My first photography class really opened my eyes to the way we look at our bodies as a society. Both modeling for classmates and working with the figure in class really changed my perspective on the human figure.
Let’s just think about this—there is nothing vulgar about any of our bodies. Our social structure, however, has conditioned us to look at the nude human figure as something dirty. What we have is something we should love and celebrate.
Because we see so little images of our bodies that haven’t been manipulated or meet a very narrow set of standards, we aren’t informed as to all the different types of bodies out there, and this can be very harmful to both men and women.
My photo-based work often deals with the female nude, purposefully concealing the identity of the models so as to keep the focus on the female form more generally rather than individually. For me, using the female nude is empowering and beautiful. Aesthetically, I love the soft s-curves and flexibility the female form has to offer to a composition. Even more than that, though, there is something so fulfilling in using the figure as a way to say “Look at this. This isn’t dirty or harmful to society. This is beautiful and innocent and real.”
It really repulses me that my work is sometimes looked at as distasteful by some. Not because I am personally offended by someone’s tastes, but because of the social structures that have lead to the general public’s distaste for the human figure. The fact that people cannot look at a body, which they themselves also have, without feeling dirty or guilty is the problem, not the showing of the figure itself.
We take the female figure as a society and make it something forbidden by censoring it. So many advertisements use a hyper-sexualized female image, manipulated to unrealistic standards, and hide the nipples and vagina. Because this is sellable without “going too far", this is okay to look at from everywhere like the grocery store to television, but a full nude of an averaged-bodied woman in an art gallery is not. I can quickly loose count of how many topless men I can find on Instagram, but one female one will almost insatiately be taken down because it is not “family friendly”.
This same view of the female form is what also contributes to "slut-shaming", and causes women breastfeeding in public to be kicked out of businesses (Even though, in Louisiana at least, women have the right to breastfeed their child in public). Last time I checked, the purpose of breasts are for feeding infants, not for men to gawk at.
Showing the figure highlights the problem. And that is important.
I aim to erase the notion that the female form is for the male gaze. I want to take our bodies back and show them for their differences, their beauty, and their normalcy. I want women to understand that there are so many different kinds of bodies out there, and not to feel ashamed about what they have. I want women to use this knowledge to better one another, rather than tear each other down.
Sending love to everyone out there tonight ♥