My Skin, My Body (Part 1)
18th May 2016
‘My Skin, My Body’ – Part 1
A project by Kat Kaye
When I was a student at University of California in San Diego, I spent a lot of time studying human individuality and how much that is molded by institutions and various sources that exist outside of the self. I was, and continue to be, particularly interested in the media’s role in how we construct our sense of self. Patterns in the media normalize various traits that turn into expectations. It becomes troubling when these expectations are based off of unreal distortions. I think about the different ideals that I’m perpetuating with each image I create and can only hope to convey a beauty that feels real and that anyone can connect to.
Sometimes a photographer is creating a character and must eliminate or modify certain things to attain that but where does one draw the line? Are we making modifications to fulfill an artistic vision or are we simply conforming to what we’ve been told is acceptable?
In the series My Skin, My Body I photograph women in the beauty of nature. Each subject’s skin and body remains un-retouched. I ask each woman to bring clothing she feels beautiful in and we choose a spot that she can feel connected to. Most of the models are barefaced and if they do wear makeup, we remove it completely by the end so there are no barriers between the subject and the camera. We spend hours together with no plan in mind. I am lucky enough to bear witness to each woman’s vulnerabilities and I seek to capture it with honesty. Since I have begun this series, I feel that my own views on body acceptance have evolved and I weigh every choice to retouch anything with much more care and consideration.
My hope is that as the viewer, you can feel the intense amount of natural beauty that radiates from each person.
Part 1 – Sarah Wes
Sarah is a writer and communications coordinator of a news organisation where she also reports on politics and social issues. She has a BA from Rutgers University and has also worked as a model in NYC and LA for many years. Sarah is also a big advocate of wellness and holistic health. Sarah showed a deep commitment to what the project stood for and her strength of character really came through in the shots.
Kat: What drew you to become involved with the series and did you have any reservations about the absence of retouching?
Sarah: Amidst the era, of what I believe, is the peak of superficiality and materialism in mainstream culture, I find it increasingly important to present reality. I found Kat’s project of capturing raw, real images beautiful and necessary. While there is a place for Photoshop and edited images, especially in the artistic realm, we’re seeing an overload of its use. Kat’s project is a refreshing reminder that true beauty also deserves recognition.
I had never been professionally photographed without make-up. I was a little hesitant and concerned that the images would not reveal the face I wanted everyone to see.
After having this thought, it was clear this face – the bare, vulnerable and untouched, is the face that everyone should see. The face of vulnerability and authenticity is underrepresented and I wanted to be a part of that.
Kat: When do you feel at your most beautiful, and what does ‘beauty’ mean to you?
Sarah: I feel most beautiful when I’m taking care of myself, eating healthy and remaining positive.
Kat: What role does makeup and/or retouching currently play in your life?
Sarah: Make-up and retouching doesn’t play a large part in my life. I notice it from a distance, whether it’s on social media or in a magazine. Having worked in the fashion industry, I understand how images are retouched and makeup can be manipulated to entirely change one’s appearance. Therefore, I have been fortunate enough to know the difference between perception and reality without letting it overly affect my situations, self-image or environment.
Kat: How accurately do you feel you were depicted in your photos?
Sarah: Perfectly. Kat has an amazing eye and creative direction. She captured me at my most vulnerable moments.
Kat: What’s the difference (if any) between these images and other shoots you’ve had or even your own personal photos?
Sarah: I believe the essence of something changes with it’s intention. The intention of this project was to encourage the acceptance of which you are, and empower the true self. Having this as the foundation of the photo shoot, the images were more intense, more real, and purposeful. I think you can feel the difference just by looking at the photos. Personal photos of mine are usually arbitrary without much thought and therefore cast the same quintessence. Other photo shoots happen by way of a client, for advertising purposes or to promote something. These images usually play into the perception of beauty and mainstream culture.
Kat: Since the shoot, has the way in which you decode and understand professional and advertised photos in general skewed at all?
Sarah: Since the photo shoot, I think about how professional and advertised photos further our societal self-insecurities. We’re all in this bubble trying to find ourselves and understand who we are. If the images propagated towards us are unauthentic, manipulated and unrealistic, it deepens the hole of self-confusion. I also think a lot about who or what will come forward and be the force to change it.
Kat: Given the ‘selfie’ era we currently live in, did the shoot change the way you think or feel about yourself in terms of having your photo taken?
Sarah: The shoot definitely made me take a look at how I take selfies and how most selfies on social media are taken in vain. There is usually an underlying craving for attention and validation to subconsciously fit into what other people think is beautiful or worthy of a ‘like.’ Noticing this became ever apparent after the photo shoot and I have definitely become less interested in the ‘selfie’ craze.
Kat: If you could go back and give your ‘younger self’ words of advice surrounding body image, what would you say?
Sarah: The idea of ‘body image’ is a flawed construct and to find validation in it will lead to emptiness. I would tell my younger self to accept everything about myself and find strength within. Within lies the purest, truest essence of whom we are. This beauty will shine through regardless of the external.