On fat women in photographs


The steps of New York’s Public Library were graced with bellies and beauties this week.
The steps of New York’s Public Library were graced with bellies and beauties this week.

To celebrate the Adipositivity Project’s 8th bday, naked fat women joined Patience and Fortitude for an afternoon. Jealous? I know I am! I’ve watched the video and flipped through the thumbnails, and I’m giddy. I’m hoping one of these pics will end up in the 2016 calendar.

I’ve am HUGE fan of Substantia Jones’ The Adipositivity Project. As Substantia explains on the project site,

“The Adipositivity Project aims to promote the acceptance of benign human size variation and encourage discussion of body politics, not by listing the merits of big people, or detailing examples of excellence (these things are easily seen all around us), but rather through a visual display of fat physicality. The sort that’s normally unseen.”

Adipositivity Pic

Adipositivity is one of many projects that Jones’ helms (check out Smilesizeist and UppityFatty). She is amazing, and her work has received coverage across feminist and mainstream media.  The Project is unapologetically fat positive, and captures a range of fat bodies from different angles, perspectives, and states of nudity. Substantia’s image gallery has brown fats, front fats, queer fats, small fats, white fats, men fats, medium fats, straight fats, side fats, super fats, black fats, women fats, back fats, etc, and challenges many negative fat stereotypes (fat bodies don’t bend! fat bodies aren’t loved! fat bodies aren’t visually appealing!) She has photographed many well-known in the fat civil rights movement, and posing for The Adipositivity Project is a bucket list item for lots of rad fatties. Having her shots hang in your home brands your space as unapologetically fat positive. And really, who doesn’t love a naked fat ass in the kitchen? (Select prints from the Project have been made available to purchase – get yours here! Every time she has a print sale I grab a few more for my wall of fats!)

It’s great that the 8th bday celebrations brought attention from the MSM; it isn’t the first time that naked fat women in photographs have been in the news this year. The passing of Leonard Nimoy brought many new faces into the conversation around fat activism as it became known that he published an art book of fat women. Delightfully, his Full Body Project received a lot of press during the reflections and media eulogies. Setting aside the problematic nature of white male saviours, I enjoyed how MSM has almost seem to embrace this project of naked fat women (because, well, Spock!). And it’s was nice to read from fat activists how his work affected them (and surprising how many were unaware until his passing).

The Full Body Project
The Full Body Project

Whether Nimoy was fat positive isn’t for me to judge, but he did seem to have developed an understanding of how body shaming and cultural BS interferes with people’s well-being. From his artist statement,

“… I then asked them to play some music that they had brought with them, and they quickly responded to the rhythms, dancing in a free-form circular movement with in the space. It was clear that they were comfortable with the situation, with each other, and were enjoying themselves… In these pictures these women are proudly wearing their own skin. They respect themselves and I hope that my images convey that to others.”

For all the attention that the Full Body Project received with Nimoy’s passing, I hope some of it spills over onto fat positive projects with similar subjects (if different objectives). Like the Adipositivity Project.  Or another lesser known project, the Fat Naked Art Project by Heather Kolaya-Spealman.

March Blog Pic3


Heather is a model and a photographer, and has been photographing fat bodies for years. The goal of the project is to “display fatness as beautiful and one type of many bodies.”  There’s also The Fatness Project from Serena Imani Korn. And Wait Watchers from Haley Morris-Cafiero (both of those projects involve clothes).

As fat women, Substantia and Heather work from a location that was inaccessible to Nimoy, and I believe you can see and hear the differences when each artist talks about their craft. As a fat woman, I’ll never forget the first time I saw a naked body like mine presented as art. It was odd. And gross. I grew up in this fat hating culture; I found fat bodies disgusting. I found my body disgusting.

It took a year of having a photograph of a naked fat body hanging on my wall before I learned to not be disgusted by the image; another couple of months to acknowledge the curves, and the softness. And another before I arrived at a place of appreciation for the beauty. Now I love fat bodies, including my own. And I believe that am important part of shifting our fat hating culture is encouraging others to retrain themselves and how they perceive fat bodies. The Adipositivity calendar is a gift I give to many each year. Some hang in closets, some never make it onto a wall at all. But some are given pride of place – in the kitchen, where it is seen every day; in the bedroom, where it can be observed in silent moments. And now many are eagerly received at the start of each year. And that’s pretty fatlicious.