Activist Interview: Laura Dodsworth – Bare Reality


Laura Dodsworth

Photographer and creator of Bare Reality. My work is always a personal enquiry as much as it is an exploration of people, our loves, our lives and our place in the world. I have always been fascinated by the dichotomy between women’s personal lives and how they are depicted in the media; between how we feel about breasts privately and how they are presented for public consumption. Bare Reality is, for me, the inevitable result of being a woman, a feminist and a photographer. In everything I do I desire to connect deeply with people, practise integrity, and interpret and present their stories.
‘Deconstruct cultural myths, burst the fantasy bubble of ‘perfect’ media bodies and breasts. Redefine your body on your own terms in ways which are authentic and meaningful to you’
Bare Reality
Bare Reality: 100 women, their breasts, their stories’
100 women bare all, bravely sharing un-airbrished photographs of their breasts alongside honest, courageous and moving stories about their breasts and their lives. Breasts are interesting in themselves, and the sensitive, beautiful photographs in Bare Reality are visually refreshing, maybe even surprising to some. But more than that, in Bare Reality, breasts become catalysts for a personal and powerful conversation about what it means to be a woman. When we talk about breasts we talk about intimate aspects of our lives as women, such as growing uo, sexuality, motherhood, breastfeeding, relationships, body images, health, cancer and ageing.
What has been your favourite response to your work?
The response was quite overwhelming when I launched Bare Reality on Kickstarter. The video has been viewed 1.5 million times and there were articles all around the world. I’d worked on this project quietly for two years and barely told anyone what I was doing for months, so it was a huge contrast. Some of the messages people sent me were very moving and humbling. This one made me cry:
‘My wife and I just celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. When I came across ‘Bare Reality’ I knew that a contribution to your project would be one of the best gifts I had ever come up with. I decided to re-read the Kickstarter page, Guardian article and the other articles. The more I read, the more I heard her story echoed by others, the more I wanted to give. Eventually I started to cry, all of it just resonated. This is in every aspect a gift, or gifts really, to four generations of women in my family. What you are doing is history.’
Challenging body oppression in all forms is hugely important. But it can be taxing, how do you keep going?
Even when other people didn’t believe in the project, I believed it was important to explore, interpret and share our truth. I felt so disconnected from the cultural mirror around me and felt compelled to carry on. I grew up feeling as though I didn’t measure up to standards of beauty and behaviour. I didn’t understand what being a woman meant. Bare Reality is about 100 women’s voices and was a very personal exploration and redefinition of what it means to be a woman. This is how we look. This is how we feel. So, how to carry on with creative activism and challenging body oppression? Let your ideas and opinions change but never lose your self-belief and resilience. Find other like-minded people on the same journey and help each other. The more you look the more you will find other people trying to do similar things, and they can become your allies and, even better, friends.
What is your favourite thing about the activism you do?
I am deeply grateful to the women who took part in my project. I’m lucky I met them all. Their stories have moved me, opened my eyes, inspired me, and healed me. Thanks to them, I feel tender about my own experience as a woman and full of admiration and warmth for female experience. It was a huge personal, creative and emotional journey. I’m more interested in the journey than the destination, always. I feel blessed.