At Label's recent collaboration with the life drawing class in St Andrews, Simon Walgenbach approached our founder, Jo Boon, to discuss the possibility for a new photo series: The Body as a Biography. This is the first release, a series which explores people's relationship with their body, what they love, what they hate, and the stories that our bodies tell. We hope this will be the first of many, so get in contact if you would like to collaborate on future shoots.
This photo series explores some of the issues that are pertinent to many of us when we think about our bodies: weight and scars. Through these photographs, and the words of those who modeled for us, we have tried to delve a little deeper into how each of us identify with our bodies.
Our society is obsessed with what people weigh, and how we value them accordingly, or judge them as 'healthy' or not. We do not have to be bound by these rules. Weight and fat are a part of most of our lives, these photographs highlight that and reflect that our bodies are never anything to be ashamed of. You are more than a number on a scale, or a dress size- no one can be labelled that way.
I decided to bare a piece of me I usually keep hidden to the camera for Label's project focusing on bodies and body parts: my stomach. My stomach has been the epicenter of my fears regarding my beauty (or lack thereof) for my entire life. For decades, I did anything I could to hide it from view or starve it down to less, but no matter what, people saw me as my stubbornly protruding tummy, its path of hair, and not much else. I have worked at a pool for three summers in a row, and my first year was spent with my belly covered up in shirts and towels even in 100+ degree weather. By the next summer, I began to ignore the chants of "fat nerd" I heard in school and in my head and chose comfort over contortion. I chose love for myself over fear. Now, I celebrate my body in all its forms, regardless of whether others will. I grab my love handles and only find joy where I once found flaw.
I fell off my bike quite badly around four years ago in what I usually describe as the greatest holiday of my life. I have scars on my chest, leg, chin, lip, forehead and hip. I have one and a half fake teeth right here at the front, so my smile will never look as white as it used to. I spent the first couple of years after the accident desperately trying to hide my scars with makeup and practising my closed mouth smile for photos. But then I realised that every time I looked in the mirror, I was reminded of one of the greatest two weeks of my life.
I have a small scar on my foot from a ceilidh that I attended in my last year of school, when my friend accidentally fell on me in heels. I like the scar, it's faint but quite long and it always reminds me of my friend who was very close to me; so it perfectly symbolises our relationship. The scar is a small price to pay for our wonderful relationship, and it's a nice reminder of high school with her.
I have had freckles for as long as I can remember. I have them all over my body which is something that annoys me. I sometimes like my freckles as they come out more prominently when I'm in the sun and it shows me that my body is trying to protect me and I like working with my body; it's a partnership that works.
I've always absolutely loved freckles, but I just have this one- hidden away on my body, so small it feels like a secret. We're never taught to love our bodies, and it's something I still struggle with, but I definitely love things about. Loving something as small as a freckle can be the start of a new relationship with you and your body. So, it's just a mark on my skin? It's a part of me- I think it's cute. I may not have a lot of freckles but I enjoy that I have this, that it's hidden and that it's a part of me to share.
What stories does your body tell? Do you have crazy scars with adventure packed stories? Are there parts you still hate? Where do you like to be kissed most?
Our bodies are for us, and learning to love them can do a great deal to increase our happiness. As Wilde famously said, 'learning to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.'