My Body as a Work of Art

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Can a great photographer’s discerning eye transform a woman’s feelings about her body? More invited five women to pose as classic nudes and tell Emily Listfield whether it changed them
Photo: Nadav Kander

Emma Cowles

My mother died two years ago, which set off a whole redefining process for me. I believe she had an eating disorder, and I began to wonder what that had done to me. I took a deeper look at how I was around food. It didn’t feel appropriate to punish myself anymore. Until then, whenever I looked in the mirror, there was a voice that was telling me I was never good enough. It was this constant "if only"-if only I lost weight, if only I ate differently. After she died, that slowly began to change. Now when I look in a mirror, I hear the critical voice and I decide not to listen. But I’m still struggling with this; I’m not saying I have it aced. I had my first child eight years ago, when I was 32. I gained 80 pounds and had a traumatic cesarean. Before I knew it, I was pregnant again, and afterward I didn’t feel like myself. I wasn’t earning money outside the home, and there didn’t seem to be time for me or the gym. Now I have time to take care of this amazing body that has produced two children. After the photo shoot, when I saw an image of my backside on the computer screen, I must have groaned, but the photographer said, "Look at the beauty of it." That took me out of myself. I thought, It’s just flesh and curves. I could see the beauty. I’m trying to develop the part of me that is generous and kind. My body is the result of being at peace around food and moving in a nourishing way. This is part of the process of accepting where I am. I don’t expect to look how I did in my twenties.
Photo: Nadav Kander

Nina Omotoso

I’m at a transitional moment in my life. I was treated for breast cancer two years ago, when I was 37, and since the lumpectomy, I’ve felt less invincible than I once did. I’m more forgiving of my body. The appearance of the odd gray hair or wrinkle doesn’t seem so earth shattering. I have scars from previous surgeries. Revealing them doesn’t bother me-your scars are part of who you are. At first I didn’t tell many people about the breast cancer. But I don’t hide it now. One positive thing to come out of this is a desire to be brave, and posing nude is part of that. My shape is quite straight, and I wish I went in at the waist. So I love how the photographer made my body look soft and gentle. I can see the curve. I felt bloated that day, but the photograph doesn’t match how I was feeling. I like the way I look. We tend to walk around concerned with what everyone else is seeing in us, but really, they’re not thinking about our issues at all.
Photo: Nadav Kander

Sarah Keable

Growing up, I saw my breasts as a problem. They were a lot bigger than my friends’, but not perky, and I hated when the guys at school would make comments. I was always trying to disguise them; I would cower over so they wouldn’t look so big. I never wore tight clothes. I thought of doing a reduction, but there was too much involved in the procedure. My boobs have been a big hang-up all my life, but now that I am about to turn 40, I want to finally get over it. I want to be able to look back on this year and know that I’ve been brave enough to do something I wouldn’t have done before. My husband loves me for who I am, and I don’t want my two daughters to feel they have to be perfect or hide themselves. I wish I were smaller, but I’m not going to hold a grudge against my breasts anymore. They’re here to stay. At the photo shoot, I forgot I didn’t have any clothes on. I wasn’t looking at myself in the mirror, so I lost my inhibitions. I love the images; the photographer made me look beautiful. I’ve never seen myself in that light before. I don’t want anyone to see pictures of me in a bikini, but this is so different, I’d be happy for anyone to see it. I’m always going to have a hang-up with my body; that’s just me. I still wish my boobs were more uplifted, but I am happy with who I am. I’m getting to the age where whatever happens, I want to feel I’ve done everything I can and not held myself back. I want to make other women aware that we don’t have to hide. We all have different body shapes and issues. I’m proud that I did this, and hopefully my grandchildren will see it and be proud, too.
Photo: Nadav Kander

Tracy Greene

I’m used to being on the other side of the lens, taking the pictures. The last time someone focused a camera on me was on my wedding day, nearly 17 years ago. But as one of four daughters, a mother of two and a fund raiser for an organization that helps women in war-torn countries, I feel a solidarity with women. I wanted to be part of this project to set an example for my daughters (10 and eight) so they’ll grow up feeling comfortable with their bodies and the aging process. Everywhere you turn, people are trying to reverse the aging process, and they’re starting at ever-younger ages. It’s crazy and an affront to all of us. I’m 46 and just beginning to feel the effects of aging. I have sagging skin, less energy. But we will all sag, droop and wrinkle eventually, and that’s OK. I cycle, do Tai Chi, practice yoga and play golf, but in the days leading up to the shoot, I took better care with my diet and exercise in an effort to trim down. After the shoot, when I saw the photograph, my initial instinct was to criticize my bottom and wish a different area had been highlighted. But after a while, I became less critical and self-conscious. I think the image is beautiful and flattering. I look more toned and fit than I thought I would. I hope this experience will help me be better at following the advice I give my daughters. The shoot felt similar to my wedding day, with so much focus on me: the nervousness and questioning about whether I was doing the right thing. Afterward, I knew I’d done something permanent and everlasting, something I was proud of.
Photo: Nadav Kander

Liza Bauza

I’ve weighed anywhere between 140 and 250 pounds over the course of my adult life. I had a rough moment when the scale hit 200, but I still felt better about myself than at other times because my husband told me how much he loved my body. He never said anything negative about my size. He made me feel beautiful and sexy, and that gave me a lot of confidence. That ended when he died two years ago, when I was 44. After that I needed time to heal emotionally before I could concentrate on anything physical. But I finally started thinking I want to feel better about myself and my body. I see photos of myself, and I’m immediately repelled by them. When I see larger women, they look great, but I don’t see that when I look at myself. I spend a lot of time counting the number of chins I have in photos. I’m figuring out what my new life is. I don’t want being a widow to define me. I wanted to do this photo shoot as the first step in my reintroduction to the world. I’ve lost a frame of reference for what other people see and think. I want to see the new me through other people’s eyes. I need to find out the pieces that make up the new Liz. I was stunned when I saw the photo. My first thought was that I look like an alabaster sculpture. I had never appreciated how many curves I have. I looked at the image as an architectural form. The shapes and lines were amazing. It was interesting to look at it as pure geometry. There were some shots that brought home that I have a few more curves than I’d like, but there were others that I thought were beautiful and had a sexy roundness. It boosted my confidence to have the photographer and More editors appreciate my curves for their artistic form and interest. Maybe I needed the external validation, hearing other people say "How fabulous," for me to appreciate it. This is a big step on the way to my reinvention.
Photo: Nadav Kander

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