vagina vérité began when a friend of mine asked me if I liked the way my vagina looked. Out of the blue, she just said: Do you like the way your vagina looks?
As I answered, I realized that I had never really taken a good look at it, and that other than a bit of porn —retouched images which don’t count— I hadn’t actually seen any other women’s vaginas.
I was sure that they were all different, as we are different in every other way, but I had nothing to point to, nothing I could show my friend, who clearly thought there was something wrong with how hers looked. It happened all in an instant. I got really mad; I switched into problem-solving mode, and announced: There should be a book, a visual reference for women like us. If there wasn’t one, then I would shoot one. Close-up documentary photographs: vagina portraits.
I started asking women about their experiences with, and ideas about, vaginas.
This was not what I expected I would be doing. It just happened like that. That she asked me and I heard her, and I could not turn away from the underlying premise of our female lives, that there is a right way for your vagina, for your body to look and be—in parts, inspected and graded piece by piece, and as a whole, as the container for who you are, for the life you get to live.
It was one of those moments where every cell in my body felt it, the smack of some idea, someone else’s voice deciding our worth as female. Every time it happened, I would think: this has to stop. I have to be part of making it stop.
Well, this I could do. I could shoot this book. My name is Alexandra Jacoby. I make images so I can keep looking at ideas, edges and shapes that affect me. Prior to vagina vérité, my work wasn’t about women, it was personal stuff, self-portraits and abstract ideas I was slowly working through. Actually, I was making oil paintings.
Some basic stuff: I was 35 when that conversation took place (52 now). All along, I have been based in New York, where I can walk for hours, especially downtown. I find it hard to talk about myself. Bear with me. This page will get better. And you can always reach out and ask me questions. I don’t mean to leave things out to be mysterious. It’s always been my way to focus on the work and the person in front of me. Often, I think, that’s just fine. Especially with subject matter that is so personal, like making a portrait of a women’s vagina. Anyway, all of this just kind of happened, one foot in front of the other and here we are.
An unabashed exploration of the plain, ordinary, mysterious matter of vaginas
vagina vérité is a collection of over 100 documentary-style vagina portraits, photographs I made over the course of ten years of vagina conversations, exhibitions, salons, and two Vagina Festivals (weekend-long visual and performance art experiences, where over 130 artists and performers contributed their work).
vaginaverite.com was born out of the conversations surrounding the initial question and my work on the book. I started the original site early on and it ran from 2000-2013. It included questionnaires, articles, links and information on vagina-related subjects. More on the website (v1 and v2) here.
There were no photographs on the site. The plan for the v-portraits was always to publish them in a book. So far, there’s a print-on-demand version of the book available for purchase. Also, you can download a pdf of its text. That’s free. It’s the story of the 10-year project, from the moment of inception through the v-shoots, exhibitions, salons, two Vagina Festivals, to the decision to print the book. Next up for the project: finding its publisher. Probably an agent first. Meanwhile, I’m rebooting vaginaverite.com here, and restarting the conversation.
The v-portraits, the point
I’ve photographed 110 vagina portraits. Each strikingly unique. I shot from the point of view reserved for gynecologists and lovers (sometimes), the view that is generally hidden or avoided. The images are square. I went for a little larger than life because I felt that would properly extend the invitation to look. There are no stylists, no details about the model to set the mood for fantasy or to objectify us—just the everyday vagina in plain view.
The book is a collective mirror of our individuality, expressed through an endlessly interesting aspect ourselves, the faces of our vaginas.
I did it for my friend, but mostly —
Because we need to see ourselves for ourselves.
We need to know it for ourselves.
Normal is diverse.
How you are is how you’re supposed to be.
There is no other way.