After two years of working in fashion photography, Sara Melotti started to feel torn. Images of flawless women seemed to be everywhere.
A background in dance had exposed her to unrealistic beauty standards – and the eating disorders they can lead to – but now it felt like she was contributing to the problem.
“It was a combination of things like hearing lots of girlfriends talk horribly about their body and the way they looked, seeing some models treated as nothing more than objects, then realising that the media’s portrayal of female beauty is hurting way too many of us.”
Rather than simply quit the fashion industry and hope that other photographers would follow suit, Melotti decided to put her skills to use to in order to make a statement.
Quest for Beauty is a project to photograph women of all ages, sizes and cultures around the world in order to show what natural beauty looks like.
Since october, Melotti (who’s from Italy but lives in New York) has taken the project to the likes of Cuba, Vietnam, Mexico, Hong Kong and Morocco. The goal is to shoot in at least 20 countries.
“In most countries – especially the less developed ones – women are not so concerned with the concept of exterior beauty,” she says. “They see it as an inner quality instead.”
Usually Melotti is drawn to locations and colors before she finds a subject. She’ll spend the first day in a new place scouting for the right backdrop and will wait until a certain type of person comes along. She says she can spot qualities she associates with beauty – like kindness and happiness – immediately.
“Besides having a plane ticket in and out of a country and a hotel booked for the first few nights, I let the trip itself decide where to bring me,” she says.
“In everything in life, I let my instinct guide me. It took a while to get there but now I know I can always trust whatever my gut is telling me to do, even if it goes against any kind of logic. In the end, my instinct is always right!”
The photographer says she has lost some followers now that she’s not posting images of professional models anymore, but I’m gaining a more appreciate following instead.
“I’ve received a lot of beautiful supporting messages from women around the world thanking me for taking a stand against something that doesn’t serve most of us rightly,” she says.
“The best reward for all the work is knowing that this project is making some women happier and more confident about themselves!