Empowering Portrait Series Shows Mothers' Bodies as They Really Are

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

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

Source: Ashlee D. Wells
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Source: Ashlee D. Wells

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

Source: Ashlee D. Wells
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."