Usually, the ‘weight loss’ images we’re exposed to only involve models on TV advertorials, or smiling celebrities who’ve struck million-dollar deals with major names like Jenny Craig. There are brightly coloured crop tops, tiny shorts and stretch-mark-free tightly toned stomachs.
But a new series of intimate self-portraits by Brooklyn-based photographer Jen Davis, snapped over a decade, documents a much more honest weight loss journey.
Davis began the photographic project almost by accident: she was stuck for ideas as an undergraduate student in 2002, The Telegraph reports, and started taking photos of herself to kick-start the creative process.
The series soon became a quest to achieve a better understanding of herself and her size, Davis told The Telegraph — and last year, looking back over her collected self-portraits, she realised that she actually wanted to shed some of the extra weight she was carrying.
“I had this archive of myself from the last nine years and I realised how nothing had really changed. My body hadn’t changed. I thought, ‘I don’t want to wake up at 40 and be in the same body’,” she told The Telegraph.
So in August she had gastric banding surgery — and she’s since shed almost 50 kilograms. The photos in the series — which capture moods varying from introspective and lonely, to erotic — include images from before, during, and after Davis’ dramatic weight loss.
Davis told Slate that her weight loss changed the way she viewed her place in the world. In an interview with the online magazine’s David Rosenberg last year, she said:
“I was catching up on the emotional side of [losing weight] and feeling different in the world. … I wanted to experience what dating was, what it felt like in the world and not use a camera to gain access to anything and I didn’t want it to be a distraction for living in the world.”
But her own self-image hasn’t been the only positive effect of her decision to undergo the weight-loss surgery. As she told The Telegraph, her photos have struck a chord with women who, “even if they’re not my size, still have an insecurity about… how they look”.
Indeed, the responses she’s received to her photographs have largely been positive — a response that has “shocked her,” she said.
“I’ve received great support from people who understand my voice, from people who have struggled with weight or body image,” she told The Huffington Post.
It’s great to have people be honest with me like I am honest with my camera.”
Jen Davis is a New York based photographer. For the past eleven years she has been working on a series of Self-Portrait’s dealing with issues regarding beauty, identity, and body image. She has also been exploring men as a subject, and is interested in investigating the idea of the relationship, both physical and psychological, with her camera. She has been featured in publications including Camera Austria, Aperture, Photography Quarterly, New York Times Lensblog, Huffington Post, Lens Magazine, O Magazine and PDN. Davis is represented by Lee Marks Fine Art and ClampArt. Her website is here.
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