We zone in on three women in a fine art photographic series that explores the female body politic. This series seeks to celebrate open sexuality, the female form and each subject’s unique physical features. With an eye for pastel hues and close up shots I present Negiste, Olivia and Sio in an honest and vulnerable way, subverting the ideal, digitally sculpted images of women typically mediated in advertising.
We asked each muse to share with us a work of art or original piece of writing that resonates with their personal journey toward self-acceptance.
Negiste Yesside Johnson, Fine artist
The Most Beautiful Boogie Man Ramblings
I’ve struggled to accept my physical appearance my entire life. Being of crazy mixed heritage in a country where I don’t look like everyone else proved to be a personal challenge. I tried to make myself look like her or them. I would hunch my back a lil more, bend my knees when standing in a crowd, suck my inherited belly in a lil tighter. I’m a giant in these parts. Or “THE BFG”, as I was referred to in high school, referenced from the famous Roald Dahl book of the same name. But there’s nothing wrong with being a big bundle of love, I know that now. Embracing my physique has taken time. I can’t wear what she wears, my feet won’t fit into those heels, and I won’t be light and nimble ‘cause I’m not. That’s not me. I’m a tall, toned warrior. And I like it…now.
My waist won’t ever be cinched, nor will my breasts be perky, my thighs won’t let you see through to the other side, and my calves could break a brick wall down – and that’s okay. That’s beautiful to me. My body is mine. My body is Negiste’s and I listen to her now. If she wants to eat a lil more dim sum than the others, she needs to ‘cause she requires a lil more energy to function. If she wants to wear breathable cotton panties ‘cause her lady bits don’t like the sensation of lace or thongs against it and it irritates her sensitive skin, she’ll wear the brightest of the pink full cottons you can find.
The thing is, I know now I won’t ever look like her or them. And that’s my magic, ‘cause when you touch the acid burn against my arm shaped like the continent of Africa, or brush your cheek against my mole, caress your mouth against my full lips, gaze into my emerald green eyes and notice the blemishes left from acne scarring that give my face a palette like tea stained cloth, I know it’s Negiste you’re looking at, touching, visiting… and not what they have tried to make her. That’s why for so long I felt like the most beautiful boogie man, ‘cause they told me I couldn’t be real… but I am.
My name is Negiste Yesside Johnson and I am the regal benevolent warrior built for the battle body, mind and soul ready to conquer.
‘The Boogie Man Song’ by Arima Ederra (original by Mos Def)
Olivia Mortimer, Filmmaker and photographer
Before I’ve called them intelligent or brave.
I am sorry I made it sound as though something as simple as what you’re born with is the most you have to be proud of when your spirit has crushed mountains
from now on I will say things like, you are resilient
Or, you are extraordinary.
Not because I don’t think you’re pretty.
But because you are so much more than that. – Rupi Kaur
Sió Roi King, Singer and songwriter
My Soul’s House
There are pits and valleys I’d rather not have and scars on my soul’s house
Pigments and blemishes
With stretch marks,
Parts I’ve been made ashamed of by the doctrines that men wrote
And damage by the many barricade I had to storm through coz of man’s works
But my house is beautiful
The imperfections make it shine
Make it indisputably mine
And like that’s its 50 shades of brown
And I’m crowned
With this kinky hair
And curves that are spare
That I can hold your stare
But I don’t owe you any explanation for my soul’s house
For who it’s built
Or the paint
Not the windows
Or the dents
So let it be
What it is Mine.