Feminine Transitions: A Photographic Celebration of Natural Beauty

As young as I can remember, my father always made it a point to tell me I was beautiful, just as I am. He was completely against me altering my hair from its natural state and wearing make-up as a necessity.

Image of girl looking in the mirror

Despite my Dad’s positive reinforcement, I went through a period of not feeling very beautiful. I was at the beginning stages of puberty and it wasn’t an easy time period. Besides that, when I looked in magazines and viewed TV the “pretty girls” didn’t look anything like me.

After a few years I grew to see the beauty that my father embedded in my head. And although I did perm my hair as a pre-teen, 5 years later I cut it off and went back my natural.

Hearing such positive reinforcement from the first man in my life, prepared me for what I believe would have most likely destroyed me. Society.

My project, Feminine Transitions: A Photographic Celebration of Natural Beauty, is a photography book that promotes the importance of self-love for our authentic selves as women.

I started off photographing younger girls before moving on to increasingly older women. At the beginning of each photo shoot, I asked the models to pose without accessories such as earrings, necklaces and nose rings with the exception of a few, since they recently received a piercing.

My objective was to truly express the bare beauty of each model without distractions.

I vividly remember looking at one of the older women through the lens of my camera and feeling displeased.  At that moment, I was unclear about the issue.  It took me awhile to realize that my hang up was with her makeup.

I couldn’t see her skin. Her makeup filled in the natural lines on her face, and gave her an unrealistic appearance.

Realizing that her cosmetics hid her face, I politely asked her to remove it so that I could see her authentic beauty. From that point on, my project embodied a new focus.

ImageMy original idea for Feminine Transitions was to simply create a photo book celebrating the beauty of females young and old. The topic of make-up never occurred to me prior to this day.

After that day, it became a requirement that all models remain bare, free of makeup, accessories, or wigs for the photo shoot. All images are also free of digital enhancements (NO PHOTOSHOP).

Unfortunately, this prerequisite became the deciding factor to those who chose not to participate.

It was then I realized many women had serious issues with their self-image. For several, not being able to put on their “face” was a huge problem.

My intent was not to cause any discomfort. I simply wanted to create a photographic celebration of womanhood in their organic state.

Those who decided to participate despite their hesitation seem to discover a part of themselves on a deeper level. As they took off the mask they had been wearing for most of their lives, they felt the sensation of freedom.

To make each woman look as subtle as possible, it was necessary for them remain simply bare. So I requested that they pull their shirts down below their shoulders.

Some of the models felt comfortable enough to take off their top completely. When they did, they felt a growing sense of release. Quite a few of them said to me, “I felt like I took a load off my back.”

ImageThere was an emotional significance attached to the bareness in the photographs. The women became vulnerable. There was only the individual and the camera — nothing in between.

It is quite obvious that our society plays a major role in perpetuating a negative attitude towards aging. Commercials, magazines, advertising, and even doctors do an effective job of marketing “age defying” products.

I will never understand why growing old is considered taboo, particularly in the United States.

In spite of this, even while being bombarded with such negativity, we must take responsibility for embracing our true selves and not look to the media to do it for us.

When we do, we will help the younger generation develop a healthier view of aging.

Thankfully other artist and some companies are promoting material to encourage positive self-esteem. I believe we are at the peak of a natural beauty evolution.

It is my hope that Feminine Transitions will be an aide in this progress by bringing forth a movement of change in the confidence of females in all age groups.

As girls and women we experience the bulk of pressure when it comes to accepting our physical appearance. We’re constantly told by society that our bodies, our faces, our skin, our graying hair, our weight and height are not good enough.

My mission is to foster a woman’s love for herself and encourage women to believe in their own beauty, despite what we are being fed. We must also acknowledge that our mind may be our own culprit.

ImageUpon reflection, I know now that Feminine Transitions is a tribute to that little girl who is constantly told by society that she is not beautiful. I want that girl to know that she is beautiful, just the way she is.

And for the older woman who hides behind her makeup and colors her gray hair, I want her to take off her “mask” and be free to celebrate the changes that come with aging.

ImageAnd finally to the senior woman who feels that her wrinkles are a negative reminder of growing older, I want her to know that each line is a story map of her soul and her wisdom. I am not alone in honoring you and looking up to you for guidance.

I want every woman, young and old, to know that you are beautiful, just the way you are. Let the radiance you were born with shine through.

Adapted from “Let your Light Shine Through: Celebrate Your Natural Beauty,” published in Advocating Creatively: Stories of Contemporary Social Change Pioneers.

Above image of girl looking in the mirror copyright: Image from http://blackhairmedia.com/beauty/black-women-mainstream-society/

It’s Finally Here!

Feminine Transitions books and shipment box
Feminine Transitions books have arrived

After 4 years from the start of my project, 3 years of fundraising (yes it’s been that long-both crowd funding and on my own) and many challenges  I’ve faced… It’s finally here!

I am so very thankful for those who showed support, having no clue who I was, yet still believing in my vision.

Grateful for everyone who helped make this possible by funding my dream, sharing my posts and pointing out what needed correcting.

Most of you simply stepped in, again not knowing me personally, and asked “How can I help you?” You can’t imagine the appreciation I feel for ALL of you.

Over a year of sleepless nights and my – OUR persistence has paid off.

I can now say with conviction that when you don’t give up, you simply cannot fail.

You may fall and get a few scratches along the way but it’pushing through is more than worth. The price is seeing your dreams unfold. #priceless

Thank you!

If you purchased a copy of Feminine Transitions, your book will be on it’s way this week. If not, you can purchase a hardcover on my website (scroll to the bottom of the page) or ebook from Amazon.

Do send me your feedback after receiving it. Better yet, take photos and tag me on your social media pages. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google +, Tumblr and Flickr.

Feminine Transitions Book Launch Party

Feminine Transitions book cover and photo of Alyscia Cunningham
Feminine Transitions and Alyscia Cunningham

It has been four years in the making and Feminine Transitions is finally a physical book. This has been far from an easy process. However, it has been most gratifying to experience my project blossom from a thought to reality.

Come and join me and share the experience.


5331 Baltimore Avenue
Hyattsville, MD 20781

Sunday, October 27, 2013

6:00pm to 7:30pm

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Thank you to our sponsors!


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