“Women are taught from a young age that we’re not good enough, we need to be fixed. There’s a dozen industries telling us we can pay for a cure to our shame,” photographer Jill Kerswill, 27, tells PEOPLE. “The message of this shoot is all about being body positive, celebrating what you have and letting go of your insecurities.”
Kerswill says the women came up with the idea and then reached out to her to photograph their annual meet-up. At first, Kerswill says, the women are nervous to undress, but the insecurities soon fall away.
“There’s always a moment right as the girls strip down where they seem hesitant. They might touch their bellies or lift up their boobs because it’s something they’re self conscious about. Then they look around, see a girl with a flat tummy or perkier boobs is covering something she’s self conscious about and suddenly all that fear melts away,” she says. “It’s so beautiful.”
“Watching women in their most vulnerable state relax into their own skin, seeing strangers become sisters, is something I wish everyone could experience!”
And after the shoot, many of the women feel reborn.
“The feedback I’ve received from the girls after each shoot has been overwhelmingly positive,” Kerswill says. “Many of them have spoke of feeling freed of their shame. I think every girl takes something different and unique away.”
RELATED VIDEO: Breast Cancer Survivors and Patients Pose in Body Paint
The shoot is also transformative for Kerswill, who says it’s forever changed her relationship with her body.
“Seeing these women so comfortable and free in their own skin has really helped me to deal with a lot of my own hang-ups,” she says. “I no longer care about my cellulite or my flabby tummy. Those things can’t hurt me! Why worry about something that has absolutely no baring on who I am or what I can achieve?”
Kerswill, who specializes in boudoir and pinup photos, wishes all the women she shoots were this body positive.
“I get so tired of how women I photograph apologizing for their cellulite or scars or flabby bits,” she says. “Your body does amazing things! It carries you through everything you achieve, it bears your children and without it you wouldn’t exist. Praise it! Appreciate it! Love it for every bump and bruise!”