These Powerful Photos Challenge The Stereotypes People Fight Every Day

“We can either continue to use our differences to divide us, or we can define our identities for ourselves.” NSFW: The photos in this series include nudity.

Lauren Renner, a New York based photographer, started an ongoing groundbreaking photo series called “In Others’ Words” that shows the different stereotypes that individuals are confronted with.

Lauren Renner

1. Renner finds volunteers to model for her photo shoots through social media and word-of-mouth.

Lauren Renner

2. The photographer then asks each volunteer to meet her at her studio with a prepared list of words they have been labeled as during the course of their lives.

Lauren Renner

3. They remove their clothes, pair up, and write these words on each other’s bodies from head to toe. She photographs this process, and then brings the volunteers to a public place.

Lauren Renner

4. “Many see this as a liberating action for themselves, where they can finally step into their own skin on their own terms,” she said.

Lauren Renner

5. “To me, this is a very significant part of the process,” Renner told BuzzFeed. “Because they have to be completely present with themselves publicly in their own skin. When shooting groups together, this is definitely a palpable unifying moment.”

Lauren Renner

6. “I would like to shed light on the fact that stereotyping and labeling are acts that none of us are exempt from perpetuating and experiencing,” Renner said.

Lauren Renner

7. “We can either continue to use our differences to divide us, or we can unite on the basis of our shared experiences, respect the impact of those experiences, and define our identities for ourselves.”

Lauren Renner

8. The photographer hopes her participants have the “chance to unite, to bring light to their experiences through raw personhood, and to define their identities for themselves despite what society has put upon them.”

Lauren Renner

9. When viewing the photos, she also wants her audience to “confront themselves in the role they have directly played in labeling other individuals.”

Lauren Renner

10. “I’d also like to offer my viewers the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences with being labeled and give them the chance to see the world with renewed periphery,” Renner told BuzzFeed.

Lauren Renner

11. Renner explained the inspiration for this project came from a personal experience of her own in which she felt judged because of her sexuality.

Lauren Renner

12. “Despite the general open-mindedness of the individuals I was surrounded by, I instantly began to notice shifts in how I was being addressed in conversation as a result of this relationship.”

Lauren Renner

13. “All of a sudden, I was being labeled as ‘gay,’ ‘queer,’ and a ‘lesbian.’”

Lauren Renner

14. It “fascinated” Renner that her shift in sexuality caused people to change how they were seeing and describing her.

Lauren Renner

15. “I didn’t feel as though I’d suddenly morphed into a different person,” she said. “On the contrary, I felt like the same person I had always been who was now giving myself the space to explore a side of my being that had always existed.”

Lauren Renner

16. But, says Renner, the experience was ultimately transformative: “It made me furious. It made me curious. It gave me the artistic voice I was searching for.”

Lauren Renner

17. Learn more about Lauren Renner’s photography series and check out her other work on her website.

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