Just days before the latest lockdown, Britain Uncovered managed to squeeze in another body positivity photoshoot – this time with Jess Hake and Verity Pitts, who both participated in Sophie Tea’s game-changing Send Nudes event back in December 2019. Here’s a round-up of how our day unfolded.
In the three months that Britain Uncovered has been up and running, we’ve featured a series of interviews with individuals who have been able to overcome body issues and achieve newfound levels of body confidence in a number of different ways.
There’s no exact formula for achieving this, of course – and an experience that’s helpful for one person may hinder another – but hearing about the different paths people have explored that have helped them to feel more comfortable in their own skin has made for fascinating reading.
For some of our interviewees, dabbling in a spot of skinny-dipping while away on holiday was the first step on their journey towards body acceptance; for others, it’s come about through art that celebrates and glorifies the human body in all shapes and sizes; and we’ve even heard from those who have taken part in naked charity fundraisers that proved surprisingly uplifting and provided an unexpected boost to their body confidence levels along the way.
For Jess and Verity, the participants in our most recent photoshoot at the start of November, it was involvement in Sophie Tea’s Send Nudes event nearly one year ago that proved the difference maker. Held at the Protein Studios in Shoreditch, one of the evening’s many attractions was a nude catwalk featuring models who had been painted by the artist in her inimitable style earlier in the day – and the 20 or so ladies involved bravely strode out onto the catwalk in front of the press and hundreds of art enthusiasts who had gathered for the special occasion (we’ll be posting a full review of the event next month to mark its one-year anniversary).
Last week we spoke in-depth with Verity about her participation (you can read the full story here), and during our interview she explained how being involved in the event provided her with a newfound confidence and quite literally changed her life.
The event made an indelible impression on participants and attendees alike, and it also provided the inspiration for two new body positivity platforms launched shortly thereafter. The Body Confidence Issue, founded by Verity, presents a more optimistic view of the lumps, bumps, rolls and unflattering angles of ourselves we encounter on a daily basis; whilst I C ME, a body image project launched by Jess during lockdown, encourages individuals to submit pictures and testimonies highlighting their perceived flaws, to indicate that we can all be too self-critical of our bodies at times.
The projects have already been a huge success and have gained a large number of followers, and in what promises to be a fantastic night in early 2021, the two ventures will join forces to host an event that will officially launch both platforms. Given Jess and Verity’s unique journeys and their vast body confidence expertise, they were undoubtedly the perfect fit for our latest photoshoot, and it was such a pleasure having them involved in our second ever event!
In before the lockdown
Putting together a photoshoot at short notice is no mean feat, but with a second lockdown right around the corner and increasing uncertainty as to how long it might last, the decision was made to bring the event forward. However, just 24 hours prior to shoot time, we were still in search of a studio, and everything was still very much up in the air as we made our way down to Brighton!
Fortunately, we were able to arrange a tour of the shiny new Capture Factory Studios on the outskirts of town, and shortly after stepping foot inside the space it became clear that this hidden gem was the perfect home for what we had in mind. Having only opened in 2019, the studios offer an airy and uncluttered feel - which is a stark contrast to the vintage industrial facility where Britain Uncovered’s first photoshoot took place back in October (although the Belt Craft Studios in North London is equally as charming in its own right). We were instantly enamoured with the luxurious settings offered at the studios and the various shooting options available to us, and we couldn't wait to get started the following day!
For many, the idea of a body positivity photoshoot and baring flesh in front of the cameras is still way out of many people’s comfort zones – perhaps understandably – but through the many interviews we’ve conducted for our site, it’s clear that the idea is far more daunting than the reality; and in fact, many people feel surprisingly comfortable and at ease during such a shoot once it’s underway. The long-term confidence benefits can prove invaluable, and many individuals we’ve spoken to found it so empowering, and such a life-changing experience, that they have actually gone on to organise a follow-up shoot to build on this newly discovered liberation and self-acceptance.
Celebrating your body, rather than honing in on its perceived flaws and weaknesses, can ramp up your self-confidence levels so much, and embracing the parts you're unhappy with and accepting yourself exactly as you are can make such a big impact on your self-perception and overall outlook going forward. Society continues to set unrealistic expectations for how you should look, feel and think about yourself, and shunning these notions and embracing yourself 'as is' can make such a big statement and literally define your future. It can make such a long-term difference to mental health, and a body positivity photoshoot such as this can really help cement this type of mindset.
The shoot gets underway
Creatively, we had a fairly blank canvas heading into the day, and with a generous four-hour window to work with, we had plenty of time to come up a wide variety of different concepts and ideas.
The key to success for any photoshoot along these lines is to generate a relaxed and creative environment and allow things to evolve organically, and by doing this, everybody can feel at ease in front of the camera and their personalities can shine through right from the get-go.
Jess and Verity largely provided their own inspiration and looks in the initial stages – aided by some very random props we stumbled across in a cupboard by the kitchen, including a certain pair of angel wings that Verity took a shine to! – and once we’d played around with the lighting and managed to find a slightly less humid temperature, the shoot officially got underway with the models in their casual wear/pyjamas to get us into the groove and set the tone for the shoot ahead. Verity had managed to source a copy of the Evening Standard, and with the shoot taking place on the day of the US election, we definitely weren't short of talking points to keep the conversation moving!
One of the standout features of the Capture Factory are its huge windows which flood the studio with a beautiful, natural light, and this really came into play for the next part of the shoot, where we made use of the studios’ infinity cove which offers a bright, clean and vivid backdrop and helped provide for some of our best images of the day. It wasn’t long before we went into full-on Christmas mode, complete with Santa hats and a festive Spotify playlist, as we unofficially marked the start of the Christmas season here on the south coast!
Each portion of the shoot brought with it a different atmosphere, and it was intriguing to see, both during the shoot and in the resulting photos, just how much of a contrast there was depending on the chosen attire. While the pyjamas and Christmas costumes provoked a sense of fun and playfulness, there was undoubtedly a bolder and more powerful feel to the shots in which Jess and Verity suited up and posed with a more serious demeanour.
With around 90 minutes' worth of shooting under our belt, and with everyone feeling at ease in front of the camera, we decided that the next costume change would be somewhat more daring; and after a short break in the studio’s swanky relaxation zone, Jess and Verity confidently returned to the set without any clothing at all for some photos in keeping with the ‘uncovered’ theme of our website!
Although Britain Uncovered likes to promote the value of clothes-free experiences such as these, being bold enough to bare all for an extended period of time like this still takes some doing - and being relaxed in such an environment really underscores just how strong the duo's body confidence levels are now. As Verity told us last week, "These shoots can be as equally as liberating, empowering and fun as [Sophie Tea's] catwalk" - and this definitely seemed the case during this part of the shoot, with both models seemingly feeling very calm and confident in their own skin.
To end the day, we finished up with some more photos back in the infinity cove and made use of the pink paper hearts we'd brought along as decoration. But with dusk approaching and the natural light starting to diminish, we decided to call it a day shortly before our allotted time was up.
Reflecting back on the day
By all accounts, everyone involved seemed satisfied with how the shoot went, and we ended up with a really varied set of images that tie in perfectly with everything our website is trying to achieve. Verity’s comments about the event were particularly heartening:
“This is the first shoot I’ve done where I didn’t really react to the photos the way I normally would. I normally cry and think they are disgusting. But they came out and I’m obsessed. I feel like slowly I am beginning to love myself after all my body has been through. It’s time to trust the process, trust the change, embrace the challenge that is life and begin to build on what we have. Trusting the process of the downfalls, the wins and everything in between is what will truly help us work on that journey of loving ourselves and forgetting toxic society expectations.”
The day was a resounding success from both an artistic and empowerment perspective, and my heartfelt thanks go out to Jess and Verity for their involvement - everything went so smoothly, and it was an amazingly fun day at the office!
- You can keep tabs on The Body Confidence Issue and I C ME via their respective Instagram feeds, and by visiting www.veritypittsnofilter.co.uk and www.icme.online/seemies.