If these photos were of a young 20 year old woman with a socially accepted body posing nude in the jungle, very few of us would blink an eye. We are use to seeing such things. But a wise woman nude in the jungle? That get’s a lot of people uncomfortable.
Why is it that our culture has agreed that aging is a thing to be ashamed of? Why do we spend billions of hard earned money on trying to eliminate the lines on our face, neck and hands that tell the stories of our magnificence and struggles over our lifetime? Why do we make excuses for our downward pointing breasts? Why have we agreed that looking like a teenager is the only way to look, when so many of us didn’t love ourselves as teenagers anyway? Why do movies and media make endless jokes about women not being sexy or beautiful after a certain age and if a woman is sexual it’s a thing to reply to with disgust? What if we wholeheartedly loved our precious bodies, just as they were, right now? What if you made art of your nude body for no other purpose than to witness it in this fleeting and gorgeous moment?
And why do so many women write me in their 60ies asking me to please photograph more elder Goddesses yet no one volunteers their body to make art with me? And most important to me: how would aging be different if we were celebrating unphotoshopped images of women as the grow older? What if we had been taught the as we grow older, the lines that appear on our bodies are sacred markings of a life well live? That growing wise is a privilege and means one has survived and thrived and a thing to honor and love and admire.
I have been asking these questions for years now, and I haven’t found the answers. But I do know that to me the bodies of the elder mothers are nothing short of exquisite. For example, this beautiful body in these photographs grew and birthed my sister and me. She breastfed us both, me until I was 5 year old.
When I showed these images to my mother after we took them last night in the jungle of Jalisco, Mèxico, the sound of a soothing light rain serenaded us as my 3 year old slept. She looked at the photos and was quiet and first. “Well that’s not the most flattering angle of me,” she said eventually, referring to the last image. “But I suppose there are a million angles of myself, some that I love, some that I could do without seeing.” She was hesitant to let me share these photos, but when I explained how she would touch so many other women her age, she lifted her chin, put her hands on her hips and said, “Well if I am Jade Beall’s mother, I guess I need to get on the boat!”
I am so eternally grateful that I come from a line of fearless rule breakers. My mom has given me an incredible life and is by far the most generous and loving person I know. To make these photos last night was another insight to her epicness.