I’ll Show You Mine – Vulva Art Book Review
One day while browsing through Jiz Lee’s blog I came across a review of the new photo art project “I’ll Show You Mine”, a book that showcases the “natural” diversity and beauty of the vulva. I thought, Wow!, cool book and then the next day the creator of project, Wrenna Robertson emailed me and asked me if I’d like to review it. I was thrilled!
So, here is my review.
While this kind of project has been done in the past, including Joani Blank’s vulva photobook Femalia (1993) and more recently Petals (2009) by photographer Nick Karras, “I’ll Show You Mine” feels much more intimate and personal. This is because, amidst the diversity of 60 photographed vulvas (120 photos), each diptych features text from the women who took part in the project, telling the reader in their own words what their vulva means to them. Some of the text is written like a personal journal, some of it like an essay, while others are more poetic like the one below.
My initial reaction to viewing the book was that it was very minimalist, rather like a white gallery wall showcasing art. I thought the images would be more like Nick Karras work, which are pale, sepia photos, more of a study of form and texture, rather than a collection of intimate portraits.
But, once I started looking through the pages I became engrossed in the personal essays and amazed by how very different these vulvas all look from each other. Like a fingerprint, or a face, each vulva is unique and has its own personality. Sure, I know vulvas ARE unique, but after years of viewing airbrushed porn images, and only ever having seen a small variety of real vulvas up close and personal myself, one of which is my own, I was still astonished at how very different each vulva is. This, the whole point of the project, was indeed the mission, which was to showcase the diversity of the vulva in its natural form.
“I’ll Show You Mine” is a photo study of female genitalia and a window into women’s experiences of their genitals. The book contains 120 photographs of 60 women, with all women photographed from the same two positions. Each woman was photographed in exactly the same conditions and the photos are shown in the book in true-to-life size and color, as this is the best method to accurately display the diversity of female form. Accompanying each woman’s photos is text written by the woman, detailing her challenges and/or successes as pertains to her relationship with her genitals. The photos in the book demonstrate and celebrate the wonderful diversity of the vulva; the stories illuminate the range of experiences that women have relating to the genitals in a world where mass media and pornography increasingly set the standards for sexuality and the look of all body parts, even our genitals.”—I’ll Show You Mine
As stated above, the vulvas in this book were photographed in natural light, each twice, from a frontal view and open-thigh view, so both views of each individual vulva sit opposite each other on any given opened page. So while viewing the book and flipping through the pages, you get the effect of the vulvas transforming into various shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. Many sport pubic hair, some curly, some straight, some tidy and trimmed, some wild and unkept, while others are shaved or pierced. Some clitoris’ are quite large, while some are tiny, and the shape and flair of the lips showcases the endless variation of the female genitals. Some are reminiscent of flower petals, while others look edible like deep sea creatures and still others curl like shells. Almost none of them looked like the images of vulvas I have seen in most mainstream porn. Yet, all were still delightful and striking in their own distinctive way.
Wrenna Robertson says in the introduction that the “book was initially conceived as a reaction to the increased anxiety [she] witnessed in women regarding their genitalia, coupled with the widespread increase in surgical procedures such as labiaplasty… These pervasive social messages… are doing us great harm. Negative genital perceptions have been linked to greater body image dissatisfaction, reduced sexual self-esteem, decreased enjoyment in sexual activities, and increased sexual risktaking… This project stands in defiance of the societal constructions which serve to limit our growth, understanding and empowerment.”
I totally agree with Wrenna’s assessment of how society and media pervade us with negative messages regarding your bodies and how these in turn cause dissatisfaction and sexual/emotional/psychological dysfunction. So, I applaud Wrenna for her vision and creation of “I’ll Show You Mine”, a book that genuinely portrays the female genitals in all their wonder and diversity, and is not just a flowery book of vulvas, or art for art’s sake.
If you have not yet witnessed the diversity of the vulva and been enlightened, I encourage you to check out this book. 10% of the proceeds also go to women’s charities.