Body beauty in eye of beholder

Patience Bambalele

Patience Bambalele

Award-winning photographer Jodi Bieber's exhibition titled Real Beauty, at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, got people talking on the opening night.

It features photographs of half-naked women of all races.

Bieber said her works were inspired by a number of events, including her own life.

"My 40s have brought a feeling of more comfort within my own skin than when I was younger, even though my body shape has shifted dramatically."

Bieber said her inspiration was pricked by a BBC radio documentary that spoke about an increase in the cases of black anorexic women in South Africa.

"The documentary shows that a full-figured body, which was once more favourable, is no longer as desirable as Western body shapes. I felt a strong need to create a body of work that goes against what the media have depicted as beautiful. Even within a complex society such as South Africa, across all communities, women hold unnecessary perceptions of self-doubt around themselves and their beauty from an early age."

Bieber said the photographic shoot was a collaboration between herself and the women, whom she photographed at their homes.

"The setting within their surroundings was my choice, but each woman's pose was pretty much self-directed. I wanted each woman to project her personality or her fantasy into her shoot."

Bieber adds that one of the issues that came to the fore in Real Beauty was that in general South Africa is a conservative nation.

"From the interviews I carried out, most women believe that there is no real perfect body shape."