‘No Makeup’: Barefaced Portraits Empower Women

Curators’ Corner

‘No Makeup’: Barefaced Portraits Empower Women

Beauty is always trending in today’s celebrity-crazed, social media-driven, Photoshop-perfected world. Likewise, our collectively skewed perception of beauty is constantly being challenged, oftentimes in the best of ways.

A recent project by UK medical website Superdrug Online Doctor asked 18 designers in 18 different countries to Photoshop a woman’s full-body portrait so that she would appear more beautiful by their respective nations’ standards. The results were eye-opening in terms of how women’s bodies are judged around the world.

Now, photographer Steve Osemwenkhae’s No Makeup series is making rounds in similar fashion. As the series title suggests, Osemwenkhae asked women to pose for a “barefaced” portrait and share their feelings on makeup. Together, the photos and perspectives empower women to “have their own voice when it comes to the narrative of beauty,” Osemwenkhae told the Huffington Post.

Osemwenkhae says the idea came to him while he saw a fellow Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) passenger applying her makeup during the morning commute.

“As she layered her face with lotion and foundation, I started to think about a makeup-less photo session and how to showcase natural beauty,” he said. “At that moment is when I decided to take on the project with a few friends.”

Originally intended to be a small-scale personal project involving 5 or 10 friends, No Makeup became so intriguing – to the photographer, his subjects and viewers all at once – that it quickly grew to feature more than 100 women of all ages and ethnicities. Osemwenkhae now plans to continue the series possibly for years, and is looking to convert the images into both a book and traveling gallery.

Inspiring work by Steve Osemwenkhae–he is truly capturing beauty in its purest form. Browse a few images and narratives from No Makeup below, and visit the No Makeup Series website to see the entire gallery.

No Makeup: Woman looking into camera

“A person’s face is like a blank canvas. Makeup is the paint that dictates the mood of the piece. Everything a true artist creates is from the soul. Love, pain, joy transcends through every piece that is created as does makeup on a person’s face.” — Vanessa Ly

No Makeup: Woman making camera like shot with her hands

“Happiness is beautiful. If makeup makes you happy, then wear it! If not, then don’t worry about it. Regardless we should all strut our stuff, be confident, and be happy, because that’s what true beauty is.” — Sioned Kay Kirkpatrick

No Makeup: Woman Looking up

“I wear makeup to the degree that it pleases me; I always think about who I am doing it for and what it does for me.” — Halah Ahmad

No Makeup: Curly Haired Woman Portrait

“I love and hate makeup, just like I love and hate anything that is both creative and destructive. Treating women’s faces like art is a beautiful idea, but attaching our worth to a mask of ourselves is absolutely destructive. Each woman has to find her balance.”— Amanda Beattie

All images © Steve Osemwenkhae