Ever since I saw Leonard Nimoy’s series ‘The Full Body Project‘ I have wanted to be in a situation where a larger lady would feel comfortable enough with me to let me photograph her naked. I remember the first time I saw the images. The ladies had cellulite, stretchmarks and fat rolls in the photographs. Nimoy had not photoshopped anything away from the women, rather he chose to show all of their bodies in their glory. As a larger lady myself, it was a revelation to see these beautiful and bold women. And I so wanted to be able to photograph like that. Didi enabled me to do this.
Figure 1: Leonard Nimoy. The Full Body Project: 273-59. 2007
Figure 1: Leonard Nimoy. The Full Body Project: Three Graces. 2007
Leonard Nimoy’s models were all artistes from a burlesque group in San Francisco called the Fat Bottom Revue. When the photographs were first published, many people clicked past them and overlooked the message that Nimoy was trying to send out with his version of Helmut Newton’s image ‘Here They Come’. As a columnist for the Guardian, Lindy West (West: 2105) recalled “It was the first time in my life – I realise in retrospect – that I’d seen bodies like mine honoured instead of lampooned, presented with dignity instead of scorn, displayed as objects of beauty instead of as punchlines.” She goes on to state “looking at Nimoy’s photographs was my very first exposure to the concept that my body was just as deserving of autonomy and respect as any thin body. Not only that, but my bigness is powerful.” Nimoy’s work went someway to challenge the women portrayed as merely objects in Newton’s work and to make us all proud of who were are, no matter what our size.
Didi is also a burlesque dancer. She asked me to do an art nude and body part shoot with her. I did not realise until after the shoot, that it was her first time doing this kind of shoot. In the past, she has come across discrimination because of her size, with male photographers on group shoots often favouring the more slender models. I don’t understand this. During the shoot with Didi, I was struck at how incredibly beautiful she is on both the inside and outside. She looked joyous throughout the shoot and positively shines in the images. She is comfortable in her own skin, whilst many more slender models are not. This is evident in the images below.
Didi is really keen to challenge the plus size stereotypes, so came fully prepared to the shoot with a mood board of ideas that she wanted to try out. This meant that the shoot was incredibly productive for both of us. Didi has already had amazing feedback when she shared them in a female modeling group.
Didi was keen to use a few props to enhance and accentuate her body. The beads and shear fabric complimented her really well and enabled me to capture some truly beautiful images.
As often happens in my shoots (and Didi’s too), we soon descended into hysterical laughter. Before we knew it several hours had passed by.
In the past, Didi has had images taken by photographers that have been cropped to make them ‘more flattering’. I find this disturbing to be honest. Who should decide what a person deems to be flattering or not about their body.
Surely it is the person’s choice, not the photographer’s? For this reason, I don’t smooth down parts of the body when processing the images. I don’t photoshop bits out (or in). I photograph the person from angles they want to be shot at. I don’t only shoot them from a flattering angle. I show bodies as they truly are. I don’t apologise for this. Bodies are beautiful from all angles but we have been trained by the media to think otherwise. Didi is beautiful from all angles. As a photographer, I believe it is my responsibility and privilege to capture and share the many types of beauty that exist in this world.
The stunning body part images that we captured in this shoot are shown below.
I can honestly say that this shoot was one of the most uplifting experiences I have had during this MA course. I felt that the shoot was liberating for both of us and I am truly touched that Didi trusted me to do this shoot for her.
West, L. (2015). Leonard Nimoy’s photographs of fat, naked women changed my life. [online] the Guardian. Available at:https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/commentisfree/2015/mar/03/leonard-nimoy-full-body-project [Accessed 23 July 2017].
Figure 1: Nimoy, L. From Rmichelson.com. (2017). 273-59 ∙ The Full Body Project ∙ R. MICHELSON GALLERIES. [online] Available at:http://www.rmichelson.com/artists/leonard-nimoy/the-full-body-project/zz273-59/ [Accessed 23 July 2017].
Figure 2: Nimoy, L. From Rmichelson.com. (2017). Three Graces | 609935 ∙ The Full Body Project ∙ R. MICHELSON GALLERIES. [online] Available at: http://www.rmichelson.com/artists/leonard-nimoy/the-full-body-project/zz303/ [Accessed 23 July 2017].