Bodies and Souls: The Century Project

Olga Wolstenholme's picture

Frank Cordelle had an idea. He took nude photographs of women whose ages spanned over a century. The first picture is of the head of a baby girl crowning through her mother’s vagina. Not quite making it to a hundred, the last picture is of a 94-year-old woman whose photograph is accompanied by the following message:

I posed so some old lady will not fear age, and some old men would know old women are not so strange. I loved the challenge of posing nude, such excitement! My husband would have said, “Some picture, kid!”

Most of the pictures are in fact accompanied by a message written by the women themselves and although I did not read the entire book, I did take a look at the excerpts on Frank’s website and let me tell you they are heartbreaking, but in a good way. My eyes literally welled up with tears. As did my neighbors eyes when I told her about the project and the stories these brave women have shared.

This project has received a lot of criticism for containing nude imagery of women who are underage, an issue I can definitely understand, because when it comes to kids you want to protect them from abuse and you certainly wouldn’t want their images falling into the wrong hands, but these pictures aren’t pornographic or even erotic. They simply show the beauty, variety and changes that the human body undergoes and that is something we all need to see.

Too often images of the female body are linked to stories of abuse and even though this book also includes those stories, it goes beyond simple shock and awe, and shows the vulnerability, strength and love that is emblematic of the nude female body. The book is aptly named, Bodies and Souls: The Century Project.

Jacqueline, 38, who had one of her breasts removed due to cancer had this to say:

Today I am wearing long and flowing purple without my false front and feeling stunning. What do I mean, my false front? My prosthesis that mimics that diseased part of my body that was cut away years ago to save my life. My fake boob, my rubber tit, my concession to society’s denial that women lose breasts every day.

My bra goes along with the farce, holding my other breast high and firm like a 16-year-old’s that has never seen battle. Well, my breast is not high and firm, it hangs from my chest and rolls when I walk.

It has nourished and nurtured dozens of children and it smiles at the memory of those lips that have rested there. Tiny rosebud lips and grown men’s lips, all there for the same thing, nourishment and nurturing.

There is a shooting-star shaped scar on my breast, a sickle, a half moon. There are crevices where the skin has stretched taut with passion and stretched full with milk. No, this is no 16-year-old nubile breast, it is the breast of a warrior woman, proud and regal.

I have never seen, contained in one book, such a variety of representations of a woman’s body. This project was a labour of love. Sounds corny, eh? But just consider how difficult it was to get this book published. No one wanted to touch it. The subject matter and the nudity were deemed too risky by every single publisher who came across it. A retired history professor wholeheartedly supported the project and told Frank that if he didn’t find someone to publish the book that he would do it himself, which is exactly what ended up happening. He started his own publishing company for the sole purpose of making The Century Project available to a wider public and in doing so he changed many people’s lives. I recommend you all take a peak!

Crossposted from Cuntlove.

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