These beautiful compositions are an ode to the female body
Lotte van Raalte spent more than a year photographing 46 women, aged 13 to 94, and bundled the impressive result in her new book ‘BODY’.
All photography Lotte Van Raalte
Lotte van Raalte clearly remembers the moment she was captivated by the beautiful freckles on her producer’s face while she was working on a shoot – prompting her to want to capture them up close. Little did she know it would mark the beginning of an extensive project, lasting more than a year, during which she would explore the female body and skin in all its facets. A project that would open her eyes to the way stretchmarks, scars, moles, creases, wrinkles and blemishes together make up a body’s beauty. Over the course of 16 months, she shot 46 women, aged 13 to 94 – some of them strangers, others friends or family. On Friday she launches the impressive result during a solo exhibition in Amsterdam, together with her first book entitled BODY.
Lotte has been on our radar for quite some years now. Known for her crisp and colourful compositions, the 30-year-old photographer from Amsterdam has been making a name for herself, shooting campaigns for the likes of Arket, Stella McCartney and Adidas. Rather than photographing models stoically gazing into the camera, Lotte captures her subjects during those dynamic and candid in-between-moments. When her models are squinting their eyes against the sun with scrunched up noses, for example, or laughing in the camera while revealing gapped teeth. As her career took off, Lotte realised that the type of beauty she was looking for wasn’t always offered by modelling agents. Instead, she started to streetcast, sometimes with the help of a casting director friend, developing a keen eye for unconventional looks that could refresh her fashion photography.
The photographer began posting these beautiful compositions and portraits on her Instagram – as a celebration of diversity she encountered in her work. And then, last year, something unexpected happened. Lotte received a notification from the platform that her account was going to be shadow banned after it was reported by various users for its ‘explicit content’. Note that the so-called ‘explicit’ content she posted was nothing more than close-ups of the curve of a stomach, moles on a back, or a middle-aged woman’s sun-kissed cleavage.
“It made me feel really frustrated with the platform, which clearly not only censures the female body but also doesn’t really seem to be very consistent in its policy implementation. Compare it with Pornhub’s page for example, which showcases girls in their underwear, which do not receive the same treatment. My photos of women’s bodies are so far removed from that, so desexualised, but still end up being reported.” By bundling the photos in a book and hanging them in a gallery space, she was able to shield them from online scrutiny.
BODY is not only a statement against an industry long dominated by one-dimensional beauty ideals but, more importantly, it is an invitation to us spectators to interrogate our ideas about the female form. How do we respond to the realities of the body – to its colours, shapes, curves and textures? How do we deal with the fact that our bodies age and that we tend to look at them not always through the kindest lens?
“I noticed while photographing these women how they would liberate themselves from a certain feeling of shame. How they would start getting comfortable in their bodies,” Lotte explains. “I wanted these photos to have a raw quality to them but still be very beautiful. They needed to be powerful, but not provocative.” She adds: “The project’s collaborative nature was also very important to me: I really needed to listen closely how these women wanted to be captured. After the shoots I received an overwhelming amount of messages about how the shoot had made them look at their own bodies differently.”
Will the book be the end of the project? Her crowning achievement? “There will always be more bodies. I could continue this project until my own body gives up on me,” she answers.
The ‘BODY’ exhibition will run from January 17th till January 26th at gallery Vriend van Bavink in Amsterdam. Order your copy here.