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United front: breasts without the airbrush

The shocking thing about Laura Dodsworth's pictures of 100 women's breasts isn't the flesh on show, or the many shapes and sizes, but the realisation that images of unairbrushed, non-uniform breasts seem to be so rare. "We see images of breasts everywhere," says the 41-year-old photographer, "but they're unreal. They create an unflattering comparison but also an unobtainable ideal. I wanted to rehumanise women through honest photography."

Dodsworth interviewed each woman at length, starting by asking them how they felt about their breasts. The interviews soon became more emotional than she anticipated. "I found that, while breasts are interesting in themselves, they are also catalysts for discussing relationships, body image and ageing. I realised that this had become an exploration of what it means to be a woman." She is fundraising, via Kickstarter, to make a book of the project.

Her subjects range in age from 19 to 101, and include a priest, a lapdancer, cancer survivors and women who have had surgery. The absolute anonymity she granted her subjects elicited honest interviews, ranging from the beautiful through the mundane to the painful. Many women cried. Dodsworth herself experienced catharsis: "One thing that surprised me was that the way I felt about my breasts changed. I felt more in touch with them and they became more erogenous."

Dodsworth also took part, but will not be anonymous, which she found difficult. "One male friend said that I couldn't do it because my husband's business partners would see, and one asked how my sons would feel when they grow up [they are seven and nine]. But both arguments were about the men in my life, and I thought they weren't reason enough to stop me as an artist, a woman and a feminist."

The impact of all 100 images together is quite mesmerising. Indeed, when she showed her husband he was struck dumb. His first words were, "But they just don't look like the magazines." For Dodsworth, that underlined the impact of her work: "I feel that just looking at the pictures alone will change how people feel about breasts." Ruth Lewy

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