Once in a while an artist creates something that touches me on such a deep and profound level that my life suddenly has a great jagged rift of before and after smack dab in the spot where I saw that piece. Once in a while a book comes along that turns my world upside down, much to my eternal joy. I was introduced to just such a book of just such art this week and I want to share it with all you superfantastic ladies out there. This does include links to sites with pictures that may not be work safe, so be aware of that before checking them out.
Roseanne Olson is a photographer. She’s also an anorexia survivor. When a woman with breast cancer asked for a nude portrait of her pre-surgery body, and her photography class had an assignment of ‘Naked Truth’, Olson had an inspiration. Over the course of the next six years, she interviewed nearly sixty women about their bodies and did nude photographs of them. The women were close friends, women she met at parties, even complete strangers who heard about the project and offered themselves as subjects. None of the women were professional models. Only one had been photographed in the nude before. Sadly, many of them had little good to say about their bodies.
The result, however, is a powerful celebration of the female body in its most basic form. The quotes that are negative stand in stark contrast to the beauty we can easily see in these same women. The women who accept, love and celebrate their physical forms are inspirational.
This Is Who I Am shows women of all sizes, shapes, colors, and life experiences. The models range in age from nineteen to ninety-five. Two mothers pose with their young children, as well. Several are pregnant. One has lost a breast to cancer, and another her hair to the same disease. Some are at rest, others express motion. Some face the camera boldly while others face away from it or cast down their eyes. Wrinkles, scars, tattoos, stretch marks are not airbrushed out. These are simply female bodies and the women who live in them. To a woman, they are beautiful.
They speak of being fat, being thin, having breasts that are too big or too small, not being able to lose weight, not being able to gain weight, about being athletic and about being physically impaired. They talk about how their ethnicity has affected their body image, and how their body images have been manipulated by mass media. Some complain, some accept, and some celebrate. Many do a bit of each. Several have survived eating disorders, domestic abuse, or sexual abuse. Others have led safer lives.
In the end, there are a couple quotes I’d like to leave you with, even if you never read this book. They get to the heart of the matter. In fact, these are the three things I think each of us should remember each day in order to get the best out of our relationships with our bodies.
Sara, whose dreams of a dance career were shattered by scoliosis is saddened by what her body cannot do. “But I still take good care of it. I take it interesting places, feed it French cuisine, play Chopin for it.”
Anne tells us and her nineteen-year-old daughter Lucy, with whom she posed, to relax. “If the only naked women you see are in glossy retouched magazine ads or the movies, it would behoove you to visit a locker room or a spa as part of your routine. There you’ll see that bodies are actually hilarious. Don’t take yours too seriously.”
Shonagh has this beautiful advice for her two small daughters, who pose with her: “You have been gifted with life in a body. Open your heart to the wonder of that.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.