Warning: This post contains nudity and may not be appropriate for work.
Since 2007, photographer Substantia Jones has celebrated Valentine’s Day by taking pictures of couples in love ― often in various states of undress. What separates her work from the barrage of lovesick images circulating the internet around this time of year, however, is that Jones’ subjects are fat.
“There’s this curious misconception that fat people don’t experience love, sex and romance,” Jones explained in an email to The Huffington Post. “Or perhaps that they aren’t worthy of having satisfying relationships.”
Jones’ ongoing photo series hopes to do away with this false impression by generating stacks of images that too often remain invisible ― images of fat people in love affairs. The series is called “The Adipositivity Project” (adipose meaning “of or relating to fat”).
“Positive and neutral depictions of fat love certainly aren’t represented in media and culture, so folks assume they don’t exist,” Jones, who has described herself as “part fat, part feminism, part ‘fuck you,’” continued. “A common element in romantic love is the drive to proclaim it loudly. I want to bullhorn these proclamations [of fat love] as far as my photographs will reach.”
Along with depicting a wide range of body types, Jones also attempts to represent other communities often overlooked in mainstream depictions of romantic love, including participants of color, people with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals. This year’s series, for example, features an image of Sam, a trans man in bed with his partner. Sam penned a statement to accompany his image, which Jones passed on to HuffPost.
“I was designated female at birth,” Sam said, “but my gender has always been male. When I was old enough to do something about it, I did [...] What is relevant is how at home I feel in my body now, how much easier it is to look in the mirror and be happy with what I see, how I’ve learned to accept and even love my body now in a way I never could before. My manhood isn’t defined by what’s between my legs, but how I live my life.”
Over the past decade, Jones has witnessed society evolve in its acceptance of bodies and relationships that depart from traditional norms, an advancement she values immensely. Yet in recent months, the artist reported noticing a break in forward momentum, in part, she says, because of the political climate that is throwing so many Americans off their usual course.
“To be honest, after years of advancement in fat acceptance and awareness of sizeism, we seem to be stalled because of the political and social free fall we’re currently experiencing in the U.S.,” Jones said. “Quite understandable. Not only are we distracted by what’s happening to our country, and worried about the future, but we’re also occupied with protesting, phone banking and raising our collective voices in anger over our inept new government and the fascist policies they’re installing.
“Meanwhile sizeism continues. Weight bias continues. Young girls jeopardizing their health, happiness and even their lives for the sake of chasing an unattainable beauty ideal continues.”
This Valentine’s Day, take a moment to celebrate all the ways bodies can be. If you and your bae are interested in posing for a future shoot, contact Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.