Becoming a Woman:
When I began this project, it was about my own reflections and reactions of being and becoming a woman. It began as a study of me and my curiosity of why I think the way I do. It progressed into a study of many different women – their beauty, differences, and emotions.
Ever since I can remember, the idea of womanhood has fascinated and frightened me. I have always found women to be beautiful - all types of women - and have routinely been intrigued by the way they change as they grow and mature, as well as by the tribulations they go through in various stages of womanhood.
As a young child, I always preferred playing in the dirt to playing house. A bath was never at the top of my list of priorities. Today I still feel the same way. Does the dirt under my fingernails make me less of a woman? I enjoy spending my Sundays with my tool belt, drinking a beer out of the bottle, working on my house. I know this doesn't make me less of a woman, but I still cannot help to ponder the idea.
I always wonder why an act of buying a pair of shoes or a skirt is such a daunting task but searching for a new saw on a Saturday night is pure bliss. I lose track of time in a hardware store, but the idea of spending all day in a clothing store changing over and over again is exhausting.
Still, I cannot help but be fascinated by the beauty of a well-groomed woman with a French manicure and a purse to match her coat that goes with her heels. Even the thought of all that coordination impresses me.
This work is about women, including myself. I started photographing myself in the act of or at the end of a day of work. Often, tools still in hand, I would head up to my barn to record the end of a long day. I photographed myself nude or in whatever I had underneath my work clothes. Lace combined with dirty tools creates an interesting contrast and a fairly accurate self-portrait.
In the introductory self portraits the mannequin heads I wear range from a span of decades. They all look quite different because of the different skin tones, eye colors, and makeup, but when you get close, you can see that they are all the same symmetrical face. I am not attempting to create an “ideal” woman – I’m only toying with the ideas of building her if I were to use sources - such as the media - as my guidebook.
The near life-size photographs of “real” women depict women from ages twenties to seventies. I wanted to show an eclectic group of women with various body types at different places in their lives. (these are not on the site, but email me if you would like to see them)
Each woman’s feelings about being photographed are prevalent in her portrait. Printing these images large allows the viewer to feel more personal with the model. These are real women - something that is rarely seen outside of the home. (these are not included on the website, but please email me if you would like to see them.)
These women agreed to pose for a variety of reasons. For some it was a liberating experience, part of their own acceptance into a new realm of womanhood. For others it was a testament of their love for me, which I am greatly thankful for. These women reached a new comfort level with their bodies by allowing me and others to see them in their natural state, taking all reactions equally, knowing that modeling was a freedom they wanted to experience for themselves.
The women in this project are those whom I admire, respect, and love. They are friends, family members, and acquaintances I knew before this project began and know much better now. I hope that each of my models had a similar experience as I did and that that they discovered something about themselves. The connections that I made with these women made me realize this: no matter what age a woman is, she cannot always help but wonder about the acceptance of becoming a woman.
Melissa Inez Walker