Change your world, not your body.

It’s a misconception that confident people have always been that way, or that they hide some terrible ‘flaw’ behind the mask of confidence. Although both can be true; sometimes you just need to find your feet and blossom into a truly confident person, usually through your perception of the world and your interactions within it. And more often than not, this requires change. A change of perspective and an open mind.

In my previous post I wrote about how I became interested in feminism and equality, and it was during this time my interest bought me to many sources of inspiration.

Throughout my school years I was bullied because of my weight and appearance, something I know unfortunately too many of us can relate to. I was the ‘fat’ one, even though I’ve never been above a size 16. It never made sense to me. I come from a home where I have always been told I am smart and beautiful, so although the taunts were hard to bear and sometimes it was exhausting, I trusted my families judgement better. I know others who weren’t so lucky.

I feel I grew up not seeing a diverse enough range of bodies in mainstream media. I had people I looked up to, sure, but I wish I had seen more fabulous curvy ladies like me. I loved Dawn French because she was so unapologetically herself but that just wasn’t enough.

My weight has always fluctuated; I really really LOVE food, I put on weight easy but I exercise regularly and enjoy it. I spent years never fully being myself, holding parts of myself back or not doing things until I could ‘lose some weight’ or change in some way. It seems madness to me now, when I not only like but appreciate what I see in the mirror. But a lot of people never emerge from that negative cycle.

So I offer up to you now some great resources of inspiration for me personally and hope it encourages you to find your own. This post tends to veer on the curvier side as that is a body type I feel is not represented well but hopefully there is something for everyone. I know I have some male readers so apologise for the distinct lack of men but I’m only just scratching the surface with this, so in time I will develop a broader knowledge base . In the meantime perhaps, as a starting point check out Jackson Katz an anti-sexism activist who was featured in the Miss Representation film.

But this is for all of you, male or female. To remember that all different shapes and sizes are amazing and those inside deserve respect.

Laura Wells

An environmental scientist with an extreme passion for our oceans and protection of biodiversity, international plus size model and a promoter of positive body image. She is one of the first plus size models I came across during my research. ‘Plus’ size causes a lot of debate when models like Laura state they are only a UK 14-16 but the industry starts at an 8-10 and at the moment that is just the way it is. She doesn’t gripe about this: an industry that has given her so much. Instead she talks a lot about healthy body image and also being more than just your appearance, highlighting the importance of education and global causes.

check out her Facebook page for links to all her projects and other sites.

 

HILDA

The creation of artist Duane Bryers, ‘Hilda was one of the only atypical plus-sized pin-up queens to grace the pages of American calendars from the 1950s up until the early 1980s, and achieved moderate notoriety in the 1960s.’ Full of fun and not shy about her body, she’s out living life through fabulous illustration.

See more at ToilGirls.com

 

GABI FRESH

OH this woman is stylish! She runs a personal style blog aiming to showcase high fashion is for all sizes and has collaborated with swimsuits for all on a range of diverse sized swimwear. It was this picture that first caught my eye…she is so right.

Go to her website for great posts and beautiful clothes.

 

NADIA ABOULHOSN

Another wonderful fashion blogger, Nadia is also a brand ambassador for boohoo.com. She is one of the people featured that encouraged me to just GET OVER myself and my fear of wearing shorts.

Go to her website for diverse style and ways to wear the newest trends.

 

CHERRY DOLLFACE

I’ve previously interviewed Cherry on her involvement with the modelling industry and her struggle with body shaming due to being smaller. It’s important to highlight that although smaller body types are better represented, this kind of image based bullying goes both ways. Cherry has many fashion and beauty collaborations and supports the Bombshells Against Bullying campaign, all of which are all mentioned in the interview ‘A bite of the cherry’

Her Youtube channel also has great hair and beauty tutorials.

SAFFI KARINA

A former ‘straight size’ model who instead of suppressing her natural figure to fit the industry decided to embrace her body and switched to the plus size industry. One of her former agencies dropped her for being ‘too big’ at a size 10 (yes, really!) but she didn’t let this stand in her way. She has launched The Curve Project in London, the UK’s first plus size model workshop, offering advice, inspiration and body confidence masterclasses.

 

TESS MUNSTER

I found out about Tess through Cherry as they have done various events and videos together. She always wanted to be a model but struggled with bullying and rejection from the mainstream agencies. Following a passion for beauty she became an amazing makeup artist and began blogging, through which she built up a strong fan base. Recently named one of the world’s top plus size models by Refinery 29, Huff Post, & Vogue Italia, her career has really taken off in the last couple of years. She has fulfilled her dream of modelling and uses her platform to be a fierce ambassador for women’s empowerment.

Founder of the #effyourbeautystandards movement, more images and links can be found on her website. I spend way too much time following her updates!

 

DENISE BIDOT

In the last month Denise walked the runway at both New York and London fashion week with elle.com naming her this seasons break-out plus size model. She has been the face of Levi’s, Forever21 Plus, Target Plus, Kohls, Macy’s, and stars in Nuvotv’s series Curvy Girls. I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of her in the future.

More of her editorial work can be seen on her website.

 

ASHLEY GRAHAM

American plus size model Ashley is also making waves in the industry by spreading the message of positive body image. She recently walked the catwalk for the SS15 Evans Design Collective which was full of beautiful pieces and a breath of fresh air to see a variety of different body shapes wearing the clothes. She also has a lingerie collection with plus size retailer Navabi. And like many of the women featured in this article she encourages those who can to exercise with the #curvyfitclub.

vogue.co.uk recently named her as one of ‘the new role models’.

Ashley Graham website

 

THE BEAUTY MYTH. NAOMI WOLF 

This book was essential for my dissertation, I have read and researched both praise and criticism for it and highly recommend you read it.

 

HEALTHY IS THE NEW SKINNY

At first I found the HNS title a little problematic, however it is not stating there is anything wrong with being skinny, as for some of us this is a natural body shape. It is simply a comment on societies ability to make certain body types ‘fashionable’ and desirable over others. They have turned this on its head and suggested ‘how about we make health the priority, the most desirable thing’. Now I’m a believer that ‘healthy’ is different for everyone, not a one size fits all deal, so I always just take what I need from healthy living resources and apply it my own way. HNS is great for this as there are plenty of good recipes, workout tips and messages of positive thought!

You can find out more about founder Katie (above) and her husband Bradford on the website and facebook

“Healthy is the New Skinny is about revolutionizing how we think about, talk about, live in and love our bodies.”

 

JESS BAKER

When the news broke that Abercrombie and Fitch CEO had stated that he didn’t want ‘fat’ or ‘not so cool’ kids wearing his companies clothes I felt like face-planting my desk. However Jess Baker had a much better response which I found through Huffington Post. This lead me to her unique brand of awesome-ness on her website The Militant Baker where she describes herself as:

“A mental health professional, pastry chef, ex-art major, crazy cat lady, fat model, fiery advocate, and total pain in the ass.”

She has very recently given up her 9-5 in pursuit of becoming a full time international body advocate and I wish her every bit of luck, she’s already doing a fabulous job. Her website has a great selection of intelligent and funny articles to check out, as well as her Ted Talk!

 

 

she also had on one of her posts this awesome quote (via tumblr)

And that is right, being a Body Image Warrior isn’t always easy because it can feel like a battle. But every time I think it’s too hard to fight such a huge industry and ingrained societal ideals, I remember what it was like to be 14. To be a teenage and to be taunted for simply looking like you, and I remember is it so worth standing up for what you believe in.

Yes there are more terrible things happening in the world but as Jess Baker says in her Ted Talk; it is not superficial, because how you perceive yourself on the outside effects the inside and your whole participation in life (watch it, she explains it in more depth). Happiness and health start from within, they are things that are different for everyone and look different on everyone. But more acceptance and respect means more happy people, which makes a better world to live in. And to me, that sounds far from superficial.

So go, get searching, take these few inspirations and use them as a springboard to find your own positive body image warriors. But remember it all starts with YOU.

 

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When the leaves begin to fall.

I’ve always loved writing poetry, but have never had a platform to share it from. I’ve been discouraged in the past because of copyright issues but it feels sad to have untold stories hidden away, living between the pages of a notebook. All I can do is ask that you respect the words and ask permission or credit me if you wish to use them.

I initially wrote this one as part of my study for my photography work ‘Ubiquitous’ (which can be seen in a previous post). Its focus is on loss, change and the journey back through healing…

When the leaves begin to fall

 

It was stolen from me many years ago,

Though I had not missed it until now.

Through an empty chasm did a cold wind blow,

The echo followed like a lovers broken vow.

Through the window life beckoned me with a long, outstretched finger,

“You must come back my child” she whispered on springs gentle breeze.

The sharp urgency of her breath, I knew I could not linger,

Promptly rising from the shadows, legs carried me with ease.

And soon the world was upon me, living once again,

I could recall the touch of light, brushing past my cheek.

But just as life had told me, a shadow would remain,

Sorrowed past had spent so long with me, without it I felt weak.

 

We travelled over sand and road, searching as we went,

I had to find my missing piece, someone would know its place.

Sorrow walked some steps behind perhaps knowing its time was spent,

I sensed my first port of call and followed down to memories trace.

My first love sat alone on the sand, skimming stones across the water,

Next to him I rested my head, smiled and asked for its return.

“I do not have it, not even mine, for now it belongs to my lovely daughter”

And there he left me in beautiful summer, feeling nothing but its burn.

When days grew short I heard the music and leaves were falling in the wood,

I was sure the bewitching notes I loved had swept it from me by chance.

I sang along but the tune was different, it played ‘we wouldn’t take it if we could’,

So the music played on and the trees grew bare and I missed the urge to dance.

Snow crunched underfoot as we came across a house, filled with warmth and light,

My loved ones inside felt my pain but said it would return when it was ready.

I frowned at this wisdom and in my persistence backed out into winters bite,

As I started into the darkness that’s when I heard it, beating soft and steady.

 

And there I was so suddenly amongst the snow and air, soft and still,

In a place where cold stone rose from the earth, standing prominent and proud.

My breath escaped me, I felt exhausted and then I felt the chill,

There lay my heart, my lost piece next to a stone but cushioned like a cloud.

How had I forgotten that I’d given it, just given it away?

I knelt before heart and stone on mossy ground and knew it would come to me.

“I need this back now my darling” I said aloud. “I need it back today”

I should have known it was here all along but the haze had made it hard to see.

My love, my heart, sorrow and I sat for a while in the woods of stone,

When sorrow left I looked for him, but there was no trace I would have known.

The snow was melting, spring was returning, birds soaring above in the sky,

I would come to realise I was all the pieces, all the music, all the changed seasons and I would endeavor not to question why.

All rights reserved © 2014 Jennifer-Anne. Do not use words or imagery without the artist’s permission.

Ubiquitous

I started Art College back in 2010, it seems such a long a time ago yet when I look back over my work it can feel like yesterday. Going back to education was one of the best decisions I ever made. I rushed into things years ago when I returned back from travelling; picked the wrong course and when personal turmoil meant I had to move home, I was left feeling like I’d wasted so much time.

But it all helped shape where I am, who I am today. That’s the thing with loss; there really is only two options once you’ve hit rock bottom. You can become embittered and angry at the world, deciding it owes you something to make up for all that it has taken. That pain will eat away at you from the inside until all good that enters your life is brushed with the slick poison of fear and fury. Or you grit your teeth, somewhat reluctantly and feel the pain in your heart as a reminder that you are still alive. The best way I’ve found to remember those you’ve lost, is to nurture immense gratitude for your own life and to make it as happy you can on your terms. Find contentment in the small things and work through each day until your smile isn’t just a mask on your face but genuine in your heart again.

That is what ‘Ubiquitous’ was all about. My final Degree project. The culmination of 4 years of soul searching and confidence rebuilding through photography and writing.

An extract from the foreword:

“This series explores the journey through loss; rediscovering the world and your place in it after that time.The sense of uncertainty and confusion is all-consuming after a loss as you search through the haze for traces of normality and what was once present. Using photography this story is told through varying shades of light and shadow, hope and despair, life and death. Bereavement can create a time of readjustment, a quiet period of contemplation which canbecome a catalyst to start seeing everything anew. Like ripples on the water, change spills out further than you first realised.

A curiosity and comfort can be found in the mundane; everyday moments revealing beauty and sadness, the simplicity and greatness in everything. And as you make your way through the dark towards lighter moments the horizon no longer feels so far away. Although everything will always feel more delicate, more fragile, like it could be blown away in a breeze. So you cherish the sun on your face, the sound of the crashing waves and when spring returns you finally realize that what you seek cannot be found in any fixed place. It is found everywhere.

This work has grown to represent all those tiny moments, shattered fragments, the missing pieces. They are the quotidian, the banal and the profound. They are the visual footprints through the loneliest yet most universally human experience we have. Hopefully it can serve as a reminder that as well as grief and sadness, comfort, love and hope are not a rarity.

They are ubiquitous.”

All rights reserved © 2014 Jennifer-Anne. Do not use without the 
artist's permission.

When I finally held the book in my hands it was like a relief, there was something so cathartic about releasing all that I had been carrying around for 4 years. As cliche as it may sound, it was the work I was meant to make there. But instead of feeling like the end, I think it’s really only just the beginning.

To see a preview and/or order a copy, please visit my Blurb Bookstore

Tinto de verano.

It’s been nearly a week since I arrived back from Spain, I can now finally stop the depressing “this time last week I was….” and resume normal whingeing about work without the holiday references.

This was my second stay in Benidorm; I love Spain, it’s guaranteed sunshine and relaxation this time of year and I have family close by. Yet it’s very rare that when I tell someone I’m going there that I don’t get the response of raised eyebrows, bit of a smirk and “Oh yeah, that sort of holiday eh?”

No.

Ok, I admit I did have a rather ‘English Benidorm’ experience one night on the first trip when I underestimated the strength of european spirit measures and their effect. Make this mistake at your own peril dear readers. The notorious ‘English square’ is certainly not for the faint hearted.

Other than that I have found this to be a very pleasant holiday destination. Yes, it does also cater for those wanting to crisp up nice and leathery, drink alcohol in the sun all day, fight and vomit all before 9pm, however all that can be avoided and in the right areas can be totally undetected.

We (me and my best friend) managed to get ourselves a private rental through Trip Advisor; a lovely self-catering apartment on the 16th floor of a block of flats which looked out towards the sea. A fraction of the cost of a hotel and with much more space for yourselves.

We did create a lot of staring, pointing and even laughing from people during our stay  because we were carrying parasols the whole time. Who knew that would be so funny?

Our days were spent in a very relaxed manner; strolling the streets of the old town and main promenade before heading to the beach about 2pm (a must for English skin I’d say, unless lobster red is your thing. Each to their own.)

The main promenade by the sea has lots of lovely bars and restaurants facing the beach, perfect for cooling out of the heat and a spot of people watching.

On the beach you can hire loungers and umbrellas for a fixed cost for the day, giving you some space to dash back and forth out of the sea or sun (watch out for that sand-it’s boiling!). But if laying horizontally, reading in the mediterranean warmth isn’t your thing (are you mad?) then there’s plenty of other things to occupy your time other than a booze cruise.

  • The tram situated at the top of avenida beniarda can take you along to Denia or Alicante with various other stops either way. You’ll travel along beautiful scenic routes in air-conditioned comfort and a snip at roughly €6 return!
  • Alicante old town (the ‘Mercado’ stop) offers the beautiful Santa Barbara Castle built by the moors in the 10th century. There is plenty to explore on its historical grounds and breathtaking views from the top over the city. Just for goodness sake take the public lift up the mountain and don’t be a smart ass like me and think you can walk it, mid-summer in the afternoon heat!
  • Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art was a particular highlight for me. Full of interesting pieces, mostly donated to the city by artist Eusebio Sempere from his private collection.
  • Returning back to Benidorm, how about taking on the ascent to the cross at the top of Sierra Helada (meaning Ice Mountain). The cross can be seen all over Benidorm and when its is illuminated at night, it appears to float in the dark. It was erected in the 1950’s be local people to bring protection and good luck. We attempted to make it up there but without any decent map and no bearings we only managed to get so far, so that is still something to cross off my list.

  • The Benidorm tourist train. This runs along three routes and as you may have seen much of the areas on the two main town routes I would recommend taking a walk through the old town and picking it up in Poniente and taking a ride through La Cala. This is a lovely thing to do of an evening though your trip may not be as highly amusing as ours without the legendary Spanish family who insisted on cheering, hollering and waving at everyone we passed.

 

So if you’ve never considered Benidorm because you think it’s this….

Don’t worry; although that’s there, Benidorm is more than louts on motorised scooters and genitalia themed souvenirs. Much more.

 

“Fascinating”

So summer is in full swing (albeit perhaps more of a temporary status in the UK) and for me that means some time to contemplate the past academic year and look forward to the next.

I will be entering my fourth and final year of my course in October, both exciting and very daunting. The grand finale BA year, an accumulation of all the teachings and experience absorbed over the past three years.

With it arrives the prospect of deciding on a project proposal. And for me the equally difficult decision of whether to, not necessarily ‘play it safe’ but to stick to the style I’ve been honing or to mix it up and challenge myself further. To get back ‘the fear’; the feeling I had when I first started, the connotations of which are not negative as they sound, more of an excitement that sits precariously on the borderline of trepidation.

My current work is eclectic in nature, predominantly focused on the notions of abstract, narrative and the everyday. However my gut feeling is that it’s time for a change. Time to get stuck into something else I feel passionately about as well as my present path of fine art, and that’s the issue of positive body image. Already a well documented area but new to me personally.

I have yet much work to do in terms of deciding the specific nature of my study, in terms of how I will approach it and what I envisage the outcome to be but the seed has been planted. For a while I have been toying with the idea, still slightly unsure of my change of direction, unable to commit to branching out, weighing up the risk factor of doing something completely new for my final assignment. But we need to take risks sometimes to progress and through my indecision I stumbled across something to sway my judgement.

As I’ve stated, I am a bit of a sci-fi nerd. The new Star Trek films really got me into the original series and I absolutely love Mr Spock, so imagine my suprise when by chance I discover that Leonard Nimoy is a successful photographer who has been involved in body image related projects and the size-acceptance movement. His ‘Full Body Project’ is a response to the pressures women face in certain societies to conform to a particular size and image. I found a great article about it from the New York Times: Girth and Nudity, a Pictorial Mission

I’m always drawn to projects that I can learn further from the subject matter and/or have personal connection with as I believe it’s that real love and affinity with a subject that creates a great body of work that can really connect with a viewer. I’m a great believer that we all need to be far more accepting of the diverse range of body types we all have instead of creating and reinforcing illusions of specific ‘ideals’ to aspire to. As long as an individual is healthy and happy whether they are big or small, to me they are all beautiful in their own way. Yeah, maybe that’s too rainbows and fairy dust for the cynics out there but beware you are in the thought bubble of an eternal optimist (watch out….hopefully it’s contagious 😉 )

And so skipping merrily back to the original point of my new assignment; I have much to think about and a well timed week in Spain to do so from today. I have pondered whether it is the right path for me to follow but if the wonderful first officer of the starship Enterprise deems it a worthy subject, surely it can be my only logical choice.

First Love

Now if this were about men you would be embarking on a glorious post about David Bowie in the Labyrinth but luckily or unluckily for you; depending on which way you see it, this is in fact about photography.

Oh go then, before I get serious

Anyway…….

A couple of years back at the start of my course we were given an assignment entitled ‘Transformation’. It was a free brief for which we could create our own project proposals around that particular word.

I chose to document my journey to and from college and the contrasting environments I experience on a daily basis; starting at my hometown in the countryside and the end point being the city bus station. The series became almost dreamlike, capturing lost moments of clarity as it reflected my half awake sleepy 7am bus journey transition from near silent peace to busy chaos.

The two images from the work I was most unsure about during the process have become some of my favourite images as they express a subconcious awareness of my own style years before it became truly apparent to me.

At the beginning of my course I often struggled with the amount of artist research we had to cover, relevant to our own images. Its something I now love but at first it was daunting to know where to even start.

When I showed my tutor some of my images from the work in progress (the latter one especially) he directed me to the work of photographer Uta Barth and as cheesy as it sounds I think that’s when photography first really spoke to me.

I fell in love with her imagery and even now on every new assignment I am constantly drawn back to her work. I have become fascinated by the concept of removing the subject or any one that would appear directly obvious at first glance; the idea of suggestion rather than statement. It is turning the tables almost so the viewers themselves become the subject as they can then project their own interpretations of the work and in doing so I almost feel it creates a better connection between the artist and the viewer.

For Barth it is not just about, if at all what is seen in the photograph but the very act of seeing. I have been unable to locate the article my original scrawled notes came from but a description of her work was about ‘how our eyes adjust to different elements within the frame and how our brain reads images that are perhaps different or dis-jointed compared to a ‘traditional’ composition’.

“We all expect photographs to be a picture of something. We assume that the photographer observed a place, a person, an event in the world, and wants to record it, point at it…The problem with my work is that these images are really not of anything in that sense, they register only that which is incidental and peripheral to the implied it.”

   -Uta Barth

See more of her work at the TANYA BONAKDAR GALLERY

For me her work is beautiful and haunting, it stirs my memories and each picture conjures something for me on a personal level.

They do say you never forget your first love, whether that was Bowie as a Goblin King or a photograph that introduces you to a new way of seeing and perhaps reminds you of some fleeting memory thought to be forgotten or lost.