Empowering Portrait Series Shows Mothers' Bodies as They Really Are

Empowering Portrait Series Shows Mothers' Bodies as They Really Are
Source: Ashlee D. Wells
Source: Ashlee D. Wells

Chicago based photographer Ashlee Dean Wells spent years hearing women critique their bodies in front of her.

Source: Ashlee D. Wells

"In doing intimate photography with women ... we started to hear a lot of dialogue from women about their flaws and inadequacies," Wells said. "I've had women tell me I can't photograph the right side of their face."

Source: Ashlee D. Wells

It was clear to Wells that many of the women she met as a photographer were struggling to feel good about their bodies — even though she thought they were beautiful.

Source: Ashlee D. Wells

But it wasn't until something happened in her own life to change her feelings about her body that Wells really felt like she understood. 

Source: Ashlee D. Wells

Wells' pregnancy with twins had complications — one of her daughters, Aurora, was stillborn, and the other, Nova, was delivered prematurely. Wells' own body had trouble healing after her c-section.

Source: Ashlee D. Wells

"All of that compounded to make me feel self loathing," Wells said. "I felt like less of a woman."

Source: Ashlee D. Wells

That's when Wells had the idea to begin photographing mothers. "I wanted for us to see bodies as beautiful." 

Source: Ashlee D. Wells

She started the 4th Trimester Bodies Project in June of 2013. Two months later, she took it on the road. She's even published a book of photographs from the series.

Source: Ashlee D. Wells

Since starting in 2013, Wells has photographed more than 1500 women in eight countries. 

Source: Ashlee D. Wells

"I have learned how strong and resilient and amazing women are," Wells said. "We're all so much the same, particularly when it comes to motherhood."