A Bare Beauty Interview: Rachael Schirano and The Unearthed Project

Through the process of realizing, and sharing this project, I have become connected with some pretty incredible people who actually happen to be doing the same thing(in their own ways of course). The Bare Beauty Project initially began as a personal photography project(the Beautiful Woman Project), and I am continuing this as The Bare Beauty Sessions. But as I was made aware of more and more women out there doing such similar projects with such similar messages, I found myself in place of not just wanting to share my work, but wanting to share ALL of theirs as well. You see for me this wasn’t about me and my art or my ego. From the very beginning of it, it has been about my kids. It has been about helping the 21 year old version of myself battle an eating disorder. It has been about my family members who have battled addiction. It has always been about everyone, and so, naturally, that is what is has become: OUR SPACE. There is power in numbers, and the more people we can get to share these positive messages, the better the chance of changing the face of beautiful we have.

My first interviewee is an Illinois based Photographer by the name of Rachael Schirano. She and I made our acquaintance through an online photography school, The Define School. I have never met her personally, but for the last almost two years, we have been in regular contact because of the amazing alumni forum that we are a part of. Rachael lives in Bloomington, Illinois with her husband and 4 children; an eighteen year old and 6 year old triplets.

Rachael has started a personal photography project called ‘The Unearthed Project’. Here she tells us about it, how it began, and where she hopes to take it.

 

BB: Let’s talk about Unearthed, and where you got the inspiration to start this..

RS: Ummmm, I feel like it’s kind of something that’s always been there. I don’t feel like I need to wear makeup all of the time, I’m not afraid to go out in public without it, but I feel like we all have our masks. Whether it be makeup or hair or whatever. But I’m actually very struck by people who are afraid to go out in public without makeup on. And I have also known people who have masks in the way of needing to be in control, to be ‘perfect’, and watching how that effects them physically and emotionally. It’s exhausting. And how that translates into relationships with everyone around them, how it prevents them from getting really close to anyone and it makes me really sad. You can’t develop a relationship with your guard up.

BB: No, no.. it’s impossible.

RS: And I also know some people who have been through some very traumatic, life-changing events who are still just hiding behind their old habits and old ways, still in the miserable jobs just because they pay the bills.. It’s really hard to watch them go through that. And I’m watching this and it changed something in me. And so, even though these are two totally different masks, like one is showing perfection, and the other is hiding behind the familiar, it was kind of like, what happens when you strip all of that away? And you’re just left with this, what’s underneath it, you know, who you are at the end of the day. When you come home, and you take off your makeup, and you put up your hair, (or you take down your hair). Who you are then is who you are. When you’re comfortable. You know, it’s not about being against putting on masks, or dressing up, it’s about being ok with what’s underneath that and sharing that with the world.

BB: Yes, it’s about owning who you are, whatever that is. Taking ownership of it.

RS: Yes, and I think it’s about the running away. People use masks to run away from what they don’t want to face. So regardless of whether it’s plastic surgery or hair extensions or makeup or making sure that your house looks perfect, or staying in a job that makes you miserable because you don’t know what else to do, because it’s comfortable, because you don’t want to face having to make changes.. whatever it is, acknowledging it and knowing it I think is just power in and of itself.

I like to get dressed up and put on makeup and go out. It’s fun! It makes you feel pretty! I’m not opposed to it, I just think that there’s this increasing awareness that that’s how we should be all of the time.

BB: Yes, absolutely. I used to feel like I needed to wear makeup all of the time. I have really light eyelashes and I remember feeling unattractive without mascara on. I felt like I always needed to wear it, and I think some of that came from having a mom who always wore makeup. And now that I’m older I don’t want my kids to not ever see me go out without makeup. I don’t want them to be ashamed of their blond eyelashes and to feel like they aren’t beautiful without mascara and eyeliner on, or feel like they have to straighten their curly hair. I have to wear my curls if I want them to wear theirs, you know?

RS: You actually hit on a really good point there. Even just talking about being a mom, and all of the things that go along with that. The pressure, the stress, the exhaustion from just trying to take care of the kids and the house, and the job or whatever, and the pressure to always eat organic, and then the criticism you get from others because you do eat organic.. strip that all away. The labels, and the expectations, and the mom-label, strip away the wife label, strip away the friend and the sister and the daughter label, underneath all of that, you’re still a person. At the end of the day, you are a person with dreams and desires. It’s kind about getting back in-touch with that too.

BB: Yeah, which is very emotional.

RS: It is.

BB: So what is your message? If you were to say it in one or two sentences..

RS: One sentence?? (laugh)

BB: Ok, a short paragraph.

RS: Ummm, you know, it’s kind of evolved. The more sessions I do, the more it becomes about the women I am photographing. I send them a questionnaire, and they fill out the questionnaire. I have had every single person who has done this so far say that those questions alone are a catalyst for change.

BB: Would you mind sharing an example of one of the questions on the questionnaire?

RS: Ok, here is one of the questions: “what are some of the stories you tell yourself that you’d like to change?” They have to be honest here, and this sparks a huge transformation for these women, as it’s really just women I’m working with right now. And then, I spend like an hour or so with them, photographing them. We start fully made up, like they normally would for a photograph, and then we go through the undoing. And I don’t even know that that part is necessary for the documentation, but I find that the process of it really helps them.

BB: Well, for me, seeing the one session you had posted that actually showed the whole undoing, because of course I’ve been to your blog and looked at your work, (laugh), I liked it. I felt that seeing the whole process of the undoing was impactful.

RS: I know the process of it is important, I watch them go through it. It’s bizarre, I mean, because they can’t see this, I’m sure they feel it, the people I’m photographing, but this weight falls off of their shoulders. Like, they’re nervous at first, I’m mean who isn’t (in front of a camera), but after a while they kind of forget and they just become themselves. And at the end, I get these bare-faced, beautiful portraits of people just laughing or talking, and it’s just really beautiful.

I actually want to take it a step further now, and take them outside and just get like completely dirty and muddy, or be drenched in rain, whatever it is, to take it that step further. To get back in tune with nature..

BB: Well, yeah, and with the title of your project being ‘Unearthed’, there is a definite connection being made there.

RS: Yeah. I mean the thing is, everyone is so nervous at the beginning, and I know what that feels like

BB: Oh God, I hate being photographed!

RS: Me too!

(laughter)

BB: I have had photographers tell me that I’m great in front of the camera, but that’s just because I understand what looks good, it’s not because I’m comfortable, I know which way the light will be most flattering..

RS: I know I don’t want to be looking straight on!

BB: Exactly!!

(laughter)

RS: So anyway, we walk through the whole process, and we just talk

BB: about the questions?

RS: Yes. And we tap into some of that stuff, and I document it, but then it always feels sort of incomplete after that. But there’s not much more I can do from there, you know? So that’s why I want to add that next step, like, let’s just go out in the mud and get totally dirty. And let’s see how beautiful you are when you’re surrounded by dirt. Something that isn’t often though of as beautiful, and how your beauty contrasts with that.

BB: That’s awesome. I can’t wait to see some of those sessions.

RS: Yeah me too!

BB: So essentially your goal is to unblock that part of a person, to feel free to be..

RS: Yeah, I mean, I want people to be ok with who they are, like we talk about that, being ok with who you are, being happy with what you have, focusing on what you do well, but then we’re also constantly inundated with how to be better and how to do better and how to improve, and I feel like it’s really hard to let go of that. It’s really hard to just be ok with who you are, and to want to share that with the world, it’s really hard. I want women to see that they’re beautiful, first of all, but I also want them to see that the reason that they are beautiful is because of who they are, not the masks they wear.

BB: Is there something about yourself that you feel insecure with? A mask you struggle to keep off so to speak?

RS:  My weight has always been an issue for me. But i feel like that’s an obvious answer, because isn’t it for everyone? Even so, it is the topic i have struggled with the most. I have never been skinny, though at one point in my life I thought I had to be in order to be loved (or even liked). I gain weight easily and I feel like I sometimes use it as a mask to hide from people. I suppose it has become one of the stories that I tell myself… I am the fat girl and that’s just what it is. Over the years I have realized that in order for me to maintain a healthy weight and positive body image, it cannot be about numbers. I have been working on eating well and being more active for the past few months and it has made a huge impact. Though I weigh only slightly less than the most I ever have, I love myself far more than I ever have.

BB: So what does beauty mean to you?

RS: I mean, beauty is skin deep, but there’s so much more that is beautiful about a person than just what you see. You know, it’s the light that shines through someone’s eyes, or the emotion they show when they are happy or sad. I did lifestyle family sessions for years, and I heard women over and over and over again say to me, the pictures are great, but I hate myself in them.

BB: That’s so sad. I have actually had that experience a couple of times already, comments about weight, or people asking for me to over-edit their images to change the way they look. They actually make phone apps that can ‘photoshop’, so to speak, your photos, slim down faces, shrink noses, whiten teeth.. it’s actually kind of disturbing. It’s like are we ever actually seeing the real version of anyone anymore?

RS: Yeah, I notice that a lot of times when people are photographed and touched up, even if it’s just blemishes and under the eye brightening, they don’t look like themselves. There’s no life in their face, there’s no expression. That’s kind of where it’s really weird to see someone photographed really and wholly and who they are. It’s so beautiful, and then to see it touched up or not even touched up but ‘prettified’ beyond recognition, even if it’s just all of the makeup put on, not that it’s bad, it’s just that.. you can also be beautiful without all of that. And I guess that I just feel that that side needs a voice. The undone side needs a voice, because you can be beautiful and be undone.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had women tell me that their husband or boyfriend tell them all of the time that they find them beautiful without makeup, but they just don’t believe them. I mean, these are the people who are in love with you, and they’re telling you you’re beautiful without all of that! I just want people to fall in love with themselves. Without all of the junk piled on. And realize, it’s ok to pile the junk on, but you have to love what’s underneath it in order to be happy.

BB: Yeahhhh I love that. That’s it.

So, your future goals with the project, where do you see this going? You had mentioned possibly starting a kickstarter? Would you like to see this become a book?

RS: I’m not totally sure yet, I see it going in the direction of a documentary, but I don’t know a lot about film making, so I’m actually taking a class on that right now. I worry that that might take away from the intimacy of the sessions though, so I’m kind of on the fence about that. I know it needs to go somewhere, and the response was a little bigger than I had initially expected.

BB: I too have had a similar response from people. People want to be a part of this kind of stuff. I think the message really does resonate with a lot of women, even more so if they have insecurities they are struggling with because I think, we all want to love ourselves, right?

RS: Yeah. And I think it’s one thing for Dove or these other large companies to put out a campaign like that. You’re still essentially dealing with hand picked women. They are picking certain features that photograph well, and that’s ok because they are big companies and that’s what they are paid to do. But I think the reason why what you’re doing and what I’m doing, and what anyone else who is doing something like this, I think the reason it resonates so strongly is because it’s just, it’s everybody. It’s not hand-picked. It’s whoever wants to participate. Everybody wants to be ok with who they are. Everyone wants to be loved for who they are, even if they put a mask on. ~

 

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Rachael’s Project can be seen here: The Unearthed Project

 

 

Bare Face Feature: Laura Ganci

Laura is this over-the-top-talented musician/singer/songwriter/artist who grew up in the same town as me. She was a few grades behind me, but we still somehow always ended circling in similar groups of people. Although I don’t know her very well, there are some things I do know about her. She is loyal. She is a very hard worker. She is loving and she has amazing friends. She and her twin sister Nina are inseparable. She loves her family. She is an artist through and through. She is extremely talented, and I am so honored that she wanted to share a little part of her story with us and this project.

Her message is so profound, talking about where this uncovered beauty began, where it has gotten hidden, and to why she chooses to let it free again ..

 

Thank you Laura for sharing with us. Your words resonate with so many.

 

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Laura is a Boston based singer-songwriter.
Check out her latest musical collaboration with her multi-talented sister, Nina Ganci: American Echoes.

this is not an anti-makeup campaign…

Ok. So I feel like this post was bound to happen, and I am making the decision to write about it now and clear the air at the very start of this project.

If you are at all connected to social media, you have heard of the #nomakeupselfies. I love this idea and it was actually the no makeup selfies that kicked me in the ass to finally move forward with this project that I had been lightly touching upon for a year now. But I recently read a TIME magazine article that pretty much completely bashes the entire concept, even stating that the project is suggesting that sharing a non-made up selfie is as brave as fighting cancer. I too wondered about what exactly non-made-up faces had to do with fighting cancer. I had also wondered in the past what posting the color of your bra as a cryptic Facebook status had to do with cancer as well. Or men growing mustaches for prostate cancer awareness… It seems as though there is this trend of creating a viral type social media fad in hopes of creating awareness of some sort, even if one thing has nothing to do with the other. And most of the time it works (sort of, when autocorrect doesn’t change the hashtag.. as the article mentions). Here’s the thing: Bravery is relative.

An incredibly talented photographer, teacher and mentor friend of mine, Michelle Gardella, shared this article from Shape on Dermablend’s new makeup ad on our alumni forum last night, as there are a few of us in the group working on similar projects. If you haven’t seen these videos, watch them.. seriously. I was extremely moved by them and liked the seeing this discussion as an alternate point of view; how makeup, instead of masking one’s self, actually allows someone to see that person for who they really are. It lets them see through the surface, instead of stopping at it. It was interesting because I then shared some of my thoughts on my project so far, expressing how I have had so many people say through the Bare Beauty Project that they really rarely ever wear makeup anyway. So I can’t help but wonder sometimes if some people think the whole bearing your naked face is sort of silly and not quite as brave as some make it out to be (as the TIME article suggests). For some going makeup-less is the norm, and that’s awesome. But for many many people, like both of these women, it is super brave.

Michelle’s response to some of our thoughts on this whole topic was this; “I am one of those people who never wears makeup and shares photos of myself makeup free all the time. But I don’t think these projects have anything to do with makeup. They are about courage. And that, no matter what is on your face, is always worth supporting. Keep going.”

The message I am trying to convey here, the awareness I am trying to create is about Courage. It is about learning to love one’s self and take ownership for who you are (makeup, no makeup, tall or short, thin or curvy, young or old). It is for young girls to start seeing photographs of REAL WOMEN, without makeup, without photoshop, so that THAT becomes more of the norm. So that there might be some hope that my daughters can have realistic ideals for themselves on body-image. We are not all supposed to look the same. Beautiful comes in all different forms, because, well, it isn’t what is outside that determines true beauty.

Will some people use filters? Probably. Are people choosing pretty lighting and their best angles? Will some people be dishonest and say that they are not wearing makeup, when in fact they are? Well of course.. Taking pictures of yourself is totally awkward. And for many people it is extremely uncomfortable to be undone like this. But do I think that this will stop the message from getting across? No. No, I don’t. I actually received a post tonight from someone who wrote under her instagram image, “it is the most difficult thing I have ever decided to post”. But she did it, and that’s brave. She may have felt herself struggling to do it, she may have felt doubts and insecurities while taking her picture, but she did it anyway. That’s brave. And for those who aren’t ready to get to that place, they won’t share a photo, or they will but it will take them time. Sometimes learning to really love one’s self takes time. It takes work. It takes honesty and bravery and that’s what this is all about, supporting one another in that process.

This is not an anti-makeup or anti-plastic surgery campaign. I am a hairstylist and a makeup artist. I wear makeup, although not daily. I have never had plastic surgery, but I support my friends who choose to have it, even if I feel that they look beautiful with out it. But here’s the thing; as my dearly amazing high school statistics teacher commented on our Facebook page the other day, ‘Beauty has very little to do with what you look like’. (He was always a super-smart guy!) This project is not about NOT wearing makeup. Although we are using that as a social media platform to show women that we are supportive of one another and that what is beautiful goes deeper than what we see at the surface. This project is to encourage each other to be brave and proud and unapologetic for who we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This project is about taking ownership of one’s self regardless of the judgments that might be passed. This project is to try to encourage people to stop judging so quickly, and to look past the surface. This project is to change the norm of beauty and to give our children a more positive example of what beauty is.

Thank you for being a part of it.

xo

 

A Bare Face Feature: Kristina Nichol

Kristina and I are Instagram friends. She lives in Calgary, Canada. We have never met.. But I do know that she is a very talented photographer. I love following her gorgeous feed, and was absolutely thrilled when she chose to share her bare-faced self portrait with us. But what I was even more thrilled with was what she chose to write underneath it. I love her story, because it is exactly what this project is all about: learning to love and accept one’s self for who they are. Sometimes it takes time, but it is always possible.

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Kristina is Located in Calgary, Alberta. She is a portrait photographer, singer, songwriter, wife and mother of two.
You can see here beautiful work here: www.sonettoboxphotography.com

If you have a story to share related to the bare beauty project, please please send it our way! We would love to share it.