Within the genre of Self-Portraiture, it would appear that Body Image is actually a very common theme. This is largely due to wider societal views on the acceptance of obesity, and the constant barrage of media containing near perfect models. That said, the majority, if not all of the work I have come across is aimed at seeking acceptance of ones body image, either by the author or by the viewer (i.e. changing public perception). I have found very little that seems to want to shock the author into making a change in order to fit-in with the accepted norm which I struggle to understand. I’m not talking about being shallow, and conformist, I’m talking about being a healthier, fitter, more attractive person. Why are all of these artists going out of their way to accept who they are, rather than change for the better? Some have, such as Jen Davis, who did not set out to change, but who’s self portraits over a prolonged period prompted her to do so. She is visibly happier in the self portraits post weight-loss. I have also noticed that the majority of photographic work about Self Image is by female artists, which speaks volumes about how body image is perceived between the genders.
Whilst researching these types of self-portrait I came across numerous artists and works, of which there are too many to discuss in detail. There were however a few key images/artists that have given me some food for thought.
The first image is one I came across on the National Geographic website, submitted in a competition by a subscriber:
Since I began thinking about this assignment, this is how I have envisioned my images looking. Which now means that I will suffering from a lack of originality and creativity! What I like about the image is that it confronts the viewer, it’s in your face, there is no escaping the truth thats in front of you. The use of the tightened tape-measure connotes a desire to be thinner and what society expects, whilst denoting the current situation that the author finds themselves in. A picture of just belly fat may connote acceptance. The side lighting creates tone and shadow which accentuates the form, depth and texture. It’s simple and straightforward. There is no ego or narcissism involved. The 2 things that I’m not too sure about are the format/crop and the use of colour. These are areas that I have still to consider more deeply.
The next series of images that I came across are from a body of work entitled Wait Watchers by Haley Morris-Cafiero. These images struck a chord for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I think the idea/concept is genius. In the images, Morris-Cafiero captures strangers giving her funny looks or making fun of her behind her back. By photographing this act, she is essentially turning the gaze back on to the stranger, allowing the judgemental to be judged. Again, Morris-Cafiero seems to be accepting of her Body Image. She does not seem fazed by societies view of her, or by other peoples opinions. Although she is in each photo, she is not the subject.
The last photographer that I think is worth a mention is Samantha Geballe who has done multiple projects about her own Self Image, both before and after Weight Loss Surgery. Unlike Jen Davis, who attempted to find or create a beauty in her own Self Image, Geballe appears in conflict with herself and societal views which have caused her anxiety and stress. Within her photos she uses awkward poses (huddled, exposed in the great outdoors or arms wrapped tightly around herself). She confronts the camera and viewer with her gaze, she hides away using camouflage and the style of her photographs add to the drama. The use of High Contrast B&W images implies the state of mind and removes colour as a distraction, and double exposures are used to photograph her anguish.