When it comes to beauty standards photography is one of the go-to arbiters, if not the main one. Photographers like Mario Testino capturing iconic personalities such as Kate Moss have contributed to what we define as beautiful, even if unrealistic at times, setting and shaping the features that we associate with perfection.
However, the idea of beauty is taking a rapid shift. Expanding on a daily basis with the discovery of new faces and the inclusion of new values. We are no longer overwhelmed by flawless bodies, smooth skin textures and edited smiles.
This change comes along with a new wave of photographers. An inclusive change that allows everyone to feel more represented in the content we consume.
Here are some of the photographers that succeeded in breaking the mould and that we should all be following to further support this change:
Rob Woodcox’s photography is what you could call magic. His surrealistic perspective combines fascinating landscapes, human bodies and intricate composition. The Michigan raised photographer travels the world with the aim of capturing untold stories by presenting the concept of beauty as something that can be experienced on a daily basis and in any surrounding.
One of the recurrent elements that is highlighted in his work is nudity. As he explained in a recent interview with Vogue “it is the most vulnerable human expression” and therefore it is important to show its essence, representing every body type and glamorizing their individuality. His vision transforms natural beauty from something perceived as mundane to avant-garde.
Maxim Vakhovskiy is a photographer focusing on portraiture and the revitalization of natural beauty. From personal projects to commercial ones his raw style compels anyone. The neutral colour palette, the muted background, and the simple models create strong and mesmerizing images. His vision tends to celebrate African culture by concentrating on women of African descent and the characteristics associated with their country of origin, many of them in their simplest form, often nude or in clothing that embraces their diversity.
Vakhovskiy refers to himself as a perpetual muse seeker, every single one of his muses is photographed with a sense of admiration. His attention to detail highlights the model’s beauty and demonstrates the possibility of being confident in your body shape, no matter the form, in a de-sexualized and authentic way.
You may know Nikolas Ray as the photographer behind the label @chnge. His vibrant pictures represent a new manifestation of beauty. A manifestation that takes many forms and defies the idea that beauty simply relies on a face. His content is centered in immortalizing fleeting moments, in making his models feel comfortable beyond the image. This is evident by just taking a look at his Instagram feed, every single one of his images tells a story, whether it be of his grandparents and reminiscing childhood memories or portraits challenging hegemonic masculinity. He encourages a new approach and tries to validate everyone’s personal experience, even if at times controversial.
What sets out Kietzmann’s work from many other creatives is her moral incentive; to fill in the gap of visual representation in our society. The New York-based photographer is known for her focus on diversity, she creates an inspirational space for social change while delivering visually pleasing imagery. Her minimal portraiture work brings to light personal characteristics that would often be hidden. Those details that could make one feel vulnerable are the ones captured and praised through her lens.
Jeyza Gary’s photoshoot is one of the many challenging stereotypical beauty, empowering both her modes and audience to embrace every aspect themselves. By accentuating unique features she manages to obliterate boundaries while raising awareness on social stigma.
Guen Fiore is a young Italian photographer, currently based in London, who has managed to not only portray but romanticize her subjects and their interpretation of beauty. With a rather cinematic approach, she creates a tale based on the personal narrative of her ‘protagonist’ and delves into their intimacy. Her portraits are mostly of young women in their daily lives, either in their most intimate moments or their most public ones but the beauty is captured in the details of their actions and delicate gestures. Fiore’s photographs evoke a wide range of feelings, from happiness to nostalgia and even melancholy at times but what remains constant is the absence of a veil and limits to their self-expression. Once again, models are comfortable with their own bodies and emotions and through these images, we can be inspired to do the same.
Words by Chiara Ferrari
Graphics by Georgia Walters