19 January 2011

Report: posing for The Adipositivity Project 2011

I've been in the US for a bit, visiting archives and finishing the last of the data collection for my PhD. I've also been doing what might be referred to technically within sociology as 'entering the field' in terms of fat activism, but I draw no distinction between my real life and the things I am studying, so thus can neither enter nor leave the field because I'm always already there. The lay version is that I've been talking with a lot of rad fatties, seeing a lot of fat activism, and taking part in some of it myself.

One of the people I spent some time with is Substantia Jones, the photographer behind The Adipositivity Project. If you are unfamiliar with Adipositivity, go to the site right now and feast your eyes on the amazing variety of fat flesh. This is one of my go-to places if ever I am having a bad fat day – and when I'm feeling perfectly fine too.

Substantia took my photograph in 2009, I'm Adiposer 303, 379 and 413, and just last week she did it again. Here's the pic that appeared on the site today, number 442, and there may be outtakes of me with Mickey Mouse and a snowman in Chinatown floating around somewhere. By the way, yep, it was very cold, I got undressed in a restaurant toilet and dressed again out on the pavement, they're real streets in Chinatown in Manhattan, there were comments from passers-by (the guy in the main pic wanted my number – no chance!), it's as true as you see it.

When we were talking beforehand, Substantia asked me what it was like to pose for Adipositivity. I gave a jumbled up response, so I thought I'd try and give a more considered answer here.

I love the Adipositivity aesthetic, which is totally at home with femme and queer identity, often full of delicious colour, witty, sexy, imaginative, and stuffed with personality and style. Substantia has great visual ideas an collaborative skills, she makes the shoot fun, an adventure. When Substantia takes your photograph, you enter this world too and you get to see yourself within this frame, literally. It's a gift considering that many of the people who are photographed grew up with body shame and self-hatred.

When you appear on the site it's a measure of how far you've come in refuting fatphobia. It's not only about having your picture taken and allowing others to see it, it's also about being able to look at your own image without terror or disgust. Being there is a way of showing that having a fat body is alright, it gives permission to be visible and unafraid. There you are, part of humanity, not the fattest, not the thinnest, not the prettiest, or any other category that is supposed to be important, just there, doing your thing.

You could say that Adipositivity is a means of creating a new kind of beauty, or appreciating beauty. I don't think that beauty is the only thing going on in the pictures, they are also about flaunting fat, sometimes quietly and shyly, sometimes not. I love that the photographs are 'positive' but that they are never trite or monodimensional, 'positive role models' is an expression that makes me want to burn and rob, and I never get that feeling looking at these images. Instead they suggest another way of being, a richer way of considering fat embodiment. There is nothing apologetic or placatory about them and I think that this is because they are not necessarily created by and for 'them', but by and for 'us'. Whenever I come across the photographs they make me want to climb inside the frame and inhabit the world in which they were taken, I've been lucky enough for this to actually happen to me.

I come from punk and I appreciate that although Subsantia's photographs have high production values, they also strongly support a DIY ethic. Adipositivity is put together on next to nothing, it uses available resources, easily accessible web technology, for example, and also manages to have a really powerful impact. It is created without the pressure of advertisers, completely on Substantia's own terms.

It sounds cheesy but I'm really proud to be part of this project, grateful to have an opportunity to pose, and glad of Substantia's friendship. Although I live far away from New York, being an Adiposer makes me part of a community that wants to see images like these and is ready to help make them happen. I love seeing myself within this context and am delighted to be able to offer it my embodied support.

PS This still seems inadequate. Oh well, I'll write more next time, hopefully there will be a next time.


Notblueatall said...

Great stuff! I think you expressed it well. I had never considered something like it before, but now I wanna be an adiposer, too! I loved your pics (and ruffly knickers)! My intro to FA was through the Chubster article in BUST magazine. I have since only wanted to be a Chubster. I feel so fortunate to have found all of these positive places to share experiences with others and to support each other, too. Thank YOU for this. Just mad-rad!

Moe said...

Surprise! LOL Awesome shot. Good for you. So next time you'll pick warmer weather?

Anonymous said...

Are you sucking in...?

Jennifer said...

Ace photo! You look so jubilant! and a bit cheeky :-)

At first glance I didn't spot that part of the framing was a passer-by, but I really like that too - the way their body language seems to be saying "Woah, what's going on here?" I like the way that their fleeting presence puts into the picture itself the context of it being a public action.

::is impressed with Substantia's art and your daring boldness::

Anonymous said...

i totally love this photo!

toni crane said...

this is my all time fave photo of hers- too cool to hear the voice behind the beauty!!!