This article originally appeared in People by Julie Mazziotta.
Photographers Aimee and Jenna Hobbs specialize in birth and family photos, and they started to notice a troubling trend — the moms they photographed started to remove themselves from the portraits with their kids, or ask if they could be photoshopped to look thinner.
“There is enormous pressure in our society to bounce back and maintain this image of perfection…the right house, the right clothes, the right hair, and on and on,” Aimee, 34, tells PEOPLE. “We understand that. But, existing in photographs for your kids, not just for today, but for ten, twenty, fifty years from now is so important.”
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As moms themselves — Aimee has two boys and two stepkids, and Jenna has four kids with another on the way — they wanted women to recognize their beauty, regardless of any perceived ‘imperfections,’ with a photoshoot of their own.
“Instead of hiding the emotional and physical flaws of postpartum women, we wanted to celebrate them,” Jenna, 32, says. “The tired circles under the eyes, the scars from a cesarean section, the stretch marks across the bellies where our babies grew. We wanted to show women that it is beautiful, that it is enough, that it should be celebrated.”
“We fully believe there is incredible beauty in ‘imperfection’ and wanted to show moms that beauty that we saw in them,” Aimee adds.
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The duo — who co-own Hobbs Photography in Alberta, Canada — put out a call on social media asking for 14 moms to participate in a postpartum body-focused photoshoot called “A Mother’s Beauty.” The spots quickly filled up, and this July will mark the fifth year they’ve conducted the shoot.
“There is a certain bit of magic about these sessions,” Aimee says. “We can definitely sense the nerves beforehand and when everyone first arrives. Before you know it, you can feel the atmosphere changing. These women know they’re being photographed from a place of love and acceptance. You can feel their comfort and the sense of empowerment growing. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.”
After the shoot, the women almost universally love the photos.
We have had a couple say they were hard to look at initially as they’ve spent so much energy hiding those things that we make a point to photograph, but I think the support and positive feedback from so many women really lifts them up,” Aimee says. “The moms really realize that no matter what their journey has been, their images and words are resonating with another woman somewhere.”
“Perhaps because people know who we are, and know we do ‘A Mother’s Beauty,’ we have had way less requests to opt out of the photos as time has progressed,” Jenna says.
“In fact, it’s been a few years now since I’ve had mamas purposefully avoiding the camera,” Aimee adds. “However, I think our body of work and the fact that our brand focuses on love, connection and moments over the perfectly posed attracts families that find that style appealing.”
This article originally appeared in People.com