Developing on from the idea of using the issue of weight and body image, I have undergone the following research.
Jen Davis a New York based photographer. For the eleven years,she worked on her project that tracks her weight loss journey, covering issues about beauty, identity and body image. Throughout the series, you see her change in weight but also (and more importantly) you see her emotions within the photographs. Many of the photographs, she looks awkward, insecure and unhappy. This is clearly a woman who has struggled with her size for a long time, and this use of self portraiture creates a personal and effective viewpoint for the audience.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Davis says “For a long time I was taking photographs and they were always to do with the body, or loneliness, or desire. But I was never really comfortable putting myself in front of the camera” (Salter, 2017). I think this is a problem that a lot of people have, not just photographers. Many people feel very self-conscious with having their photos taken, in a worry that they will not ‘look their best’. However, by being able to show a vulnerability in a photograph allows for a more emotive end result.
“In some self-portraits she looks into the camera as if asking it a question, or confronting its gaze. In Steve and I (2006) she sits wrapped in a blanket, a man lying on the bed next to her. She stares at the camera as if she’s questioning its right to be there, to document her loneliness” (Salter, 2017). By Davis looking at the camera in this way, she is directly connecting herself to her audience, in an almost uncomfortable way as though you should not be looking into her sadness.
Davis’s self-portraits are unusual not just for their intimacy and honesty, but also for the simple fact that we don’t see women of her size in pictures very often – much less women who are willing to bare so much flesh while being far from the body type usually seen in magazines. Davis says she can understand why they have struck a chord with women who ‘even if they’re not my size still have an insecurity about… how they look’ (Salter, 2017). This is an important comment in that this is how a lot of women (including myself) feel, and I think that by having this feeling in my subconscious, I will be able to create a powerful image for my final assignment.
Felicia Webb is a documentary photographer that focuses on projects of social issues. For three years she focused on people with eating disorders, and for the following three on the medical and mental issues of the rise in global obesity.
For her project Anorexia: Nil by Mouth, she explored the psychological and emotional distress that comes with anorexia, showing a deeper understanding to the disorder and how it affects so many lives both directly and indirectly. On the text accompanying this series on her website she says “through this project friends and strangers alike opened up about their daughters, girlfriends, mothers, brothers, or about themselves, and I realised it consumes the lives of so many, often behind closed doors” (Feliciawebb.co.uk, 2017). This quote is poignant that so many go through hidden psychological issues on a daily basis but live in the ‘normal’ world without letting on that there is an issue. In her project, she doesn’t sugar coat the illness at all, in fact it is very ‘real’ and very emotive, showing both the physical and emotional signs. This makes it both difficult for the viewer to look at, but also allows them to sympathise with the subjects.
On the opposite to this story, Webb’s series Obesity: Generation XL shows how obesity is a global crisis. Over the course of two years, Webb spent time with American families developing the idea that obesity is not only a physical condition, but one affected by psychological, global and political issues. In this series, the subjects look just as emotionally distressed as in the previous series, citing that size is not a factor for happiness. By using children in this series, Webb is able to once again pull on the heart-strings of the audience, and make you feel empathy towards them.
Salter, K. (2017). Jen Davis interview: The skin I was in. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/9930597/Jen-Davis-interview-The-skin-I-was-in.html [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].
Feliciawebb.co.uk. (2017). Felicia Webb. [online] Available at: http://feliciawebb.co.uk/small.html [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].