Hannah Altman, a 20-year-old photography student at Point Park University, started taking self-portraits at the age of 16 as a way to express herself.

“After starting to take the self-portraits on a regular basis I started to understand how my body and emotions operated, and started to better express them visually through my photographs,” Altman tells HelloGiggles. “Self-portraits are a wonderful chance to explore the body and learn about yourself.”

The self-portraits became an outlet for Altman to express herself in the light she wished to be seen instead of the one society tried to put her in.

“Self-portraits are a fierce middle finger to beauty standards,” says Altman. “In a society that thrives on belittling women and their self-esteem, this is a way to have complete control over how your body is perceived.”

In her work, which is as beautiful as it is disturbing, Altman depicts the emotional side of contending with constant cultural instructions to look a certain way and conform to certain ideals that are impossible to achieve.

“The over-saturation of visual images that infiltrate into everyone’s phones and computers can create a damaging false sense of reality,” explains Altman. “This can be harmful because the constant bombardment of a certain type of body image makes it seem as if anything that strays from that societal norm is wrong.”

Altman portrays those harmful effects, often by obscuring, or even ripping off, the eyes of the photograph’s subject, revealing the terrifying toll such standards take on one’s self-image and perception of the world.

“This mentality that is encouraged by media is a step backwards for feminism,” she says. “Pitting girls against each other for the attention of men is not only detrimental to all girls, but is unfortunately a widely accepted behavior. Girls are taught to shame each other’s physical appearance in order to better fit the projected expectations, instead of celebrating all females.”

Altman’s work serves as a counterpoint, a critical look at the realities behind the beauty machine.

Back in February, Altman caught the Internet’s attention when she posted her personal photo series, “And Everything Nice,” to her Tumblr, featuring subjects vomiting or crying a colorful array of glitter.

Altman tells us the idea was to“visualize the concept of girls invariably needing to seem attractive regardless of what is actually happening in the scenario.” Soon the images went viral, rightfully putting her work on the map.

More recently, Altman’s self-portraits have been on display in galleries from Pittsburgh to Michigan—which is pretty impressive considering she’s still in college. We cannot wait to see more of what this awesome young woman has to offer the world. We hope more honest, thought-provoking photos like hers infiltrate our phones and laptops, replacing those that negatively reinforce impossible standards of beauty.

To keep up with Altman and all her new (and old) projects, visit her website or Tumblr.

(Images courtesy of Hannah Altman)