Image description: A nude fat woman with pale skin walks away down a garden path, a festival mask left discarded behind her.
Real talk: I know that the activism component of my business pushes away potential photo session clients. Trust me, you don’t need to tell me. But I started out like almost every other photographer whose business audience is women, saying feel-good things about empowerment and loving your body and staying positive.
But to be honest, I ran out of things to say about individual body image that didn’t include the systems that we all live in. Accepting my body is not going to make any difference in whether I can find clothing that fits. Loving my body is not going to get me equitable treatment at the doctor’s office. Body confidence is not going to erase that when I look at photographs of my fat body I not only see that body, I see all the messages that society has told me are true about bodies like mine
It turns out that I cannot sit back and say nice generic things to women and femmes about how it’s their individual responsibility to love their bodies and how they should let me take empowering photographs of them — not in a world where some of the people who would love to work with me can’t travel to see me because there are no airplane seats they can fit into. I cannot be quiet about oppression when the group of people I care about deeply is systematically discriminated against and damaged every single day by a world that wants them to disappear.
And I worry that when I give people generic body love messages that I am adding to a system that uses body positive messaging to put the responsibility for resisting oppressive systems back on the individual.
My photography sessions are oases in a hateful desert. I do genuinely think that you and your body are beautiful, and it’s my job to translate that with my camera no matter whether you love your body or not.
But when we are finished, I have to send you back out into a world that is designed to exclude you. If I keep my knowledge of those systems of oppression to myself, I’m sending you back out still believing that the burden of surviving in an “unacceptable” body is yours alone to carry, and yours alone to solve. (And, in corollary, that an inability to love your body and/or the poor treatment your body receives from others is your problem alone.)
My goal is to fortify you and fill you up before you go, and to always acknowledge that there’s more going on with how we feel about our bodies then just what goes on in our individual minds. It’s not always the most comforting view of the world, it’s not a warm and fuzzy bopo perspective, but I believe that in the end, putting the responsibility for oppression back on the oppressors and fortifying you in the meantime is a better path than you leaving my studio without that knowledge.
I’m not booking client sessions at this time due to COVID-19, but you can be the first to learn when my books reopen by joining my mailing list.