfortable with the shoot, and it takes just a few minutes to take those photos. Then women stay to live-edit the photos with Jackson, giving them more of a say in how they're represented. It becomes a truly collaborative project.

4th trimester bodies project

And then the results -- not only are the photos arrestingly beautiful (as you can see), it's a "really empowering and transformative experience for all our subjects," Jackson says.

If you love this project, you can participate a couple of ways. You can volunteer as a subject or you can donate to the "FundRazr" campaign.

4th Trimester Bodies Project - Intro from Ashlee Wells Jackson on Vimeo.

Do you think you could ever feel comfortable posing for a photo like these?

 

Images via Ashlee Wells Jackson/4th Trimester Bodies Project

postpartum recovery, postpartum weight

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nonmember avatar Babe

It's called a gym membership....

mseelen mseelen

I would love to do something like that!

nonmember avatar mindy

Babe are you are parent because most moms dont have time for that. Plus no baby sitter or they dont trust people to watch their babies.

Brienna Hammer

Self-proclaimed "BABE7", YOU are what's wrong with women and why they feel horrible about themselves.  People come in all shapes and colors in all stages of life.  Who are you to judge them on their weight??  I bet someone somewhere has made you feel bad about yourself at a point in your life, and it crushed you.  Why would you do the same thing to them?  I'm sure someone has thought you were unattractive, and though I can not see you, I will tell you that they were right.  They were right because you have ugly and jugmental insides, and you say unnecssary things such as "It's called a gym membership" to what?  Make yourself feel better about something?  Maybe your ugly soul?  I'll pray for you.


 

Freela Freela

Hmmm... when I had a baby, I HAD a gym membership... just no time to get to the gym to use it, not medically cleared to exercise heavily, and still in the process of healing from the strenuous task of growing a human being in my abdomen and then pushing them out!  With a new baby, you do have a post-natal body that is different, and just as it took time to grow that baby, it takes time to return to normal, or whatever your 'new normal' point is where you are happy.


I'm 35 with three kids.  I have some stretch marks left over from my pregnancies.  But I can honestly say that I am in better shape, healthier in terms of diet and exercise, and have a lot more respect for my body than I did when I was 23 and pre-pregnancy.  Anyone who thinks a mom of a new baby should be at the gym instead of with the baby or healing or getting some rest is insane!

Raychel Hunter

Babe.. It takes 9+ months for our bodies to get bigger and have a baby, it takes WAY longer to get it back if ever. Stop being critical and instead be uplifting. We all need to stop judging each other, and be supportive.

Mommy... Mommyfreckles

I was 21 when I gave birth to my daughter (I'm 25 now). I lost all my baby weight plus some extra pounds. You'd think my tummy would "bounce right back", but no. My skin is so saggy. Its embarrassing and it has really affected my self esteem. I have increased my muscle tone and am more fit than ever before, yet the skin remains. I can pull my skin by a few inches. It's horrible, but I'm a mother and for some women, that is just apart of mother hood. Babe, next time you decide to comment about gyms, you should think that genetics, money, time and other factors really affect how a woman losing weight. Most women dont "bounce right back" no matter the time and effort they try to put into it. I was in a normal weight range before pregnancy and only gained 25lbs. I was in a normal weight range after having her as well and even lost extra weight (6lbs), so think before you speak.

Taisie Taisie

I did pretty much "bounce right back" after having my babies, or at least in terms of my weight. What did not return to normal quickly, or ever, was, and is, the excess skin I have from my stomach being stretched out by my gargantuan sized daughter (10lbs 8 oz, and 22 1/2 inches long!). My stretch marks are above my belly button even, and I have a  big ol' cesarean scar. It has been 26 years since I had my last child, and these things are still there despite the fact that I am just over 5'4 inches tall, and weigh only 120 lbs. I consider all my "imperfections" from pregnancy and child birth to be well earned "battle scars", and I wouldn't change a thing! Oh alright, I'll be honest, if I could afford it I just might get a "tummy tuck". No matter how much time I spend, and have spent in the gym, has done nothing for that stretched out belly skin.


I think this "4th trimester bodies project" is beautiful, as are the women who submitted thier pictures.

Blenderx Blenderx

After twins, my belly is neve going back to anything resembling what it used to.  Oh well!  I've got some cute boys out of the deal. 

nonmember avatar Stephanie

Brienna hammer- perfectly said.. I don't pray but hopefully you can do enough to help that person. You can't fix ugly on the inside. "Babe" is such a major part of what is wrong with the world. I think the photos are beautiful and so are the women. They are real and imperfect yet perfect. It's simply beautiful : )

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