BARE project challenges stereotypes of beauty

By Frances Welch

Often, images in the media portray societal standards of beauty that do not reflect the average individual. In spite of this issue, three local women, Anna Longworth, Alisa Greene, and Emily Otnes took a stance and created The BARE project, a series of 43 photographed individuals paired with separate, handwritten notes, sharing their stories of their personal struggles and how they embraced themselves through self-acceptance. 

In the gallery at indi go Artist Co-Op, located at 9 E. University Ave. in downtown Champaign, The BARE project is currently being shown until Saturday. Surrounded by the black and white photographs strategically placed along plain, white brick walls, the gallery will be open from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

“I wanted to do this project because I think everyone has parts of themselves that they’ve either been told are unacceptable or are ashamed to show the rest of society,” said Emily Otnes, a junior in LAS. “For me, this isn’t just about feeling beautiful, but feeling empowered when I’m happy and confident, which I think media needs to promote, rather than helping us fix what is naturally perfectly imperfect.” 

Alisa Greene, a journalism student at Parkland College, found this project put a twist on a hobby she thought she knew so well. 

“I felt extremely comfortable posing for the project, but when I saw the actual print, I was speechless,” Greene said. “I had never seen myself photographed in that way; it wasn’t perfect, and the image exposed my flaws, but it was beautiful.”  

This is exactly what the BARE project wanted to promote. The participants saw themselves in these prints as bare — most were nude, unedited, and unconventional, based on what one might see in a magazine.  

“The dislike I have for myself and seeing that same quality in my friends is what promoted me to do this project,” said Anna Longworth, the photographer for the project and the new director at indi go Artist Co-Op. Longworth went on to describe how she was impacted more by learning about the individuals she photographed rather than her personal participation. 

“After reading the stories of how each individual began to accept themselves despite what they found as a personal setback, it helped me to view everyone as beautiful,“ Longworth said. 

The creators found that this project captivated their self-reflection in the literal and internal sense with diversified emotions. Many participants connected with them, finding the project to be extremely difficult at times. Though it was uncomfortable to pose nude or publicly expose their insecurities, the main goal for this project was for the participants to accept qualities once found as imperfections, and come to peace with themselves. 

Hallie Marshall, a radio personality for 97.5, was one participant who was extremely moved to be involved in The BARE project. 

“This project gave me the opportunity to see myself through outside eyes,” Marshall said. “It was the chance to get uncomfortable, face some fears, show my physical flaws, and see that I’m not alone.” 

Not only was Marshall excited about being a part of the project, she was thrilled to see the impact it had on the community. 

“This is a spark in the community that will add to the overall flame of self-acceptance. What would our country be like if people stopped hating themselves, stopped seeking validation from others, and started to love themselves and realize that they are good enough? I am what I am and that is good enough.” 

Frances can be reached at [email protected]