"Our Beauty in All Shapes and Sizes"
Photographer, Rosanne Olson has created a lovely collection of sepia-toned nude portraits and mini essays by women from ages 19 - 95. The most important aspect of this collection is that the women are of all shapes and sizes. And all have varying degrees of self esteem and body image.
Right from the first page my perceptions were tested. I looked at the image twenty-two year old Emily, and immediately started judging. A beautiful blonde with what would be considered perfect body features opened this self acceptance book. I felt a typical defensiveness; thinking "that would be the first image". But then I read her profile. She is the definitive example of judging a book by its cover. Emily suffers from cystic fibrosis and recently had a lung transplant. As she says, "Looks can be deceiving in many ways. It's important to look deeper than the skin to get the whole picture before you decide what you see." As the book progressed I found myself judging less and enjoying our diversity more.
The women are nude but it isn't about showing off breasts as it is about showing off the unique aspects of the feminine form. They are all set against the same background some with tulle and some with velvet or antique furniture. In many of the images the reader doesn't even see the face. What is seen though is the variety that exists amongst women: women with loose bellies, pregnant and not; women with wrinkles and not; women with tattoos and not; and women who have been bruised inside and out; and those who have not. And of course I can not forget ethnicity.
One of my favorite images is of ninety-five year old Bea. Sitting on a chair facing into the camera with perfect posture and black tulle draped over her arms like an elegant shawl. Another favorite of mine is the reclining plus size (there are seven) figure of LaRae, twenty-five, whose face excludes a sexy confidence is not overpowered by her feminine curves.
All of these women are not confident despite choosing to participate in nude sittings. From their essays I learned that they struggle with how they feel about their weight or some other feature of their body. While some struggle with getting older others revel in it. These differences in body image and self esteem leave open the possibility that all our thoughts and feelings are indeed normal and likely shared by other woman.
Readers of This is Who I Am can learn many things from these images and essays. Like forty-four year old Rose, "I'm sad I spent my twenties and thirties worried about my weight and punishing myself." Or proud Gretchen on her mastectomy: "This isn't a deformity, it's just different."
This is how we are all supposed to be -- different. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the photographs and getting to know the subjects. I highly recommend you add a copy to your bookshelf or give it as a gift to a woman in your life.
This is Who I Am is available from Amazon.com.
This is Who I Am is available from Amazon.ca.