Fatphobia, the difference between shooting curvy people vs thin people

Let me preface with a few things:
1: TW: Fatphobia, fat oppression
2: When I use the wording "Fat woman/people" it is not used in a derogatory way, it is a reclaimed word. If this word makes you feel squidgy I hope that you will challenge this though and think of WHY it makes you feel this way.

I had a chat yesterday with Kayla Logan, (the organizer of the big body positive (bopo) event, she was here last week, and will be coming back again soon!) and she asked me some pivotal questions... ones that I know are starting to come up for her. Why do some photographers only want to collaborate with thin people and don't show curvy people on their feeds?

This is actually a problem, a big one, in my industry. While tides change and there are more plus size people being photographed, there's also a large amount of people who will not photograph plus size or if they do, decide not to put them in their newsfeeds (if they have a public model release permission of course).
I have seen people in photography groups ask if they should allow a plus size couple or person be the model campaign for the service they are providing, because they wanted the "perfect person" to be the model for their business. This is not okay in my books, no excuses, it's not ok to classify plus size/fat people as not perfect, we are ALL imperfectly perfect.
I have seen photographers treat a plus size person/model different than a thin-bodied model, in the same room at the same time.
Photographers are their own people, with their own journey's, and their own fatphobia's... I understand that completely. The problem is that we as photographers place our own body issues on our clients even if subconscious (which is why you only see some plus size boudoir images with heads only, because their body is because you mentally say not worthy due to rolls or fat but their face is beautiful, so the result is face only shots). I have seen body positive debates and arguments get out of hand in photography groups, and some people that simply won't get it no matter how hard we try to educate those in the community so that the boudoir industry rises up and grows to be fully inclusive by many more photographers in the industry.
I have also seen people take images of plus size people and use them in a tokenism way rather than from a place of genuine love & care.

Let me explain this further before you think I am just bashing other photographers who think differently than me, because this isn't the case.

There are an amazing bunch of body positive photographers who are in the photography community that truly live, breathe and support the BOPO message and live from their inner beings to their business (just like me). and it's fantastic to see this as well! I try my best to surround myself with these people and to shut out the others, because I simply do not have the mental capacity and want/need to be around a different mindset.

I have been very open, since day 1 of starting my boudoir journey, that I am a plus size woman who's on a journey of body acceptance, love and a person who has a journey myself and who is on a mission to not only teach myself how to love myself but also teach other women to do so too.
So since the beginning I have shot women who look like me - plus size - knowing they are marginalized. I know deep down if I would have seen someone with my body growing up being represented that this would have made a world of difference for me. So I knew from the getgo that I wanted other women to see other plus size women too and see them killing shoots! I started by showing self portraits of myself, sharing the very vulnerable side of my journey (I wasn't in such a great place as I am now so it was very hard for me to open up and share both images but also the inner workings of my mind). I don't share this stuff as much, because my mind isn't in that place as often, but when it is I definitely make the point to share. This is also why those who have been in the "old group" since near the beginning completely understand the roots of my journey and how I truly have been in their shoes, and how I literally live and breathe the messages I share about body & self love.

Plus size/fat people - not just women - are told that our bodies are shameful, not healthy, and that we should be in hiding, and that there is a generalized stereotype that we are lazy people, that we represent gluttony, and that we do not deserve to be represented, and more often than not when we are in an image (say the Gillette plus size image of glitterandlazers) people shout rudely that we shouldn't and we should die instead, or it's only okay if we are "healthy" (read comments on any plus size models account and you will see these). We are told no one can love us due to our body mass as well, and if someone does you better hold on to him/her because no one else will possibly do so (whether they are abusive towards you or not). And we certainly as plus size/fat people shouldn't be sexual, no touching your own body at anytime, oh but don't forget fat fetishes are okay, just not ya know regular fat sex of 2 people in love (or having a good time).

Now of course all of these ideals are WRONG, there is literally not one ounce of fact behind them.. this is what we call a truism because it's something we believe to be true that is taught from generation to generation, but isn't in fact based on truth. But this is beaten in anyone who is of a larger body size from childhood on, or the moment they "become" plus size. So it's basically a mind fuck, because here you are taught all these things, yet internally know that they aren't right, that you deserve all the respect and love that everyone around you gets.

This is why I have it my mission to show real clients as my models (see current creative sessions mix, you will see me literally ask for all ages, sizes, shapes, and colours), I also specifically call out these ranges so that you know know I mean YOU!

I am proud of my private fb group and what I have cultivated, a truly inclusive group where everyone gets shown (who gives me a model release) and that love is shared on every image posted (it's so fucking important for the self esteem of a woman who shares, I don't want anyone to doubt the impact you have by sharing WORDS of love to someone who has the courage to allow me to share their images).
Unfortunately I see many times in other groups that those who are of a larger size (or coloured skin) get less comments/likes... I always ask myself why? Is it because of a stupid algorithm not showing or is it because of people's fatphobic internal barometer? In many cases I think both.

I have personally developed a conspiracy theory that I had spoken with Kayla about as she thought so too, as well as Kimberly.. that often when I get put in jail it is because of a plus size woman... I have put very sensual images up of women of the "avg" size and they were not flagged/I was not put in fb jail. But I have posted some of Kimberly for example, and within SECONDS they were removed by fb bots. I have seen accounts of plus size reps and models that are constantly being removed and banned when they are not showing anything different than other IG influencers.
There is an innate feeling in my bones that there is a guideline put in with bots about fat people.

We are taught as professional photographers from some "rule" that was out there, that "lines" are better than curves, and that "rolls" are to be stretched out ie, make the person long and lean not scrunched up due to lines, and everyone wants to be made thinner (though that's not true either).
You will often see that I post ALL women of any size in poses that are not stretched out. I want every woman to see herself as HER and not the leaned out version we are taught (as society not just photographers) is the acceptable version.
We are taught that it's okay to be plus size, if you have junk in the trunk or boobs for days, but don't have it on your tummy because that's not desirable or healthy. In fact that's wrong, studies have proven this (I'm not going into those today, but I do have this info for another day). and in many BOPO accounts or plus size fashion industry brands that the plus size people still have a flat tummy, and they have “the good type of fat” because it’s placed in their tush or breasts. I know that it is also important, absolutely incredibly important, for women to see their tums, to see tums as normal and not something to have audible gasps and profound hate towards images with tums (and yes even while looking at their own tum). Your tum has kept you alive, just as every other part of your body, and it deserves as much equal love as the rest of you.

A woman with a tum, any woman of any size, should be allowed to love that tum, rolls and all, because it's worthy of love and appreciation. EVERY woman has a roll in her tummy when she bends.. even paper has one when bent!

You may have noticed by now that I'm someone that often goes against what society says we should do, that I stand up for more, and that I often try to push my own envelope.
So lately I have been pushing myself to shoot even sexier and even more sensual images (not that social media lets me show them, so this is why we need to do the click into a blog or something so you can see them) but I also am pushing my plus size clients to get sexier with themselves too. I find it's often hard for many of my plus size clients to even touch their own neck (I see this with other women too, especially those who come from abusive relationships or those not in touch with their own bodies of any size), but I am pushing my ladies to know they can touch themselves (or the illusion that they are) and it's okay. It's okay to not only see yourself as pretty and valuable, but as a sexual being as well, so I'm pushing more limits on hand placements and breathing, and just sensuality posing' in general (while still being tasteful of course). I find there often is a block in a plus size woman's brain on what her sexuality/sensuality can look like. It often takes much longer to get there too (note I never ever will force anyone to do anything they are uncomfortable with, that's not the point of my sessions and it would be completely detrimental to the point of my sessions), and sometimes it means doing a 2nd or 3rd session to get there as we dig deeper into her self-love journey, and that's okay too. I want you to know that your body, your sensuality and you being you is okay in all forms, that's my mission.

So while I obviously can talk about this subject in further depth for hours, let me recap...

  • You will never find tokenism in any of my feeds or my message. While I have some women who I point out often for certain aspects of their journey, I have spoken with them behind the scenes and been given permission to do use their names. I also know and care for them and their journey more than using them as a campaign image, and they know this as well (as hopefully you all do too).

  • That my message is never a thin vs fat, that this is not a place in my heart to separate people, in fact it's for us to get a better understanding of each others struggles and triggers and to combat these truisims & fatphobia together, because we need that. Let's stop the divide, let's see that we all have struggles and though they may be different they are still similar.

  • That you will always see plus size women in my feeds. I've taken a pledge to stay as a reminder (not sure if I need the reminder but that's not the point) to have a min of 30% of my work on my feeds to be of marginalized people (fat/plus size, different races, lbgtq, disabled) because it's important that we see more of these folks represented and so that others can see themselves in my work. Even if you aren't ready for a session, you should be able to relate and see images of people in my feed. This is

  • ALSO why I share stories/journey's of my clients (and why I get them to also write about their journey after for my blog) because it's important for you to know that they have struggles, they didn't do this because they were confident, but it's usually to find that confidence, to be in a safe place to do so. It's about seeing themselves in a new way than they never have before and for me to walk/teach them how to do so. And of course, to have fun, fun is always involved with lots of laughter too.

  • If you are plus size, know that your amazing, wonderful, sexy self is ALWAYS welcome in this group and in sessions. I am always wanting to see plus size women own who they are and their sensuality. It's important that you know this.

  • Women of all shapes, sizes, ages, colours, and personal struggles are welcome. My brand lives and breathes inclusivity. I do not "only shoot plus size" (which has been stated to me before). I shoot EVERYONE. If you want your photo taken, if you treat me with respect, then there's no reason I would ever turn you away. Respect is number one for me, it's the only reason I would turn down anyone or fire a client.

    I have below photos of myself. I say this in the most loving way possible, so don't get my words mixed up, but I am the largest I have ever been now (this doesn't matter but I AM pointing it out for a reason) because I love myself the most I ever have in my life as well. Loving yourself is not about an earned value of "I have to be my healthiest to be able to love myself" it's not when I get a certain wait the confidence and self love will suddenly be present. It's knowing that the body you have today is worthy of love and is worthy of taking up space & commanding it. You may change, but the you of today is in need of acceptance, because the same reasons you hate yourself now, will be the same reason you hate yourself at a different weight. (and of course, being a different weight doesn't automatically make you healthier... to be discussed another day).
    That my body, with it's curves, it's rolls, it's stretchmarks, it's struggles, it's own chronic issues, that my body is just as worthy, whether stretched out or not. That in fact I accept and appreciate my tum rolls and I love that photo of myself the most, because it's a truer representation of myself if you meet me ... though I'd have clothes on if you meet me LOL.

    I want you to know, that if you don't work with me, that I will accept that as I am not the photographer for everyone. Though I do hope that anyone you go to is able to fully love and appreciate taking the photos of you that you deserve, to give you the experience that you deserve, the respect you deserve. That they will take the time to make you proud of your body the way you deserve. And that they will showcase the work they create with you (if you allow) in a way that you deserve as well.

    I am always honoured when people choose me though as their photographer. I will always give you my 1,000%, I will always keep learning (not just photography wise, but body & self image wise as well) so that I can offer you the best ways to view yourselves and to accept who you are today.
    I am always so blessed when someone allows me to be part of their journey. Thank you to the clients who have allowed me to do so. Thank you to all those will be choosing me in the future. Thank you to all those who share my work, so that we can impact more women and show them that they are worthy too.

    Thank you all for being here, for combating fatphobia, for challenging societal ideals. For putting yourself out there (even just as words in this group I know it's hard for some).
    I want to thank you all for showing love and care for each other. Kindness & respect always win.

    A special thank you to Kayla who knew that I'd know what she was talking about, that I would feel the struggle she is starting to feel. and that we could have an open discussion about the offensiveness of some businesses and that she of course she felt that I don't represent this matters to me. I have only begun to know who Kayla is, and I will tell you that whether it was infront of many like at the event, or standing at 11:30pm in my livingroom (we took care of her little doggy that day) chatting about all these things and seeing her own heart and values and mission. I will tell you that she's good people, she's not doing this for the publicity of the events, she's doing this because it's her mission, it's her making a difference, and that this comes from a place of love and care.

    Thank you to all.

Artist Shannon Smith, Body Positive, Boudoir Photographer, Calgary Photographer, Calgary Boudoir, Plus Size Boudoir, Self Portrait
Artist Shannon Smith, Body Positive, Boudoir Photographer, Calgary Photographer, Calgary Boudoir, Plus Size Boudoir, Self Portrait