Photographer- Sarah Davis
I’m lucky enough to have gone to the same high school as Sarah. Her nostalgic images and dreamy portraiture don’t stand alone, for with each photograph Sarah provides a narrative. Sarah’s voice, both socially and politically, shouts through her photographs.
Here are her words regarding the #ourbodiesourart movement.
I recently began to refer to myself as ugly, because that’s how I
felt, and it aptly described many of the pitfalls I’ve experienced in
my life – especially in the relationship I was(n’t) developing with my
body. But many women shy away from ugliness because it takes you completely
out of the game of attractiveness. For many women, the goal isn’t to
eradicate the pursuit of beauty, but to make beauty standards more
encompassing of different types of women. People don’t long to be
unattractive, they long to be attractive in their own way and to have
that way recognized. This logically spurs the “body love” movement,
the practice of women constantly trying to convince each other that
they’re not ugly, but pretty in a unique (ie: unrecognized) way.
The inherent problem within the body-loving mentality is that if you
don’t “love your body” (or attempt to make strides toward doing so),
then there’s something wrong with you. It inadvertently creates
another standard that women are held against, and doesn’t actually
solve any of the underlying problems in regards to women, sexism and
beauty work. If I call myself ugly, people then think I have
self-esteem problems, or am experiencing some other form of deep
suffering. Women often make it a requirement that you like your body, or else you’ll never know any kind of sustainable happiness.
We don’t have to find ourselves beautiful. Beauty is not the one thing
that makes us and our bodies worth loving. We don’t have to distort an
already fucked-up definition of beauty, and pretend we fit into it,
just to feel like we are people worthy of being loved. Stop telling
women that we should find ourselves beautiful and that we should love
ourselves when you are standing right there, judging us on how our
knees look in short skirts and how prominent our boobs are in a
sweater and how much makeup we are or are not wearing.
Instead of us working harder on “love your body” and “find your inner
beauty”, the rest of the world should be working harder on “stop
telling women their bodies are a shameful place to live but that if
they’re strong enough, they will learn to embrace that shame.” This is
my body. It’s not “beautiful”. I don’t “love it”. I don’t have to. I
don’t have to have any strong feelings about my body. And whatever
feelings I do have are not somehow invalid if they’re not glowing
reviews., Body positivity is a process, and for some people is at the
end of the day entirely unattainable. The movement should not berate
people who feel negatively about their body but validate their
feelings and allow them to develop on their own terms. In the end,
confidence is not a goal that is only available through being
comfortable with your body and women should bring each other up
instead of putting them down.
As a photographer who shoots mostly women, I’ve noticed many of my
subjects upon seeing the results will point out flaws not about the
picture itself (like framing or color correction or whatever) as I
would, but about themselves. “my eyes look kinda small, could you fix
that?” “my stomach pokes out a little further than I’d like in that
one” “ugh you can see my stretch marks”. these are real critiques that
I have received and I think most of them stem from a standard of
beauty that crops out and airbrushes over women’s most common and
prominent attributes. no one’s stomach is flat, we all have that weird
stomach pouch. That’s female anatomy that gets lassoed away in
Photoshop almost daily!! what I’ve done as a photographer is try to
make my subjects more comfortable with how they look and how they
photograph and keep the body editing to a minimum. We are in an age
that is dominated by standards. I’m working to tear those down.