For many of us, the idea of photographing our lowest, loneliest moments for the public to see would be enough to pull the covers over our head and hide forever. Photographer Jen Davis apparently has no such qualms.
In "4 a.m." (2003), Davis is curled up in her bed, half-dressed and with her eyes closed. “I came home at 4 a.m. and made that picture at that instance of having that empty, yearning feeling,” she told Slate.
Davis' other self-portraits are similarly revealing. “I felt like I could be more vulnerable in front of the camera than I could be in real life,” she said in the Slate interview, which is worth reading in its entirety here. She began taking the shots -- which span a decade -- when she took a photo of herself on a beach with friends during Spring Break. In "Pressure Point" (2002), Davis sits fully-clothed and unsmiling, surrounded by friends in bathing suits.
The later photographs show Davis brushing her hair, posing in lingerie and sitting on a couch -- all activities we're used to seeing thin people photographed doing. The self-portraits allowed Davis to "deal with the emotion and vulnerable state and release it" she told Slate. They also allowed her to cope with the feelings being overweight provoked and prompted her to lose weight.
The last photographs in the series were taken after Davis lost weight. She told the Huffington Post that shedding that weight allowed her to live in the world “anonymously” for the first time. “For the first time, I feel normal,” she said. “I can eat in public without judgment and sit down without worrying if someone will be able to sit next to me.” Still, even with her “new sense of self,” Davis said that she is still learning to identify herself as something other than the “fat girl.”
That can be hard when your photos of your overweight self are suddenly all over the Internet, but Davis said that she has been “shocked” by the positive response to her photographs. “I’ve received great support from people who understand my voice, from people who have struggled with weight or body image,” she said. “It’s great to have people be honest with me like I am honest with my camera.”
Davis' photos are reminiscent of Haley Morris-Cafiero's "Wait Watchers," which captures the fat stigma the photographer faces every day.
Take a look at Jen Davis' self-portraits below.
LOOK: Jen Davis' Photographs
This story has been updated to include new comments from Jen Davis.