When I approached Harper's Bazaar about doing a nude photo shoot to show the diversity of beauty and a variety of body types, what I didn't know was how the women we approached would react. They said yes, then no, then maybe, then yes again, then would see the image and change their minds again, then hear that a certain woman was involved, which was when we got the big no, not if she's in it! I was struck again by how utterly complex a woman's relationship to her body is and how competitive women are with each other.
From 12-year-old girls to 70-year-old matriarchs, I know hundreds of women who have some sort of body image issue. This is sad and seriously worrying, but it's true and it's why I feel some kind of social responsibility to do what I can to show a variety of body types in fashion magazines. Not just skinny girls or white girls. And the only way to achieve this was for all the participants to agree to no retouching and I mean none.
I am one of the last photographers to convert to digital. I've been successfully shooting on film for over ten years and am known for doing minimal retouching, so I was particularly well qualified for this shoot.
Our hope in doing this nude story was to give women some other shapes, sizes and colors to identify with and to make the point that whatever your healthy body type is, it's best to learn to live with it because it isn't going anywhere. And the hours, days, and years of wishing and forcing your body to be something it's not takes up a lot of energy, time and focus.
As I sit here with at least two rolls of belly flesh hanging down, one of the lasting gifts of having been pregnant with twins, I can assure you that maintaining self esteem is no easy task. I've often contemplated some kind of tummy tuck surgery but I know this is not the answer.
I'd personally like to see more "real bodies" in magazines. The more I photograph plus-sized models like Crystal Renn, the better I feel about my own curves. The debate about whether the Bazaar story was retouched or not is really just an indirect way of saying, "who can look that good without Photoshop help?" Well, Kim Kardashian and Joy Bryant can. They look as good as the image you see on the page, because those images weren't retouched one little bit.
In all honesty, I am fully against extensive alteration of images as that is a totally unrealistic representation of a person, and no one, not even the subject themselves can truly live up to that. Photoshop is an amazing tool when used with discretion, but not when used to create some "ideal woman" with flawless skin, no cellulite, long lean legs, a flat belly and a perfect smile. Only Barbie looks like that -- not real women in real life -- so let's not perpetuate that foolish myth.
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