Though we seem to have grown more comfortable with it, women’s body hair is still stigmatized. Often viewed as unhygienic, unkempt, and unfeminine, the conversations around it cause many who choose to let their hair grow naturally feel ashamed. But one photographer is on a mission to not only normalize body hair, but to romanticize it. London-based photographer Ben Hopper embarked on a photo series entitled “Natural Beauty,” in which he captures women embracing their armpit hair with confidence.
The project initially launched in 2014, but regained recognition earlier this year when Hopper shared some of the stunning images to his Instagram, writing that it’s nice to see natural beauty going viral. The black and white portraits show body hair in a way that’s rarely attempted — as a sexy, beautiful part of the female body. Along with the images, the subjects also share a bit about their journey with body hair.
“My underarms were never ‘pretty’ or ‘feminine,'” subject Maya Felix wrote along with her picture. “I hated it and was made miserable by it… I certainly couldn’t afford regular waxing at the age when societal pressure kicked in.” She finished with a message to others: “Your body is beautiful, you don’t need to burn it with lasers.”
Another woman shared her experience after Hopper asked her to stop shaving for the purposes of the series: “Sometimes in a pub or any large gathering of slightly drunk people that I would get more questions about it, or was assumed to be a staunch feminist,” subject Olivia Murphy wrote. “On the whole though most people either didn’t notice or politely ignored it. I think overall the most obvious things I learnt doing this was that most people are grown up enough to not care, and if they do they’re mostly polite enough to just pretend they don’t see it.”
The images are beautiful and empowering. But, of course, they are being met with both praise and uncalled-for criticism. Hopefully soon, with the help of projects like this, women will feel comfortable in making such personal decisions only for themselves — whether that be to wear their body hair with pride or to remove it. Take a look at a few more shots from the stunning collection below, then click on over to Hopper’s website to see the full project.