A beautiful new photography series is showing girls of all ages that they can define themselves on their terms, rather than being labeled by society.
The series, Project Unlabeled: I Define Me, by photographer Vaughn of Withunmind Photography, is helping black girls and women to understand that you are only limited by you.
Vaughn is the mother of five daughters and said that the project is driven by her passion to empower women.
“I am constantly seeing labels being placed on girls (and women, too) by their peers, the media, society, and even those that love them,” she said. “Up to this point, I tried to do my part in combating this by helping to teach my girls, and those I had the chance to spend any time with, that they could do and be WHATEVER it is that they choose to be. I also used my camera to help reflect to them their true beauty and give them the opportunity to embrace it.”
Vaughn took further action when she came across an inspiring Facebook post. From there, Project Unlabeled: I Define Me was born.
“While scrolling through my Facebook timeline one day, I ran across a spoken word video by an artist named Telesa Hines. I had never met her and and, up until that point, had never heard of her. The piece in the video was called, ‘I’m Coming For You,'” Vaughn explained.
“It was powerful. It felt like a personal call to action to me to ACTIVELY DO something. I had the idea of shooting five to ten Brown girls — all shapes, sizes, and skin tones — and having Telesa write and perform a spoken word piece to it. The final result of the project would be a video [below]. I immediately inboxed Telesa, and not knowing me from Joe Blow, she said she was on board. The voice you hear in the video is her, reciting her original piece for the project.
Vaughn received over 100 submissions for models for the series and decided to photograph them all, even though she planned to only feature five.
This is the message she hopes everyone who views the photo series and subsequent video will take away from it.
“Just like my hope for the girls directly involved in the project, I hope that EVERYONE who sees the video will see someone that looks or feels like them: Someone who has big hair like them or little hair; someone who is tall and thin or that has a few more curves or even needs a wheelchair to get around; someone who looks a little shy like you or who is bold and boisterous. ”
“I want them to know that you can truly do and be whatever it is that you want. People will talk about you from the cradle to the grave, but despite what anyone says, what anyone calls you, the power in defining who you are lies WITHIN you.”