Beutiful has given me the opportunity to do something that I love and feel passionately about every day. However, I didn’t expect to meet, learn about, and connect with so many extraordinary people – and that’s been one of the biggest rewards. Just a few weeks ago, I got a message on our Facebook page from a woman named Jes, an extremely talented photographer on a mission to photograph the diversity of the female body. Jes hopes to empower women by embracing all beauty and educating others while eradicating exclusivity. So I’m sharing this information with all of you, because it is an amazing cause and the project is just beautiful. Please check it out for yourself for even more images at the Body Image(s) website and feel free to check out Jes’ photography page as well! Now. Onto the good stuff!
About Jes I’m a Tucson native and a lover of Arizona weather. I tend to follow Bukowski’s advice to “Find what you love and let it kill you.” I suppose this just means I’m passionate… right? We’ll just call it passionate. I’m a blogger, baker, and advocator with an affinity for my precious kitties. I lead a simple but charmed life. I grew up in a suffocating conservative culture my whole life and am now exploring my self-defined passions, morals, ideals, and future plans. It’s exciting, liberating and scary all at once! I’m perusing a mental health career with a focus on recovery and it’s fulfilling to say the least. The belief that everyone has worth and a chance to succeed in life translates into my personal life on a monumental level. I feel fortunate to have found this career and lifestyle.
Initially, I started this project to give women around the world a positive point of reference in which to accept and love their bodies. Women see over 200 negative body image ads on television each day and I wanted to counter that. I know that seeing pictures of confident women that are my size gives me the boost that I need to stand a little taller and strut a little more confidently. This paradigm shift was my original hope, but it has evolved into so much more. Body Image(s) has seemingly taken on a life and purpose of its own. Every female that comes to the location is greeted by (me) a comfortable, emotionally conscious and sometimes silly photographer who truly believes that they are beautiful. I really, really do. This love translates into the shots and each model eventually relaxes and embraces their body within the moment. Every single shoot ends with a “Thank you so much for this experience” and I am inspired repeatedly by the confidence that they leave with. This is again reinforced when I send them several photos for their personal use and am met with surprise and excitement about how wonderful they look. It’s incredible!
Through social media and also approaching women that I fell in love with visually… which was pretty much everyone. Initially I felt like I was really pressing my luck in asking for a dozen women in Tucson to bare all in front of my camera so when I put my request out there I thought “Ten. Ten is a good number, right? Oh, what the hell, I’ll ask for twelve.” I was so delighted and honestly, amazed when my inbox filled with volunteers. I still receive participation requests on a daily basis! And of course it’s a little awkward to approach a stranger that I’d like to photograph on the street, but I usually start the conversation with “Have you ever modeled before?” It seems to disarm them and after they hear the message of the project they usually become excited about participating. I would love to offer more variety in my images and am working on recruiting models that are older, transgender, and perhaps mother and daughters shot together. I find excitement in offering the world a complete and what is considered controversial view of beauty in all of its forms.
Almost every model has expressed anxiety about the photo shoot, but forced themselves to participate because they know that their bravery will inspire others. Embracing their “perceived flaws” and confidently showing that self love is possible seems to override the initial nervousness. I find this so admirable. I let the women know that in exchange for their bravery I would send them several of the images for their own personal use. The camera is a truthful and honest medium, and I worried that some women would be critical of themselves once they saw a close up photograph of their rolls. But I was thrilled when every single model emailed me ecstatic with the outcome, able to see the beauty that was there. Because I see the exquisite beauty in every woman, I can’t help but wonder if it translates into the images. The empowerment that the models experienced was inspirational for me.
I have several interviews coming up with both small magazines, large blogs and internet sites like xoJane. This is so exciting and I feel honored that people identify with the cause! Also, through supporters in social media, the fundamental internet following has grown exponentially and is continuing to expand. I am so happy to see discussions on the Facebook photos, not only for the self esteem boost of the model pictured but also because we often address the issue of embracing ALL body types. Often, because many of the women are not “traditional” models there is a celebration of larger women, but demeaning comments about small women. I do not subscribe to the belief that fat women are beautiful and skinny women are sellouts. I believe that each woman has her own inherent beauty that is unquestionable. Every body is a perfect body, and this is a fact. The negative comments become a teaching experience, and I hope that people leave the site with a new perspective. This is what the project is all about: educating the public that beauty is not exclusive.
There is an art show that I am participating in with other empowering female photographers. LioraK and Jade Beall will be accompanying me as we create an opening night event to be executed in April of next year. It will be both a gallery display, as well as a night of discussion, key note speakers, interactive art and workshops promoting the idea that women are women and that feminism is all inclusive.
This is such a great question, and one so complicated that it stumped me. It was so difficult to put an answer into words that I had to write an article about it for processing purposes! But I figured it out. In a sentence, I love who I am because I am the change that I want to see in the world. Realizing this through this interview question has become one of the most unplanned and liberating moments in my life. I have somehow become a living, breathing, imperfect, resilient, and hopelessly determined picture of what I want to see more of in our world today. It’s a feeling that is so big, it may not fit inside of my body. And I love that it isn’t an “ending achievement”, but rather it is the birth of what my life is meant to be, and thus a beginning. I finally have clarity about what my life is to become… and also absolutely no idea what it actually will. I know who I am, and why I’m here… and I’m not afraid to become everything that the world needs. How wonderful is that!?!?