Getting Your Photo Taken can be a rebellion Against Your never ending Insecurities.
There seems to be a loose thread to this week and that thread is me being photographed. I want so badly to feel comfortable with getting my photo taken. I do not want to have inherited my mothers absolute terror of being photographed. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. It is something that takes practice.It is an evolving process that never really ends. Do I love my body? Not always. Is that the end of the world? sometimes. Sometimes I can go for days feeling ugly and gross and pick at all my deformities in an absurd and grotesque mental exorcise that I revel in. I go through the mental list of all the things wrong with my body that have nothing to do with fat or skinny. I grew up wishing that I had a bigger body. If I was fatter, it would help hide my deformed spine and rounded shoulders, I used to think. I used to feel so jealous and the green poison would overtake my ability to empathise. I wish my only problem was being a bit fat, I used to think as I listened to the girls in my class at school talk about how anorexic I looked and how big I made them feel. I was not allowed to speak of my concerns for myself. I knew that if I said anything about my deformed spine they would all agree. They would not react like they did when a friend commented on their weight hatefully ”No way. You are beautiful!” My self image was not subjective it was fact and the people in my year 8 class all understood this.
The fact was I wanted to scream sometimes at the girls in my class ”TAKE MY DEFORMED SKINNY MEAT SACK AND i WILL GLADY TRADE YOU FOR YOUR PERFECT SPINE IN A CHUBBY BODY THAT DOESNT GET PUT UNDER DOCTORS EYES ALL THE FUCKING TIME.” I was yet to learn about what skinny white girl privilege is and that I did and do have it. Its just proof that being skinny does not mean you are healthy. It is a big lie that people use to fat shame people who are perfectly healthy and just not super skinny. Marketing lies to us all. But especially if you are a woman of colour, a woman with a disability, a queer woman or trans woman or a woman with a chronic illness.
I was young and self loathing and unable to understand that so was every other girl in my class. It was not an either or game. I was yet to learn that no matter how perfect your spine is there is a whole system put in place to make money from women hating how they look. Everyday is a day of reckoning with the system. It was just that when you have a non normative body there are less people to talk to about your particular concerns and insecurities. I spent so many lunch times and recesses simply walking around around my small country school all by myself struggling with self loathing and no friendship group to help me out. I grew strong this way. I grew self reliant.
But what I ate was a constant source of interest to my relatives and grandparents. What I ate was observed and catalogued to a list that was shared with my mother at any opportunity. If my mother left me with a grandparent for any amount of time, that time would be measured by what I ate and then told to my mother when she came to take me home again. For me food was something I struggled with because I was fussy and disinterested in it. My grandmother my mother’s mother said it was karma. My mother had been a terrible eater all her life as well in that she was fussy. My mother never told me about this. It was my grandmother who told me my mother practically lived on vegemite sandwiches.
I found that there was power to be gained back by not eating. It was this that caught my doctors at The Royal Children’s Hospital’s attention and is what made them admit me to the Adolescent ward when I was 15 and hating myself the most. That is a personal essay all its own. I will write it I promise. Just not now.
In primary school there were rumours about me. There was the story that I was blue when I was borne. That was why I was so stunted in development. A girl in my class told me this at playtime with such authority that I believed her for a second. I could not remember my birth so maybe this story was true? Perhaps this girl had a mother who was a nurse at the hospital in Shepparton where I was born. My parents and I only lived in Shepparton for the first six months of my life so having this girl tell me this at East Loddon P-12 in Dingee was strange. My mother soon sorted out my confusion. ”You were not blue when you were born.” She said ”You were my biggest baby. Things just got a bit complicated after the initial weigh in.” There was the other rumour that I had died as well. It is safe to say that I was quite a creative inspiration to my prep and grade 1 class mates.
When my photographer friend put the call out for a model I decided to jump at it. There was a pair of free very cute socks up for grabs and the opportunity to see a friend I had not seen in a while. She and I are ‘sausage sisters’ and the bond is strong. We meet up after my morning events that I wanted to attend as part of The Melbourne Writers Festival taking hold of Melbourne right now. It was a particularly cold Melbourne day that had already gone through many faces: cold winds, hail, heavy cloud and brief sunshine. It was one of my not eating days. I am not hungry for breakfast and then lunch comes around and coffee with half an almond croissant seems enough. I know I should eat something but the events are too close together and ACMI cafe is very busy.
My friend and I decide to get a drink first so we can catch up. We go to Beer delux and join the line. As I am getting out my wallet my little Sunday section of my weekly pill organizer seems to jump out of my bag and crash to the floor. I am embarrassed for a second and then shake it off. ”OH No.” I exclaim with glee. ”My drugs!” There is a bearded man in front of us in the line. My scene grabs his attention. H looks at me with interest. I catch his eye. ”Not illicit drugs.” I explain. ”They are to keep my Dad’s kidney from waking up and freaking out at being in a different female body.” My friend looks impressed. This bearded man starts explaining the biology of my anti rejection tablets and what they do. I get miffed and cut him off. ”Excuse me. Have you had a kidney transplant?” ”No.” he says. ”Then stop mansplaining my condition.”
”Im a surgeon.” He says affably and with no malice or self importance. My friend and I start laughing. ”I am so sorry.” I say. And then. ”Wait, what kind of surgeon?” I ask. ”Nothing life changing.” He says. ”Just knees and joints and shit like that.”
The sun comes out while we are talking and we can feel it on our backs as we chat. He tells us that his wife is head trauma consultant at a hospital in Sydney. Her area is bullet wounds. ”At the end of they day she has saved like six lives and I have helped a footballer walk a bit better.” He tells us with such pride and admiration for his wife that I am completely charmed by him. I am still thinking fondly of him as I sit and type this over 24 hours later.
My friend and I chat over a white wine each that goes straight to my head and we laugh and giggle like a couple of care free kids. It has been at least a year since we saw each other and in person and the time seems totally inconsequential. She gives me a pair of the socks that will be worn by me for the photo shoot. A pair of the very cool and perfectly fitting Lorna socks by Moosh Walks Socks https://mooshwalks.com/
I can never say no to the colour combination of black and red. Once I have changed into the socks the photography begins.
The best photos we both agreed were taken at Metropolis book shop. https://www.metropolisbookshop.com.au/
There is no better place to photograph me in my own personal element than wandering around and browsing inside a bookshop. It made me forget I was being watched by someone with a camera.
ok. I was being a bit of a dick head in this one.
It was so warm and cozy inside the book shop. I wish I could work in one. I would pose like this as I put books away at least 22 times a day. imagine.
After spending time at the book shop we face the cold outside again and go stuff our faces with dumplings. I am starving and ready to eat.
All photos by Studio Sealegs. Go visit her website for more of her photographic talent and expertise. www.studiosealegs.com