Artist Behind Viral 'Real Body' Photos Speaks Exclusively About What Filters Do To Women's Bodies

Photo: Millie Brandon
Artist Behind Viral 'Real Body' Photos Speaks Exclusively About What Filters Do To Women's Bodies

It’s shocking how rarely women see bodies that look like their own on social media. It’s even more shocking that we no longer find that shocking at all. 

We’ve become so accustomed to airbrushing, photoshop, and unrealistic body standards that many of us now look at our own bodies through a lens distorted by Instagram filters, judging natural lumps and bumps as imperfections and faults. 

We hear all the time about how this damages our perceptions of our own beauty, makes us criticize ourselves, and impacts our sense of self-worth.

But what are we doing to break this cycle? 

Millie Brandon is an Australian photographer and journalist who is striving to make her Instagram account a place of representation for all kinds of female bodies. 

Inspired by the lack of transparency on social media, Brandon began sharing images she’d shot of what real bodies look like, without the touch-ups.

RELATED: 20 Celebs Who Looked Beauty Standards In The Eye And Said EFF YOU

“Celebrities and influencers are quick to show all the best parts of their lives online, leaving young girls and women feeling like they don't fit into the beauty standards and longing to be like these people online,” she told YourTango in an exclusive interview. “What these people don't show is the reality of their bodies, when sitting down, when not feeling their best, on a side angle, etc.”

Her work explores the female form from all the angles you’ll rarely see online and will make you fall in love with your body — stretch marks and all. 

Brandon's photography began as a hobby early in 2020 but has since grown into a business striving to help women feel beautiful. Brandon first launched her work as a self-portrait artist in a moment of confidence and soon after, began capturing close-up shots of other women from self-constructed studio in her home.

Prior to this, Brandon hadn’t found photography all that fulfilling — but capturing raw moments of natural stomach rolls, pimples, love handles and body hair became a labor of love.

For Brandon, her own body confidence comes from her mother. “She wears her body with confidence and it has definitely helped me to feel more comfortable in my skin,” she says.

This speaks to the importance of looking to the women around us for self-love rather than relying solely on social media posts that are carefully posed and often heavily-edited.  

When looking at Brandon's images it’s hard not to be reminded of moments where we maybe shied away from our own beauty by covering up our stomachs at the beach or putting a filter over a selfie to hide acne or blemishes.  

Brandon’s work has even helped her overcome some of her own insecurities. “One thing I struggled with was the pimples on my butt. I used to play a lot of sport, I was constantly sweating and I would try to hide or edit out the pimples on my butt. Since creating this work I have come to know so many women that experience the same," she says.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

We also spoke with Brandon about weight gain, something all women have experienced at one point or another yet, when it happens, it can often feel isolating or embarrassing. 

Brandon celebrates this both through her photography and in her own life. “I've also recently put on weight, due to Covid and being in a new relationship, and I think embracing these changes has been so much easier because of the work I create,” she says. “I know tummies and stretch marks are normal and are a typical sign of growing, and I know that there's more to life than being fixated on weight."

Brandon counters this fixation by making her work as much about the women in these bodies as it is about the bodies themselves. Her captions often feature quotes from the women she photographs or reflections of the time she spent with them. 

She tells us that photographing women taught her that struggling with self-love is a universal experience for women of all shapes and sizes. 

“People assume or expect smaller-sized women to feel confident, and are shunned when they try to talk about their body issues because people don't deem them worthy of being self-conscious in a smaller body.”

“Self-worth does not discriminate. Women of all sizes and shapes can feel confident, and they can also feel self-conscious,” Brandon says.

RELATED: A Woman Fat-Shamed Me On The Subway And I Actually Fought Back

Brandon’s photography account is a refreshing break from the conventional standards of beauty that are glorified in Western society. 

But for Brandon, this work isn’t an attempt to elevate one idea of beauty over another. Instead, she seeks to diversify how women are represented on social media.

“I want there to not be standards at all — no competition or pressure to look a certain way,” she says, “It's all about embracing what we've got and feeling comfortable with that”. 

The comments on Brandon’s images are overwhelmingly positive. Between the heart-eyes emojis and compliments, you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief at something realistic being portrayed on Instagram. 

Brandon aims her work at women, and often receives messages of gratitude and support. 

Though she acknowledges that men could also benefit from seeing more realistic bodies, she's more concerned with empowering women outside of the male gaze. “If we feel confident in our skin, we are less likely to feel pressure from others to look a certain way”.

Her work is not an attempt to make curves and stretch marks sexy or attractive to others. Instead, it’s about looking at these images and falling in love with similar features on your own body.

“That's all I ever want to do”, says Brandon, “Make people feel better about themselves”. 

RELATED: 5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Self-Esteem (That Can Be Done *Anywhere*)

Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.