When New York-based photographer Samantha Casolari was commissioned by Allure to shoot a story about women’s pubic hair grooming habits in May 2017, it was her first experience working with completely naked subjects.
“I’m Italian, I come from a Catholic country. We have embedded in our minds that nudity is something shameful, not something you really show,” she told HuffPost. After she shot the series, the magazine, the participants and everyone involved was pleased with the result.
(In case it wasn’t clear, the images below contain nudity.)
Both Casolari and Allure shared the story on social media after it was published. Casolari used blocks and circles to conceal the women’s genitals.
Three weeks ago, Casolari shared a censored version of one of the images after she said the magazine had re-shared it, too ― although it appears to have since been taken off Allure’s account.
“It got taken down within three hours,” she said, adding, “within two days I stopped being able to post photos. I woke up one morning and my account was disabled.” Casolari’s Instagram was disabled for “a violation of community guidelines,” according to a message that came up on her screen when she attempted to log on.
Casolari’s feed is mostly filled with fully clothed people (and even a few photos of Steve Bannon). She told HuffPost she was sure it was the photos of pubic hair that caused her profile to be removed. She also said that she reached out countless times to Instagram to no avail, and she found it infuriating.
“As I woman I found it really despicable that they’re telling us how our bodies should be,” she said. “I found it very disrespectful and belittling of women because it really shows that women’s bodies in their natural state are offensive. We can’t show nipples although we have them and men can. We can’t show pubic hair. If I take a photo of a man with a small swimsuit and you see hair around the crotch, it’s not going to be taken down.”
In 2015, an Australian online magazine faced a similar fate on Instagram, when the photo-sharing site censored and and disabled its account after it shared an image featuring a woman’s pubic hair. “Instagram seem to be ok with man pubes,” Ainsley Hutchence, the agency’s director, told Mic at the time. “Clearly this is absolutely sexist. Instagram believes that women should wax or get off their platform.”
While there are no exact guidelines written on Instagram’s website about pubic hair, it’s interesting to note that just last week, Kim Kardashian shared a photo of the essentially the same body parts Casolari shared ― with the same areas obscured― but hairless. They are very much still up today.
Casolari told HuffPost that what she loved most about the photos was that it “conveyed the message that being confident in your body as nature has given it to you, not as we want to reshape it. No Photoshop, no waxing, the body as it is ― as 99 percent of women’s bodies are.”
A spokesperson from Instagram told HuffPost that the account was mistakenly removed, and Casolari confirmed that her account has since been reinstated.
“We try hard to find a good balance between allowing people to express themselves and making sure the community feels comfortable, but we recognize that we don’t always get it right,” the spokesperson said. “In this case, we mistakenly removed the account, but restored it as soon as the mistake was brought to our attention. We apologize.”
Casolari said she has not heard anything from Instagram itself, and her feelings still stand. “It’s very hypocritical, because it’s a platform that is flooded with really offensive images ― fake bodies, fake boobs, fake butts, violence, guns,” she said, adding that something like pubic hair, a naturally occurring part of life, appears to be more problematic to the company than images that put forth an unrealistic standard of beauty, for instance.
Now that the account has been reactivated, Casolari can continue on her mission to put forth imagery of what women of all shapes, sizes and grooming habits look like. “I hope to bring some more input into the conversation regarding what a real body is versus what society expects a body to be,” she said.
Go to Casolari’s Instagram to see more of her work.