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Beauty. Aging. Accepting. Embracing. Celebrating.

Who defines beauty? What is beauty?


These were the guiding posts that lead our deeply inspiring conversation with photographer Angelika Buettner.


Angelika is known for her love of artistic challenge and variety, her approach to strong feminine sensual photography and sensitive lighting has attracted a number of international clients including Audi, Bacardi, Douglas, Frey Wille, L'Oreal, Maybelline, Swarovski, Wolford and others. Her work has been featured in numerous magazines such as Eyemazing, Glint, Madame, Neo2, Palace Costes, Plaza, Twill, Vogue Sposa, West East and many more.


Yet, despite her passion and success, Angelika experienced a growing feeling that something was amiss, or more so that something, in the world of fashion photography, didn’t sit well with her.


Over the course of more than 30 years of experience in the industry Angelika has been exposed to countless women whom she has photographed. The more work she did, the more she noticed the void, or just plain rejection, to represent women in their more mature years, and more importantly, to represent them truthfully.


She shared that in the fashion industry, if there ever is need to photograph an older women, meaning 40 years of age and over, it’s usually a very small part of the project. As we all know, younger women overwhelmingly take center stage when it comes to female fashion photography. And in those instances where an “older women” needs to be represented, then it’s usually an older model or an ex-model, which basically means women that have aged in a way that is not relatable to the larger percentage of women in that age bracket.


Angelika shared that this manicured portrayal isn’t exclusive only to more mature models, as photographs of young, otherwise considered beautiful models, are routinely asked to be photoshopped and perfected furthermore.


"Who defines what beauty is?"

So, what is it that we see when we look at all these pictures in magazines or social media? What part of it is real? Who defines what beauty is? ….We are basically spoon fed the exact images that the fashion industry wants us to see. Images that we internalize and then strive for -consciously or unconsciously- in every way possible.


I personally came to an AHA! moment during our conversation with Angelika. Of course I am aware that pictures are constantly photoshopped, but honestly, when I look at these pictures I forget, and in any case there is no way of me knowing how this model looks in real life…maybe her legs are larger?, her hips wider?, maybe her skin shows signs of adolescent acne, or her lips are thinner? or her hair isn’t really that long?, who knows! But I, as an end-consumer, can’t tell and therefore what I see is what I get.


And then the whole self-image influence unravels, and it’s not only our feminine youth being the most at risk, with this very unified, cookie-cutter, mostly unachievable image of what beauty ought to look like in our society. It’s us too. The women over 40, that are caught in striving to attain an image meticulously created by the industry where youth is celebrated and aging is rejected.


Even though Angelika loves what she does, this aspect of her work was gnawing at her. Her discomfort grew and organically morphed, alongside her professional work, into what I would describe as her soul work. The I AM movement - Celebrating the Perfect Imperfect.


Angelika feels a strong responsibility of delivering images of truth. Raw, untouched, prop-less images of women over 40. Her biggest mission is to reverse what has been inculcated by the fashion industry for decades by simply reminding us all what beauty truly looks like. Her images aim to create a counter-culture to the existing one by raising our awareness to the here and now, giving us a safe space to embrace our age and looks just as they are in this moment. Allowing us to celebrate the beauty of our personal and unique story. What we look like at our age reflects the journey we’ve embarked, the successes and failures we’ve experienced and overcome. It represents our growth as human beings. It’s true beauty.


What started as a small project, asking friends and family to pose for her un-retouched, quickly grew into hundreds of women seeking to express themselves candidly. She didn’t originally plan to portray nudes only, but that is where her work took her naturally. And so, I AM – the movement was born.


Each picture tells a story. Not one single picture looks alike. There’s no “one look” because the truth is that human race’s beauty lays in its diversity. Not one single picture looks alike because these pictures represent each person’s story and nobody’s story is the same.


The pictures evoke a sense of liberation.


Angelika captured 121 photographs and created a book of uniquely compiled photographs. Each image is accompanied by a page of words, written by each one of the women who posed. I found the combination of the rawness of the images and the candidness of the words to be quite moving, helping me peek into the soul of the woman in the photograph and with that, elevating the image furthermore to a whole new level of appreciation.


I think the sense of liberation that I mentioned before may have also come from how relatable both the pictures and the stories of each woman are. It’s easy to see yourself reflected, either physically or emotionally, in at least one, if not more or even a combo of, the women captured in the book.


The outpouring of women readily available and asking her to be part of this project was a confirmation to Angelika of how important and needed her work is. And it continues to fuel her steadfastness to create a safe space for women over 40 to be seen, heard and appreciated.


Albeit for logistical reasons she capped the number of photographs in order to publish the book, a beautiful website has evolved from this initiative, where she continues to photograph women and capture their words in an effort to help us all let go of manufactured beauty and ease us into the comfort of being in our own skin. Her mission encourages us to wear our scars, marks, weight, ethnicity and age lines as medals of honor, as proof of our brave journey in this world.


Her work is as important as it is beautiful. Deeply personal as it is soulful. I invite you all to take a look at it. Let it inspire you, pass along the voice. Let this remind ourselves, and each other, of what beauty truly is. Let us stand tall, and proud and most importantly let us be grateful for where we are and how we are, what we look like right now, in this moment. This empowerment is one of crucial importance to be shared with the new generation of women. It will give these young girls the freedom and self-confidence to embrace and celebrate themselves at each and every stage of their life. And what a gift that is… thank you Angelika.


With intent,


Juad


For more on Angelika’s work you may visit the following "I AM - Celebrating the Perfect Imperfect" links:


WEBSITE


INSTAGRAM

@angelikabuettner


@iam_by_angelikabuettner


YOUTUBE channel

iam-themovement


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