Thursday, June 12, 2008

This Is Who I Am

I just finished This Is Who I Am: Our Beauty in All Shapes and Sizes by photographer Rosanne Olson. In the book (which I've added to the EWHAED book club list--scroll down to the right), Olson captures the bodies of women of all shapes and sizes. . . women of various ages, ethnicities, professional backgrounds. . . modestly posing nude or nearly nude and then discussing their thoughts and feelings about their forms.

Olson's project was born of early influences. In her introduction, she reveals: "In a sense, this book arose from my own experiences. As a teeenager, I encountered anorexia, which helped give me insight." She had me right there--what an interesting way to phrase it, not "struggled with," or "suffered from," but "encountered."

And so, Olson focuses on encounters, on the experiences of the women she captured on film--experiences of being in the world with their particular bodies, experiences we've all had working toward certain expectations of and standards for our bodies, experiences we've had judging others' bodies and ourselves.

Olson writes:
I wondered what would happen if I invited women of all shapes and sizes to discuss their feelings about their bodies and then let me photograph them in the nude. My goal was one of completel revelation--not hiding behind clothing but exposing both body and mind. What would we learn about ourselves? What would we learn from each other? Would we--could we--become more compassionate? Not only toward ourselves but toward one another.
I emailed Olson to tell her how much I enjoyed reading her book, and she noted that other therapists have contacted her with analogous types of praise. It seems we similarly appreciate the therapeutic and socio-political implication of Olson's work--observing other women's bodies and what they have to say about them can be a tranformative experience. The women are beautiful, their stories compelling, and I recommend you take a look.


Meaghan said...

"Would we--could we--become more compassionate? Not only toward ourselves, but toward one another."

These words are so poignant, and congruent with my feelings on this insideous plague of woman-centric destruction, perpetrated against women, by women.

We need to learn to each other up!

I *love* your blog.

Meaghan said...

--We need to learn to *hold* each other up!

Topless New York said...

Sounds like an admirable book, indeed. But I have to admit I find it interesting, Dr. Stacey, that as a feminist you would "shiver[] at the idea of a casting call for topless women" for a project about equal rights, but think nothing of them posing completely nude for a book about body acceptance.

I wonder, would your reaction have been different if I'd signed my original e-mail "Jessica" instead of "Jeff"? And I think your reaction also generally assumes that I'm straight, with all that implies about my project - and that Rosanne Olson is straight well.

Just a little devil's (advocate) food for thought. :-)

Beth said...

I am glad there is a book like this out there. It seems that all we are exposed to sometimes are naked or scantily clad images of ultra thin models, so it would be so refreshing to see more "normal" body sizes.

I especially hate how in commercials, even for non-diet products they use ultra thin models. This seems unnecessary to me and extremely out of the ordinary, as most of us can't relate to that.

cggirl said...

Ah dr. stacy this book looks great.

Though i must say, i was surprised that in the excerpt the older women were so covered up.

Not to take anything away from the beautiful idea behind this book, but it is moments like this that make me appreciate my israeli background:
You see, just as an example, i remember a simple little thing in a women's magazine in israel where women were photographed TOTALLY nude and with everything out in the open, at different ages. It was a project that showed one woman from each decade, meaning, one was 30 something, one was 40, something, etc well into old age (it probably started with 20 something but i dont recall).
And another random thing - people of all shapes and sizes (and sexual preferences) in the tv shows and movies in israel have sex, not just conventionally attractive straight people.

Now, we are also susceptible to all the same body image issues that exist here in the states. But since living in the states i do have some newfound appreciation for just KNOWING what different shaped/sized/age people look like naked (and feeling like yes they do have sex too).
At least having those images SOMEwhere in my head together with all the regular thin, airbrushed, youth obsessed crap it a teeny bit better than not having seen them at all. And in the states, i feel like we don't see them.

But there are some great projects that at least try to, and that's cool :)

Oh and topless new york - i think a lot of us are wary about your casting call just because we haven't seen the results yet, don't be offended, this is coming from people who don't know you and have no way of knowing what ur about.
This book dr stacy is talking about is a finished project. I think this book looks lovely. But if i saw a casting call for it on graigslist u better believe i wouldnt go, cuz i wouldnt wanna risk what it might turn out to be... So it's not a personal comment on you or anything, just people being careful.

cggirl said...

oh and i don't think what i just described has as much to do with israel being better about body image stuff than the states... i think the same issues exist there.
It's just that over there its not as big a deal to show naked bodies or sex or what have you... and that project i mentioned in the women's magazine wasn't considered a big deal or anything, it's just an interesting photo spread. but it was nice to see, i thought. and this book reminds me a bit of that (but with more clothes on hehe)

Topless New York said...

cggirl -

You're right, of course. Nobody knows me from Adam. But Dr. Stacey didn't say that - she said feminism gave her pause about a casting call for topless women, period.

But in any event, with the caveat that these are topless photos and therefore may not be considered appropriate for your workplace, etc., here are links to a few samples of what I've shot for my project already:

Do Not Lean on Doors

Best of the Big Boys

Christmas Eve on the West Side Highway

Say Cheese

I apologize to Dr. Stacey if it seems I'm trying to do a sales job or hijack this thread or anything, but there was an honest inquiry and I felt it worth responding in as safe a manner as I could.

Anonymous said...

When i saw the excerpt from the book i cried. I wish i could feel that comfortable with myself!

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I feel distaste toward the book, although I only saw little of it, via the link given. My feelings are Not for the sans- clothing images. That does not bother me at all. What does is that the 3 women shown (including the older one) are all quite thin. And one is saying she is "thankful" for her anorexia.

Glutton For Punishment said...

I absolutely love your blog! I have this story in a long drawn out version in my blog, but I'll give you the cliff's notes version because I think you'd appreciate it...

I was at a business meeting w/a collegue last week with about 100 or so other sales people in the company. Of course they had cookies and coffee at the meeting like they always do and I was sitting towards the front of the room. At one point, I turned around to say hi to someone and I noticed that 80% of the people there had a plate of cookies in their hands! My first thought was, "How many of them would be eating a cookie right now if they were at the office?" Probably not. :-) Just kind of made me chuckle.

Have a great day!