It’s a stunning nude arch; the light gives the illusion of statue, accentuating every muscle. “Leave the stretch marks in, they are proof of my family,” she requests of the image enlarged on the screen. In the image, her stretch marks radiate across her tummy. A reminder she is real.
It’s becoming more common, a backlash of sorts to the overdone Photoshop effect that many photographs employ with the one-button-fixes.
In the session, unless requested, we don’t go to great pains to show off the stretch marks, the scars, the evidence of living an interesting life. We can do camouflaging tricks through posing or propping. Doing that is a bit like picking out a dress that flatters your figure – it enhances the assets, and downplays any concerns.
But in the computer, changing too much there is more akin to wearing spandex body shapers under the dress.
We just did a session with an expectant mother. She was late in her term carrying her third child. She laughed as she pointed out which tummy marks came from which children. She said not to worry about hiding them during the session, they were her. After she had selected her last image, she paused, turned to me touching my arm lightly. “Oh,” she said, “don’t retouch out the tummy scars. I have earned those, each of my children are in the photograph with them.”
My client this morning had the same request; it was part of who she was.
Being real has become very important. We are seeing mannequins changing shapes to reflect real women. I just recently posted on Facebook a video about a line of mannequins created from handicapped models. They had people with real handicaps (missing limbs, very short, and so on) to create the molds from. It was very moving.
It’s not just stretch marks, too. We had Leah in the other day, and she had two large scars from open heart surgery. One from when she was really young under her breasts, and one she got a few weeks earlier from her latest surgery. To Leah, they represent her conquest; they exist because she fought to stay alive.
In her nude session, we did nothing to diminish their appearance, sometimes even lighting her chest to bring them out. We did a body painted version in a superhero suit that dynamically displayed her scar as her powerpoint in the suit. It was amazing to photograph.
Now, with exceptions like Leah’s heart surgery scar, most people don’t want the focus to be on their scars or stretch marks. But they also don’t want something that is so much a part of who they are to be erased. We also find that same refreshing attitude when we do nude work with women who have had mastectomies.
There is a defiance emerging. I think there is an awakening or evolution that women want to take back control of their image, to be seen as real rather than a created illusion from Madison Avenue.
It’s not happening just in my 35 year old studio. Jade Beall created the A Beautiful Body Project that showcased women’s bodies as they are, but still full of heart and soul.
Cosmopolitan put out a story on the 16 Real, Beautiful Women. It’s not just the celebrities stepping nude into pages of magazines.
But even the celebrities are in on, or perhaps leading, the change. Celebrities are appearing in magazines with demands that they not be retouched. The Frisky has gathered up a collection of samples in famous magazines, some even on their cover, many nude. For a celebrity, that is being pretty bold. Yet it leads the way, or at the least supports the new path.
Since we have always had the approach of keeping our clients real, it’s nice to be in stride with the changes. I predict we will see more of it.
How about you, would you choose to be this bold? What do you think?