Baring Body and Soul: Along the Way

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Photography can mean different things to different people. Most often, it's used to preserve a moment in time.

But one local Photographer is using it--not to hold on to the past, but rather to let go of it.

It's a project that's definitely outside the box, and we meet the photographer behind it, "Along the Way" in Rapid City.

As a freelance photographer Kim Lathe noticed that nearly everyone, be it in wedding photos or portraits, wants their pictures fixed.

Photographer Kim Lathe says, "I understand it, I edit all of my own photos too of myself as well, but I got disenheartened because so many people thought they had things wrong with them that I didn't consider a flaw so you know I wanted people to see themselves for how they really were and accept that."

Almost universally, it seems people struggle with body image. So about 3 years ago, she started: something called the BARE project.

Kim Lathe says, "I have a young daughter and she's growing up and seeing all these images in the media and everywhere of perfect looking people and that's just not real. So I wanted to make something real."

"Bare" is on display on her website. And the first thing you see is a page full of people wearing masks.

Lathe says, "I feel like we all walk around wearing masks everyday in our everyday lives ya know. We're not ever really completely honest with each other or even ourselves sometimes."

Steve says: But if you click on one of the masks, you'll see the person behind it, a glimpse of their body and a glimpse of their soul.

Photographer Kim Lathe says, (Clip 32 @ 3:40): "And so all the pictures are nude or semi nude and during each session each person shared something really personal about themselves, a secret or a fear or an experience they've been through or something they struggled with."

And it didn't take long to see the impact, the emotion, of baring oneself for all to see.

Lathe says, "On the first day when ya know the second person in my studio broke down when he started undressing, I realized that people were using this as a sort of therapeutic experience or a stepping stone or just a place to examine something and get through it."

Steve: She says alot of the volunteers cried. The nakedness she says, kind of symbolizing taking down their walls.

Photographer Kim Lathe says, (Clip 34 @ 2:58): It's just more to get them in a vulnerable state. It's more about vulnerability and being open and honest than sexuality."

Steve: There are no names used....no hometowns...just people facing their fears and insecurities head on. She let each person choose the picture they wanted used for the project. Beneath each picture is what that person chose to share, the fear or anxiety or something they've been hiding but wanted to bare.

Photographer Kim Lathe says crying, (Clip 36 @ :33): "I'm really proud of this project and what it's done for other people and so yeah, that's my reward getting to see how it's affected other people."

Steve: Each person did it for a different reason, each person had their own experience.

Photographer Kim Lathe says, (Clip 34 @ :58): "At first she really didn't like the pictures, but the more she looked at the pictures, the more and more she looked at them, she she started to love them, and love herself. And that happened for a lot of people."

Steve: The impact was different for everyone.

Photographer Kim Lathe says, "But a lot of people that have been in BARE, it's changed their lives, it's changed the way they look at themselves, it's changed the way they look at their relationships, they way they interact with other people"

In a way, Kim Lathe has turned photography into therapy, and how to send a message of healing at the same time.

Lathe says, "Just to show everybody that it is ok to be honest. It's ok to be real. It's ok to be yourself. You don't have to walk around and hide things behind a mask."

While she's hoping to get them out for an extended exhibit at some point, right now the only place to see the project is at kimlathe.com.

But it is getting a lot of attention, a local magazine is also working on an article about the project.

If you've met someone cool "Along the Way" please call or e-mail us to let us know.