That’s why Ben Hopper, a 37-year-old photographer from London, is top of our list of body-positive role models right now for his empowering photo series challenging outdated female beauty standards around body hair.
Even as we celebrate the amazing women around the world living life on their own terms, we also know the importance of lifting up our male counterparts who support our bodily choices, too.
Whether it’s embracing your psoriasis, showing off your stretch marks or celebrating mothers’ real post-birth bodies, we’re here for women taking pride in their natural, unfiltered beauty.
In a bid to upturn prescriptive beauty norms and celebrate women’s natural bodies, Hopper captured dozens of women between 2016 and 2018 in his Hackney studio proudly showcasing their underarm and pubic hair.
The resulting photo series, which is aptly titled Natural Beauty, features 45 women questioning the widespread belief that body hair is unattractive or unhygienic with a spectrum of bold, unapologetic photographs.
The photos depict the models proudly drawing attention to their armpit hair by raising their arms aloft, flexing their muscles and striking athletic poses, all with the intention of showing that body hair is normal and beautiful.
In the same light, models proudly present their leg and pubic hair to the camera.
Speaking about the project, which was created in 2007 when Hopper invited friends to grow out their body hair for a few months and be photographed, he explains that although his project is a protest against restrictive beauty standards, the photographs are designed to celebrate a woman’s natural state above all else.
“I like natural beauty on a woman. I think it can be very beautiful and under the circumstances empowering and sexy. You need an attitude to be a female with hairy armpits nowadays.’
“Anyone who is willing to take c**p from a lot of people for it is to me, an attractive strong confident person. I don’t find waxing or shaving that sexy most of the times.
“From the reading I’ve done about the subject, I learned that women’s societal pressure to shave has to do with beauty brands such as Gillette who needed to extend their razors clientele and created one for women about a century ago.
“Most people now can’t even stand the look of a hairy female armpit. Now that is brilliant marketing.”
Through shooting subjects that would typically be classed as ‘beautiful’ for a strong contrast, Hopper explains that he intends to provoke conversation about our expectations of exactly who is allowed to grow their body hair.
“I’d like people to understand that my reasoning to choose these specific subjects was exactly because of that; this way the project is much more effective. The contrast is stronger.
“If I asked people, ‘who would you expect to have armpit hair?’ you would never imagine a fashion model or a very beautiful ‘hygienic’ looking female.
“That’s the stereotype and I’m trying to use it to intrigue a stronger reaction.’
In a world that repeatedly tells us that women’s body hair diminishes our beauty, Hopper’s photographs are a radical step towards a freer, more tolerant society.