Photography and The Plus Size Body
As well as being a plus size blogger, I am also a fashion photographer. Being able to reconcile my photography work with my principles as a body positive blogger are incredibly important to me. Representation is hugely important, and I believe it is my responsibility as a fashion photographer to be as inclusive and diverse in my portfolio as I possibly can.
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I have the luxury of being completely in charge of my own bookings, I have no agent, and shoot mainly for pleasure and to create art. I therefore actively work to be sure my portfolio represents as many different people as possible. I’ve worked with people from a size 4 to a size 28, 18 year olds through to 50+, the heavily tattooed and pierced, to those with scars from chronic illnesses, breast cancer survivors, the tall, the short, POC, gay, bisexual, trans and so many more. Being able to see someone who looks like you in art is an amazing and inspiring thing. So much of what photographers present to the world is an idealised version of what society deems beautiful, instead I work to show as many different real people, with real skin and real scars as I can.
Did you know that in the fashion industry it is considered perfectly normal to photograph an incredibly thin model, and then remove their ribs in photoshop so they aren’t ‘too thin’. We see tiny smooth frames every day, and they aren’t real. Even the truly famous super models don’t look like their photographs. Their figures are changed and altered to give something completely ‘perfect’, and we see them every day and don’t realise the true extent of the editing in front of us. There is a famous black and white image of Karlie Kloss with her arms raised, in the unedited version you can clearly see the shape of her rib cage, yet in the final image her body is perfectly smooth. Even a super model isn’t as perfect as the media shows us.
I remember the first time I saw a fat women, with cellulite, stretchmarks and fat rolls in a photograph. And I don’t mean a ‘plus size’ model, I mean a real, actually fat woman. It was in Leonard Nimoy’s The Full Body Project. There was no photoshop, no hiding bodies in darkness, instead I saw fat bellies in all their glory, brightly lit and dancing. I saw joyous smiles near double chins. I saw stretch marks on arms and tummies and thighs and more. And it was incredible. These were women who I’d been told my entire life weren’t beautiful, being just that. Beautiful and bountiful and bold. It was life changing for me to see someone who looked like me. And I would love to do that for someone else.
I don’t photoshop. I don’t smooth down. I don’t adjust figures or photograph only from flattering angles. I show bodies as they are, their reality, and unapologetically. Reconciling being a fashion photographer and a plus size blogger turned out to be easier than I thought, once I realised the power of a photograph. It is my responsibility to showcase all the different kinds of beauty there is, and to use my privilege and voice to share that with others.
Seeing brands like Ready To Stare and Society+ use fat, un-photoshopped women to model their clothes is such a brilliant start, but we as a community have so much more to do. It is our duty to use our voices to encourage diversity and inclusivity. We should not photoshop ourselves. We should not edit ourselves. By portraying our bodies as they are, we can help others learn to love themselves. As photographers, it is our job to change the way bodies are shown in adverts and fashion, no longer an unattainable and unrealistic beauty standard, and instead a stunning reality.
Some interesting additional reading for editing without retouching the body.