More than 100 women ranging in age from 40 to 99 are featured in a new photography book by Angelika Buettner, who sought to illustrate the women’s ageless beauty through nude photographs paired with essays, quotes and poems. The book, I AM: Celebrating the Perfect Imperfect, showcases 121 photographs and aims to challenge traditional notions of age and beauty.
I cherish the process of creating art from photographing the female body in all its ages, shapes and ethnicities. I hope this book serves as a reminder or wake-up call that we, as a society, need to create a more truthful world that places more value on women’s thoughts and feelings rather than on their outer appearances. We must all participate in creating a better, more loving and respectful world.
A German photographer who has lived in Paris and currently resides in Connecticut, Buettner had noticed how few older women were depicted in advertisements and editorials and how younger models were heavily airbrushed.
“There were no real women,” she explained in a phone interview, before explaining how the idea for her project developed. “I can’t remember the initial click but it grew in me.”
Buettner then spent several years developing her project in Paris and completed the work after moving to New York. Before each session, she first spoke to the women to find out more about how they would like to be depicted.
“How do you see yourself? Do you have any element that features you? What’s your story?” Buettner explained.
Photographs were then made in a variety of settings such as the snow-covered Manhattan Bridge, a pool, and a New York City rooftop. In addition, some women were featured taking part in activities like riding a horse.
“I decided that is the only truth,” she said of her decision to photograph women in the nude. “Once you start with accessories or even lingerie and bras you start behaving differently.”
Buettner noted that none of the images were retouched, and she conducted the photography sessions alone – without a makeup artist or stylist – so as to help each woman feel comfortable. She mostly used daylight or ambient lighting. Each photograph is also accompanied by text created by the women to allow them to tell their own personal stories.
For example, Chiara D’Agostino’s photograph appears beside her narrative of her journey of self-love following her battles with breast cancer. “Am I still a woman without breasts?” D’Agostino wrote. “I’m the same person inside [without them], and I believe we shine from the inside out, so sexy and beautiful is how I feel about myself.”
Buettner said her work is intended for all women – as well as men – who see the unattainable portrayals of women in the media. Instead, she hopes her photographs help viewers to overcome any fear they might have of being judged.
As you are, you are perfect so don’t try to change – just accept and love yourself.
In order to further share these stories, Buettner collaborated with Karen Williams, a model and advocate for “Empowered Aging,” to create 15 video interviews with the women featured in I AM. Several of these previews are available on YouTube and IGTV, and the full series is expected to be released on YouTube this year.
Buettner’s work was also featured in Foto Femme United’s C*nsorsh*p popup show in Paris, which opened March 12 and has since closed due to concerns over the coronavirus.