Laurie and Debbie say:
RW made a great comment to our recent post on The Adipositivity Project:
Women (men to a lesser extent) see (in daily life) lots of images of bodies of a certain shape and age, presented in only very selected poses. This leads lots of people (particularly women) to feel like their own body is unusual – because when they look in the mirror they see something very different.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been wondering whether there is a way to create an image bank of ordinary bodies. Something that all women (and maybe men) could use to broaden their ideas of what Ã¢â‚¬ËœnormalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ is (or more precisely, that there isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a Ã¢â‚¬ËœnormalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢).
Positive images of fat bodies are great – but they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quite do what IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m thinking about. For instance, I know one woman who would say Ã¢â‚¬Å“thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all very well, but at least sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got big breasts – I have a tummy that sticks out a lot, but very small breastsÃ¢â‚¬Â. One of the most powerful experiences that I helped this woman through was to look at a set of very simple pictures of women dressed, then undressed (not in sexual poses). What she noticed most was how different they all were, and how little relationship there was between how someone looked dressed (happy, severe, tidy, or whatever) and what their body was like (old, young, fat, thin, bumpy, etc etc).
There would be lots of ways that such a resource could work. For instance it could include pictures of whole people or just pictures of bits of body. It could show people dressed and undressed, or well lit and then under a typical bathroom light.
But what it would need to do to work properly would be to give an understanding of the whole diversity of humanity – so that people understood that what they were seeing on the site was the same as what was underneath the clothes of the people they interact with on a daily basis.
Malcom Gin’s Body Morphology Project seems to us to be reaching towards what RW is seeking, from a somewhat different perspective.
The Body Morphology Project is in very early stages: “Project parameters may change as details settle down. Watch this space.” The project is on wikimedia, and thus open to participation from anyone who wants to play, by contributing photos, by making suggestions, or by adding related projects. Gin’s plan is to have people upload a series of ten or so photos of themselves (or someone else who agrees to have them take pictures), in predetermined poses, to develop a photographic library of different kinds of bodies. The site was originally conceived as the Male Body Morphology Project, but has been expanded to include anyone who is interested in participating.
Even with so few photosets available, the predetermined poses bring out body differences to a surprising and useful degree.
This is clearly a fantastic project, and we encourage everyone to contribute their own photosets. The instructions are clear, simple, and straightforward. A body of photographs like this would be an extraordinary resource for individuals, classrooms, projects, and study.
Because it’s a work-in-progress, we’re going to point at a few things we would prefer to see done differently.
In the interests of protecting subjects’ privacy, Gin suggests that ‘many subjects may want their faces blurred or blacked out and this approach is recommended.” We completely understand the privacy issue; we just think it would work better if the photographs were simply headless than it seems to with the blurring or blacking of these first three photosets. The beige “covered face” approach in the first set has kind of a science-fictional feel to it, while the hard-edged black oval in the third set had different strong associations for each of us. Without some kind of consistency to the blurring or blacking, we don’t think this approach works very well.
More important, it tends to dehumanize the models, in a way that cutting off the heads would not. Look at the torso poses (such as this one) to see how much less distanced they seem compared to the column 1 and 2 poses. As Wendy said in the Adipositivity post comments:
“These photos are framed similarly but the human presence comes through strongly; we see the bodies only in parts but we clearly sense that the parts are owned, that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a private wholeness.” We feel that the “private wholeness” is obscured and minimized by the way the heads are blacked out in the full-body shots.
We’d both like to either see the project extended to show more full-body nudes, or else see a companion project for nudes. This goes back to RW’s point above about how different bodies look clothed and naked, and how little most of us understand that difference.
Finally, as the project grows (because you’re all going to add photos to it, right?), we hope that some place develops where it’s easy to see the photographs side by side: ten, or twenty, or one hundred photographs of different torsos.
Meanwhile, what a terrific start for an image library!