So how do you create a book that features photos of women, along with their weight?
Our craigslist ad said it all:
“Two females in search of approximately 25 women to take part in a photography project that will culminate in an ebook. Ideally, we would like to work with women of all ages, backgrounds, and sizes. Fully clothed, all very tastefully done, but you must be willing to reveal your weight. The guiding force behind our project is to de-stigmatize that number that is our weight; we’re glad to discuss the project further and direct your toward our blog, where you can read more about it.”
We didn’t know what to expect, but we hoped and prayed that we would get responses. It is such a hard thing to gauge, though - we were asking women we didn’t know yet to expose themselves in a way that they were not used to. But also running in the “gigs” section was an ad looking for “models that put out”. We thought we stood a slightly better chance than that guy.
For a couple of days, nothing but tumbleweeds rolled through in my inbox. Then a response. Hallelujah! And another! And another! They rolled in slowly, about one a day for a week or so; enough for us to actually be able to schedule a shoot.
“I’m very interested in your project”, they read. Interested!! In our project!! We couldn’t wait to meet them.
Our first shoot had us stationed at a grand old building on our campus, me in a silly wizard hat (so the models could identify me, naturally), wondering if our first enlisters would actually show up, or if the other shoe was about to drop. I knew nothing of them save for their interest in the project, and their names. And sure enough, one by one, they showed up, walking confidently up to our post near the rear entrance, introducing themselves and offering to lend their beauty and their time to our idea.
And it was then that the project began in earnest. And we found, with each model who came to this and subsequent sessions, that there was so much more to the story than we’d ever considered. We had only been keeping our fingers crossed that enough women would be interested in the project in order to see it through; we hadn’t considered how each of the models who came to our sessions would have her own deep and compelling reason for joining in.
With each session, the understanding of what we were doing became richer and richer, as the stories of each model layered the experience like an onion.
The bus driver with seven daughters, who fears for them growing up in this culture and feeling bad about their bodies and themselves because they don’t measure up to the cultural ideal.
The art student who’d just come from a hair salon where she’d been reading a women’s magazine with two back-to-back articles: “Lose two dress sizes in four weeks” and “Love the body you have”.
The lovely young woman who’d recently gone vegan and lost 50 pounds, who felt healthier but didn’t see her body any differently than it was 50 lbs ago.
Women admonished by those around them for being too skinny or too fat, despite being healthy, despite their relative size being a preordained, genetic thing.
Women who’d been through eating disorders. Women who’d always felt awkward in their bodies. Moms with children in tow, whose bodies had changed after childbirth.
These women are the real heroes of this story. And we were just the ones lucky enough to be able to assemble them together in this meaningful way, so that they could reveal this very private thing about themselves, and so that you, as a reader, do not feel quite so alone the next time you step on that scale. That number that you see? It just is what it is. Now get out there and enjoy your life.