This photo series celebrates successful women in all their makeup-free glory

Though we celebrate every Kickstarter victory (you did it, you’re funded, yay, there’s going to be a Veronica Mars movie!) we’re celebrating a little extra hard the funding of photographer Peter Freed’s Prime: Redefining Women in Their Prime. Prime will feature portraits of women between the ages of 35 and 104 without a stitch of makeup accompanied by essays written by the subjects meant to redefine what it means for a woman to be “in her prime.”

So who are these women? As the campaign explained, the book will feature “a woman whose TED talk on authenticity was viewed 20 million times; a breast cancer survivor who left her career to create bathing suits with integrated prostheses; a raw food expert who saw a need for healthy airport food and did something about it; a woman who dedicates her life to speech therapy for the facially disfigured and a super model who believes Every Mother Counts and fights for worldwide maternal health.”

The 65 portraits of these women will be unvarnished, and the women’s essays promise to embody the same brand of unapologetic authenticity. “The women of PRIME are inspired and original: defying the conventions of how a woman, at any given age, should look, act and love. These women redefine what it means to be ‘In your PRIME. ‘”

So what prompted Freed to put together a work that celebrates important women of all ages? As he tells it, it was the desire to make the world a better place for his two daughters (yes, you are allowed to “awwww”).

“It’s been a bit of a tightrope walk raising two girls these last 23 years,” Freed explained to HelloGiggles. “Like many parents, I am particularly sensitive to the pressure my girls are subjected to in the media. Every day, young girls are exposed to images of women ‘perfected’ with the help of technology. Advances in Photoshop regularly facilitate the elongation and general distortion of what is natural. This unrealistic form is consistently represented across almost all of media, with blemish-free, wrinkle-free, and even pore-free skin. It’s hard enough for growing girls to maintain a positive self-image without narrowing the scope of socially acceptable beauty through manipulation.”

Freed has seen Photoshop co-opt natural beauty, firsthand. “For years I photographed celebrities for magazine covers and features as well as movie posters and ads only to see the finished product highly altered from the original image.”

Freed went on to explain that this desire to create positive imagery for his daughters has changed the way he photographs his subjects.

 “I realize through my photography assignments how far from reality the representation of today’s female status symbols has become. This was the impetus behind a change I gradually made in my technique. I began to simplify the way I chose to light and compose my portrait work.”

Eventually, he decided to tackle the problem of how women are portrayed in photography and in the media with Prime.

“Ultimately it was an early -2000 Harper’s Bazaar feature of supermodels without makeup that inspired my idea to create Prime. I wanted to depict women in a positive authentic way. I chose to shoot in black and white in a fairly tight composition without any makeup, jewelry or retouching. . . Over the next 4 years I photographed over 120 women from around the country from the age of 35 to 104. Each woman was asked to write an essay about what they thought it was to be in their prime. What followed was a fascinating collection of stories celebrating personal milestones and professional achievements. The women’s essays are filled with the challenges life has thrown them and the choices they have made. All of the women who’ve participated in the book seemed to share an independent spirit that inspired their rejection of conventional definitions of womanhood while challenging accepted notions about aging.”

So what does Freed want readers to takeaway from the project? “My hope was that readers would see the names, look into the faces, and hear in their own words details of the journey that has shaped these extraordinary women,” he said.

We love this concept so much and we double-love how a portion of the proceeds will be going to a good cause, the charity Women in Need, an organization that assists homeless women and their children. Follow the Kickstarter page for updates re: this gorgeous and important book coming to the world. We are on pins and needles for this book to be published so we can get this gorgeous girl on our coffee tables.


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(All images courtesy of Peter Freed)