No Filter Project

In a society of unrealistic beauty standards, No Filter Project, by photographer Daria Yakina, is a candid exploration of the issues of self-worth and body shaming. Focusing on the female experience, No Filter Project presents the images and lived stories of 27 women from a variety of physicalities, mental states, ethnicities and ages.

 You put a callout on a Facebook page looking for women who would be interested in being photographed for a project focusing on body image. You had quite a big response, right?

Yeah, I was really surprised. I got so many comments and so many messages from women wanting to be involved. It was nice to see that people had the same opinions as me, that they were also sick of the same things.

 Can you run us through the process of photographing and interviewing the participants?

At the beginning, I organised little get togethers at the studio for the participants, because I wanted the subjects to get to know me and have a look at my work so they would feel comfortable shooting with me.

Before the women came in for the shoot I asked them, “If I were to focus on one physical aspect of yourself that you aren’t happy with or want to accept, or that you weren’t happy with and are now, what would it be?”
There were so many different stories. For some women, it was about cutting themselves; for others, it was about bulimia, depression, a big nose, small boobs. In the end, I photographed 27 women.

 It sounds like you had a really interesting group of women with quite a diverse selection of experiences get involved. Could you give us a snapshot of one or two of the stories that were shared with you?

There are heaps of stories. The first that comes to my head is this beautiful black woman with these long braids. She’s just this beautiful human, I was looking at her and wondering, ‘What’s the deal with you?’

Turns out she got bullied when she was younger, because of her natural hair. She went through a lot of money getting chemical treatments. To me, looking at her, and seeing this beautiful woman with amazing hair telling me all these stories about how it hurt her, how there’s a whole psychological thing behind it, it’s just insane.

Were there similarities between the stories?

Yes. It surprised me, you might have two women coming from two very different backgrounds, but they had the same problems or had faced the same situations. At the beginning, I didn’t really want to repeat stories, but then I thought it’s actually a good thing, because then other women can see that these particular things have happened to many others. And they might think, ‘Oh, I’m not the only one – there are lots of women with the same problem and they seem to be sort of ok with it, I want to try to be ok with it too.’

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You grew up in Russia and Germany, and also lived in America for some time. Tell us a little bit about your personal connection to the concept of body image.

I spent 13 years in Russia and, from what I remember, it was always, ‘Women are supposed to be this, or women are supposed to be that.’ I remember my Mum said, “Girls always have to sit up straight, girls always have to look nice, have pretty clothes, girls don’t laugh out loud, girls just behave.” If you think of the ideal 1950s woman, that’s how Russian women are still treated.

I think that’s why I was always uncomfortable. I always liked sneakers, I liked ‘boyish’ things: jumping from the garage into the sandpit, playing with the dogs outside, getting dirty, climbing trees, rap music. I never wanted to wear high-heeled shoes or dresses as a kid. If I wore a dress, I always wore sneakers with it.

When I moved to Germany, I didn’t really think about those things. I was a teenager, but I kind of had other things to do, like learn three other languages, and that occupied my mind. But, growing up, I remember I got bullied a lot because I had a monobrow, I wasn’t particularly pretty, I had tiny boobs and I wasn’t really interested in boys at that stage, as I was a bit of a late bloomer. I guess that affected me a lot as well, and my self-esteem.

When I moved to the States, I felt that people were really open, and the attitude there was that ‘big butts are pretty’. I started feeling confident and thinking, ‘actually, a big butt is pretty cool,’ relating to myself, so I kind of grew more confident there.

When I first arrived in Australia, I focused on my appearance quite a lot. I thought that if I was pretty, then I was going to succeed in life, which is really sheltered and superficial.

Every day I thought, I’m going to take the world by storm today; something’s going to happen, so I better look perfect. My nails were always done; my hair was perfect; I always had a good outfit. At the end of the day, I was disappointed that nothing had happened.

Getting older, pushing 30, I don’t know what happened but I remember, something changed and I stopped thinking about my appearance so much.

I just kind of understood that a putting on a pretty face doesn’t make you a pretty person.

When I look back at it, I was just focusing on the wrong things. Now I know that, even though I don’t like my current haircut, I know that it doesn’t define what’s underneath it. It’s more about your aura, what you project, what kind of people you attract. And I noticed that with the change of my attitude, I started attracting people who strive to do something interesting, people who have stories to tell. It feels great, you feel hungry, you want to hang around those people and achieve more.

Being from Red Magpie, we often ask people: what’s your favourite shiny thing?
I’m a big glitter girl, and I love rings. Glitter and crystals, that’s my thing.

No Filter Project is on for one night only, 8pm Wednesday October 5, at Loop Project Space & Bar. Follow No Filter Project on Instagram here, and Daria Yakina’s photography here.

Photography by the luminous Elly Freer.

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