"The body is not a thing," French feminist-existentialist Simone de Beauvoir wrote in The Second Sex, her treatise on the role of women in society. "It is a situation; it is our grasp on the world." Sixty-five years after Beauvoir penned these words, 40-something photographer Andi Schreiber turned her camera on herself to document how her body is changing as she ages and to capture an idea in line with Beauvoir's: How we experience the world is determined not only by our bodies as physical objects, but also by how we and others see our bodies — and, given the scrutiny placed on female bodies, this idea is especially meaningful for women.
As female bodies age, society views them as less and less desirable, less useful, less attractive; in fact, Schreiber says, people often stop looking at them at all. "Somewhere in my 40s," she shares with us, "I began to feel less noticed by others. My physical appearance changed, and there was also a shift in the way I thought about and carried myself." In her photo series "Pretty, Please" Schreiber explores these shifts, shying away from none of the physical aspects of ageing: her ebbing menstrual flow, creases of fat and crow's feet all take centre stage. At the same time, she asserts her status — to herself and to the world — as a sexual, sensual and middle-aged being. With her photos and the title "Pretty, Please" Schreiber seems both to ask herself for permission to feel sexy and to request that others see her as the same. Her work connotes insecurity, but not despair: You finish viewing the photos with the hope that the woman who took them will find joy in her body for as long as she lives in it — and that the rest of us will, too.
We spoke with the photographer recently on what inspired her to create "Pretty, Please" and on what she hopes viewers will take away from it. Click through for the full interview with Schreiber and to view 15 of the rawest photographs from the series. And for more of the photographer, visit her blog and follow her on Twitter.