Learning To See My Body As Art

The nude body as art. This is a concept that I hadn’t seriously reflected on before (shameful to admit as a former art history student), but in our contemporary society the body is viewed as something that should appear a certain way, otherwise it is not to par and you are, in certain ways, inadequate. This is especially true of young women as the pressure of beauty standards suffocates us and this idea that we should look a certain way is cemented into our brains by advertisements and music videos.

When I was younger and fit thanks to martial arts, I really wasn’t too concerned about any of that. I didn’t understand why these skinny girls were eating salads every day for lunch and complaining about how big their hips were when really they didn’t even have anything remotely close to hips. Now, though, as I get older and my body changes, it is something that has increasingly been on my mind, if not in the back of it when I look in the mirror.

So when my good friend and professional photographer asked me if I would be interested in doing a nude photo shoot, despite initial hesitation, it only took me 60 seconds to decide to do it. I was interested in experiencing what it would be like to use and see my body as a form of art rather than focusing on what is “lacking,” and knew that I may never have an opportunity to do this again with someone I trust and whose work I admire.

Of course, it took a while to warm up, understandably, but going into it with this mindset of creating tasteful art, seeing the beauty in the curves of my body, cherishing my unique shape and even my ridiculous tan lines, helped a lot. Thirty minutes in, more or less, I truly became comfortable in my own skin and relaxed enough to fully appreciate the experience (challenging as it was! Modeling is tricky!).

My friend told me during the shoot in a tone of the utmost sincerity that I was beautiful, and it warmed my heart, not just because he said it, but because I came to believe it on my own too.

My body is mine, it is unique to me and who I am, what I’ve been through, what I’ve experienced. It’s not about what it looks like in terms of physique. It’s about what my body has allowed me to do, the adventures that I’ve taken and will continue to take, the challenges that I’ve experienced over the years. My muscles carry the ability to remember how to defend myself, how to play the keys on a piano, or pull my bow across the strings of my cello. My shape consists of curves that are similar to the woman who birthed me and they represent my ethnicity. My skin carries scars from childhood romps and tattoos with meaningful messages to remind me of the greatness of life.

After two hours of shooting we looked through the photos together and immediately I began to critique everything that was wrong with them, naturally, as anyone would. But some of those shots were beautiful not because my body is what society defines as “beautiful,” but because I began to see and understand the art I created with my body. The way my hands draped over my knee in one shot, the way my waist curves inward then comes back out at my hips, the birthmark on my eyebrow that stands out in contrast to my skin, the slight bend at the knee that implies comfort, the graceful pose that creates unique shapes that cannot be replicated by anything except the human body…

I walked out feeling like a new woman. Not only have I learned how to accept and be who I am in terms of character, opinion, etc., without being influenced by anyone or anything else, but I have now learned how to accept and love my body.

My body is a treasure and it is a work of art exactly as it is.

Thank you to Z., for helping me to experience something life changing and wonderful.

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