It was a March morning, I was scrolling through Facebook procrastination as usual. I came across an article that a friend had liked that caught my eye. The title image was a striking photograph of a woman who was in that brief state of calm after one has been entirely absorbed in distress. She was crying; her makeup was smudged; her mascara everywhere; and her cheeks were still wet. Her face glimmered in the light, the wet of her tears was bright blue and sparkly. Bright blue glitter that ran down her face and painted a picture of beautiful, hopeless melancholy.
Hannah Altman, 19, is a photography student at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. She recently published the above photo as part of her latest photo essay called “And Everything Nice”. She uploaded the images to her Tumblr and her website and they have since become a viral sensation. At time of writing, there were 8 published images in this collection, all showing women in some form of pain. The visual signifier of that pain (blood, tears, and vomit) is replaced by glitter. Upon seeing them, I was shocked by their powerful simplicity and so contacted Altman to find out a bit more.
Altman told me that ‘the series is an unflinching analysis of the standard for female beauty. The ongoing series consists of women in states of affliction. The body fluid of the models (which includes blood, tears, and vomit) have been replaced with glitter in order to visualize the concept of girls invariably needing to seem attractive regardless of what is actually happening each scenario.’
She continued, ‘the project is intended to be a pictorial representation of the unreasonable female standard of beauty. By creating set-ups that would normally be considered grotesque would it not be for the glitter, the sparkle stands out because it is the only facet of the photo that is abnormal. The women models do not seem to acknowledge the glitter as something any different than natural body fluid, which supplements the idea that women have been conditioned to go to any length in order keep up an attractive appearance. The project is meant to raise the awareness of such a ridiculous standard, and to question its morality.’
The images really speak for themselves. They expose the reality of girls having to hide not only physical pain in order to be attractive, but also mental pain. For me, the glitter is empowering as it shows that there is beauty and strength in suffering. It also provides a powerful juxtaposition in that glitter is commonly associated with frivolity and ‘girlie’ behaviour, yet the bleeding gums and bleeding nose are anything but feminine. The photographs are bold and unforgiving. They are unashamedly provocative and do not leave the viewer anywhere to hide as they are faced with the reality of the standards of beauty which women are told that they have to achieve.
Similarly, but on a more significant level, the image of the knickers is totally powerful (pictured in the title). Periods and menstruation are an issue, which is tacit in our society. It’s taboo and brushed over, forgetting the pain and discomfort that a lot of women go through each month. The knickers are a simple pair of Victoria’s Secret briefs with a peach, lacy trim and cartoon details. They’re innocent and naïve, non-provocative. The glitter used to illustrate the menstrual blood is so shocking because it is so unusual for an image of something as intimate as the knickers of a girl on her period to be shown, even if it is an artistic representation of it. As it is so unusual, this is where its power lies. It confronts the viewer with the reality that it would normally like to forget. It glamorises suffering in such a way that it brings the high expectations of what it is to be a woman into harsh focus.
The photographs are really thought-provoking and rehash a prevalent strand in feminism which fights the societal expectations of what women have to do in order to still be deemed ‘feminine’ and attractive. I have found these pictures inspiring and I look forward to see what Altman comes up with next.
Madeleine is a final year student at the University of Exeter studying BA English with proficiency in French who has developed her writing and editing through her involvement with Her Campus Exeter. In her free time, Madeleine loves discovering new music in preparation for the UK festival season and searching for opportunities which can broaden her horizons, most recently this was volunteering as a teacher in Beijing, China, where she was immersed in Chinese culture and tradition. There are few things in this world that bring Madeleine more joy than glitter, velvet and sequins and her ideal dinner party guests would be Queen Elizabeth I, George Orwell and Taylor Swift. Currently, with graduation looming, Madeleine is exploring the idea of taking time out to travel the world on a shoe string before embarking upon a career in international humanitarian aid.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: