On International Women’s Day 2020 Sandrine Le Goff and Jessica Kersten unveiled the culmination of a five-year art project designed to unlock difficult conversations and modern-day taboos.
The project – Vaginas Untold – brings to life the stories of 33 women through dedicated poetry and artistic representation – with each woman’s vagina as the artwork’s canvas.
Released as a limited edition book, each work depicts an out-of-this world retelling of each women’s story; from a friendly monster that represents one woman’s battle with anorexia, to a jarring image of a vagina covered in red roses paying tribute to her experience with endometriosis, to a feminist rapunzel reclaiming body hair, and a woman rowing through blood.
With Vaginas Untold, Jessica and Sandrine subvert the notion of the male gaze – and give a contemporary spin to the female gaze with their uncompromising yet beautiful photos of the most sacred region of a woman’s body.
In a Post #MeToo era who defines the term ‘female gaze’ – the viewer, or the viewed? Jessica and Sandrine answer this question and restore the balance of power, celebrating the raw, naked beauty of the women in their photographs with an unflinching female gaze.
The concept for each work was prefaced by an in-depth and intimate interview and the process of being naked, both literally and physically, allows Vaginas Untold to unlock difficult conversations about ageing, menopause, abuse, birth, female pleasure, and self-acceptance.
The subjects are not models, but rather friends, associates, and even strangers, all who volunteered for this intimate portrayal, each bravely baring their stories and bodies.
While at first confronting, the incredible craft and intimate portrayal draws you in – whilst also provoking you to interrogate your response at the same time.
“The vagina is so often stuck in a place between porn and shame, but there is so much more to show and tell. Through this project we unlocked many secrets and stories, and we have so much more work to do; to continue creating safe spaces for women to bare all – literally and metaphorically. We want to show women everywhere that the source of their strength often comes from a place of vulnerability.”
“Why don’t we talk about sex, birth, pleasure, menopause or abuse more? As women, we keep our most difficult experiences to ourselves when, so often, they are ones all of us face. Vaginas Untold empowered women who bravely shared their bodies and experiences with us – but through the book we hope that empowerment spreads, provoking further open conversations about stories too often untold.”
On International Women’s Day 2020 the artists announced a global call to women all over the world to uncover and discuss contemporary taboos. The aim is to open a dialogue by unlocking difficult conversations – and also a prompt to simply talk more with each other.
The Vaginas Untold project is more than an art exhibit and a book – it’s a global call to make women’s experiences heard whilst challenging modern day taboos. The artists and wider team ask women to share their experiences anonymously on the website and join the project which will include roundtable discussions, a report, a podcast, more artwork – and of course, the opening up of even more, difficult yet pertinent conversations all to challenge modern day taboos and drive greater connection, understanding and acceptance.
Vaginas Untold is a personal project for both Sandrine and Jessica who began this journey as part of their exploration into their own notions of femininity and feminism. The goal now is to take this project to different cultures and countries and make it a truly inclusive representation of women’s bodies and experiences.
Cloudfactory is a female-led creative agency in Amsterdam; with female-led creativity at its heart. The project kicks off in Amsterdam on International Women’s Day. The book is a document about what it means to be a woman today, intended as a gift from one woman to another. By women, for women.
“If you dare to have your vagina photographed in a beautiful way – you can do anything.”
Some surprising if not shocking statistics inspired Jessica and Sandrine to embark on their Vaginas Untold project; 2018, public health institute RIVM stated only 60% of women in the Netherlands turn up to vital cervical cancer screenings; Refinery29 UK found 48% of women have concerns about the appearance of their vulva; A 2019 YouGov survey revealed that half of Britons could not identify or describe the function of the urethra (58%), the labia (47%) or vagina (52%). These statistics are shocking but they are based on facts, and these figures prove that there is a need to ignite debate around these topics.
For more information also see our website: www.vaginasuntold.com
WITH THANKS TO
First assistant photographer: Willemieke Kars
Second assistant photographer / Producer: Saffron Pape
Producer: Saskia den Hollander
Make-up artist: Kira Kroegman
Body Painter: Monique Schaefer
Art department: Jord Beets
Embroidering: Carla IJff
Retouching: André Westerveld
Design, book cover & typography: Natasa Lops, Rianne Hogeveen and Zefnath de Lima