We have to admit, when we first heard about Jordan Matter’s book Uncovered — topless portraits of more than 80 normal women (i.e. not models), all shot in public in NYC — we were cynical. First of all, it’s hard to get past the fact that Jordan Matter is a dude, who spent six years photographing topless women. Sure, some of the women are old enough to be his grandmother and there is an impressive range of body types featured. Still, we found it hard to get excited by the whole “embrace your body” message coming from a guy. Plus, while some of the jokes in the photos work, like the woman standing topless in front of a street stall selling knock-off bras, some — like the woman walking home from the office, topless with pearls from the waist up, corporate from the waist down — gave us second-hand embarrassment.
But then we started interviewing the women who participated in this project, and reading their personal statements that accompany their portraits in the book, as well as the awesome forward by Susan Seligson, author of the memoir Stacked: A 32DDD Reports from the Front (who, to her surprise, ended up posing as well). And our cynicism started to crumble. Also, turns out it’s legal to be topless in the city — who knew?! Seligson writes in the foreward:
“For all the lusting, leering and hooting my breasts have attracted, exposing them of my own volition seemed to shift the power base. When I remove my top and bra on a city street, if anyone is the aggressor it’s me alone. How can I be the victim if I stage a pre-emptive strike? The experience left me feeling upbeat and somehow victorious, and the effect lingered for days.”