Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Losing It

I recently found a collection of photography that was a series of self portraits by an obese woman. There were 44 pictures in all and it struck me as (1) laudable that a woman who's so obviously outside of what's accepted female beauty is forcing people to look at her and then (2) a little embarrassing that I found the series so "laudable." After all being fat isn't winning anyone Nobel prizes.

Part of me is all "good for her. You go girl. Show them that they need to write outside the box for your story." And part of me is "really? Is it necessary to be so provocative in your portraits?"

First, as one who lauds, I have always been an advocate for bringing a voice to marginalized people. These people aren't often looked at and are even less listened to. Ms Davis' collection forces the viewer to look at her.

And as one who cringes, I find Davis' collection of intimate portraits unsettling. She seems to be objectifying herself in the same falsely intimate style that society unfairly does in the first place. We stare both at those who allure us and those who disgust us.

As a praiser I find serious artistic poignancy in the intimacy Davis exhibits in showing herself so bared. And as a cringer I find the intimacy without voice jarring. It's similar to how I feel about Diane Arbus' work. I can't draw my eyes away but am troubled that if I look too long, the image will draw detached disgust out of me. Ultimately I want the marginalized to be heard and not just made a spectacle of.


baags said...


Why do you think she is forcing people to look at her?

LuLu WL said...

I think ultimately people want to be know, recognized and validated in the recognition. I just think allowing yourself to become an object of study doesn't ultimately validate you. I think it can have the opposite affect and dehumanize you. Just because people see you doesn't mean you're known or loved.

Sally HP said...

Hmmm...I think they were painful for me in another way. Some of the shots with the lighting and room colors were really beautiful, but there were certainly shots that were, as Charlotte has said, 'Not very arty'. The shots in a towel after the shower, are the exact times that I feel my absolutely most unflattering. I don't necessarily think it's commendable that she took a picture of herself in that state, because it's ultimately acknowledging that her size gives shock value, which will draw attention. I'd rather be known for my wicked sense of humor and lack of wearing shorts due to my newfound cellulite than 'that girl who took fatty pictures of herself'. Hmmm...I may just blog about this one too...