THE VAGINA BLOG PODCAST EPISODE 10: Intimate Portraits and Removing Barriers with Jen Fairchild

Jen has loved photography since she was a child. She is fascinated by the humanity in it. After feeling overwhelmingly inspired she bought her first dslr and began a 10 year journey learning about photography and working as a photographer. Photography shapes how we see the world. She has worked in fashion photography, families and nude work and believes that women are the most beautiful creatures to photograph. Jen has stared an Intimate Portrait Project and she\’s here to tell us about it!

What inspired you to start this Intimate Portrait Project?

While working with a videographer to create a video of my work, we needed a model for my nude work. I put an ad on Instagram that said \’Free Boudoir Session\’ and I said \’Must apply via email. Must send an unedited headshot. Must include a bit about your current relationship with your body.\’ That wasn\’t premeditated at all, but as it was coming it was like yeah, okay, I\’m just going to ask for this and we\’ll see what happens. I ended up getting 35 submissions, which blew me away – I only needed one. And then I started reading through them and started sobbing at the level of depth these women were sharing. Just the experience of seeing their raw, beautiful faces and then their stories, I saw myself in every single one of them and the power of that was just otherworldly.

I realized after reading all of this that this was a bigger project than just using one model for a promo shoot. I had to think through and talk through what this could be and how. It moved very quickly. I started setting up the dates and places for everyone to come not even fully knowing what this was going to turn into.

What has been your experience as you’ve been photographing this? And what has the experience been for the models? Was this empowering?

We have so closely linked nudity with pornography and I have to explain often that those are 2 different things and this project is not pornography.

Shooting so many people in such a short amount of time was so draining. Especially because I was holding space. I was so grateful for these women all showing up and being a part of it. I as hearing things like “No one has seen me this nude other than my Mother” or “My husband hasn’t seen me this naked in this much light.” And the response was amazing – so many said “Oh I feel like I can just breathe!”

Being nude is such an interesting path to our fundamental selves. Being photographed nude can be a life changing experience and an opportunity to embrace a part of ourselves that we maybe haven’t before.

I’m so curious why we’ve all convinced ourselves that we’re not good enough. If we go all the way back to a primal level, we’re visual beings first. The job of the intellect is to discriminate first, so if we see someone in a position of power and we don’t look like them, we immediately subconsciously believe we are less-than. This is why diversity in media is so important.

There are no barriers to this project. You just have to sign up, that’s all. 

There are so many different body types and we only see 2 in the media! Everyone is so different, no two vaginas are the same. No two breasts are the same.

It’s exciting to see some of the new diversity too.

What has been your response to this project?

I opened up sign-ups to 100 women first. I gave myself a month and a half to fill up the spots and within 1 week we had all the spots filled. I was blown away. There have been so many women that have come forward to volunteer their time to help make this happen. The outpouring of voluntary help really validated the path that I was on and the vision that I had for it.

How is it all going to work?

I’ve made this a non-profit and the goal is to travel around the world. I want to shine a light on women and bodies and widen the scope of what we believe is normal. It’s going to be a travelling 2 part installation, the images to view and the gathering of everyone. 

After filling the first 100 I opened up 80 more spots, but for the next city we’ll just keep it to 100. I want to create a book for each city with the unedited headshot they submitted, their story about how they feel about their body and the photograph I take. I want to replicate the experience I had of reading all of these stories and seeing their faces.

Art is super important to me, so some women have volunteered to perform, so we’re going to have a dance piece and musical performance along with other visual art. It will support local art communities, we want to reach everyone on a local and global scale.

The level of nudity is wholly up to the comfort level of the participant. It’s up to you to tap into how far outside you want to push from your comfort zone. The clothes almost just served as a mental comfort. The scariest part is just stripping down for a lot of people.

Having that witness (of being nude) is hugely validating and deeply comforting. It’s hard to explain. It can be so liberating and freeing and fun in a way that can’t always be described.

It’s another step of empowerment and embodiment.

So where can we find you? When is your first event?

March 6, 2020 in Salt Lake City is our first event. It’s a private party, invite-only but I’m working on an invite system to help build the community. A hugely integral part is the grassroots idea we had for how this should travel. I really want it to go where it needs to go. Everyone that attends the launch party is going to be given a ballot to vote on which city we need to go to next. We’ll place the top 3 cities on our website and then everyone can vote about where we go next!


(Jen with 1 N’s table, because we don’t need higher fences, we need longer tables)

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How do you like to manage your period?

I love Thinx! No matter what I put in (tampons, etc) I leak! Praise everything for Thinx!

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