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Bodies: we've all got them, and they're all different
November 30, 2013 1:30 PM   Subscribe

"We never get to see those photos juxtaposed against a picture of that same person looking unflattering." Gracie Hagen takes a stab at dismantling the myth of the "normal" body. [NSFW]

"Illusions of the Body was made to tackle the supposed norms of what we think our bodies are supposed to look like. Most of us realize that the media displays only the prettiest photos of people, yet we compare ourselves to those images. We never get to see those photos juxtaposed against a picture of that same person looking unflattering. That contrast would help a lot of body image issues we as a culture have."

More great photography from Gracie Hagen at her Tumblr.
posted by tybeet (49 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
The "Thanks, Obama!" poses are funny.
posted by XMLicious at 1:43 PM on November 30, 2013


I dunno, attractive people in unflattering poses are still clearly attractive people. Including here. I see what they're going for but I'm not sure it works for me.
posted by Justinian at 1:46 PM on November 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


I wonder which photo is the 'true' orientation that everyone sees those people as and which is the 'mirror image' that looks back at them from the mirror. It took me a second to figure out that the one set of the photos is actually...inverted? Reversed?
posted by ZaneJ. at 1:49 PM on November 30, 2013


Really more photos of that one guy's dong than I feel is really needed for the sake of art.
posted by angerbot at 1:52 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should maybe work on my posture.
posted by box at 1:53 PM on November 30, 2013 [27 favorites]


Really more photos of that one guy's dong than I feel is really needed for the sake of art.

But it is a most impressive dong.

I liked these ok, but then clicked through to her tumblr link and some of the stuff there resonated a lot more with me. I wish I could see her work as full size prints, rather than on the web.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:57 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really more photos of that one guy's dong than I feel is really needed for the sake of art.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that...
posted by bongo_x at 2:05 PM on November 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Really more photos of that one guy's dong than I feel is really needed for the sake of art.

Am I missing something or has the page changed? I only see one male model and a lot of female models.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:20 PM on November 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


That guy is the photographer's boyfriend. If you check out the rest of the Tumblr, he is in many pictures, and so is his donger.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:27 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Posture, posture, posture.
posted by tommasz at 2:44 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


With regard to looks and media images, everybody should know the ins and outs of flattering portrait photography. Lighting, posture, makeup, and costuming go a long way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:45 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "unflattering" poses to me seemed kind of frightening/aggressive/disturbing. Not to say that's a bad thing. I also thought it was funny that the guy's unflattering pose was the ladies' flattering pose.
posted by bleep at 2:51 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Starting out attractive helps too.
posted by Justinian at 2:51 PM on November 30, 2013


Unattractive = defensive/powerless. Vice versa? But no, those aren't especially uber-gorgeous models there -- lotta non-hwp happening.
posted by tspae at 2:55 PM on November 30, 2013


i thought this would famous people. like when Jamie lee Curtis did that photo shoot but them had them include what she looked like in the same outfit without all the spanx and special makeup and hair and everything. that made much more of an impression on me.
posted by sio42 at 2:57 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Starting out attractive helps too.

And well hung.

More seriously, it is an interesting question that she seems to be being asked, though -- without using makeup or photoshop, how much can posture and expression alone change someone's perceived attractiveness? And in fairness, several of her models fall outside of the very narrow range of conventionally "hot." They are definitely all attractive in my book, but this is very much a diverse set of models and is not a simplistic "hotties are hot, amirite?"

like when Jamie lee Curtis did that photo shoot but them had them include what she looked like in the same outfit without all the spanx and special makeup and hair and everything

Some of the phtotographs of porn actresses with and without makeup (SFW, I think), taken by a makeup artist, are startling in a similar way.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:04 PM on November 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


More seriously, it is an interesting question that she seems to be being asked, though -- without using makeup or photoshop, how much can posture and expression alone change someone's perceived attractiveness?

You might be be surprised! Framing, posture, costuming, etc. goes a long way. Photoshop is usually way down the list.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:08 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


she seems to be being asked

Missed the edit window. That should read: ...she seems to be asking
posted by Dip Flash at 3:12 PM on November 30, 2013


Unattractive = defensive/powerless.

Unattractive = weak, powerless, or physically unfit, is an interpretation that works all cases except the male model who, as someone mentioned, is striking a distinctly feminine pose. You could take a feminist stance and say that our culture associates femininity with weakness, and therefore the pose is also considered weak, but I'd say there's more to it than that. On a female, that pose would appear as confidence to me.
posted by tybeet at 3:14 PM on November 30, 2013


Bookmarking as inspiration for my so-far unsuccessful quest for better posture.
posted by the jam at 3:38 PM on November 30, 2013


I would be interested in seeing the same idea (an attractive and unattractive face from either a different angle or expression etc) with close-ups of faces. It's a neat idea, though for a lot of the portraits it was just a matter of changing posture/not sucking in and sometimes facial expression or hair.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 3:45 PM on November 30, 2013


I would be interested in seeing the same idea with close-ups of faces

Have you seen Pretty Girls Ugly Faces?
posted by tybeet at 3:49 PM on November 30, 2013


I think the photos from Growing Out My Bush (previously) illustrated this point a lot better.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:13 PM on November 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


An honest depiction of the male model would have posed him after a dip in a chilly swimming pool. Also a little more bend in the waist to show a more natural pose for his junk.
posted by humanfont at 4:38 PM on November 30, 2013


I should really stop slouching.
posted by snarfles at 5:39 PM on November 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


MST3K Posture Pals
posted by isopraxis at 5:45 PM on November 30, 2013


the guy's flattering shot is just him standing neutrally. Whereas the women are contorting and posing in both versions. The whole thing about women being on display, judged on whether theyre meeting expectations or not, as opposed to doing their own thing and having their own journey like men have traditionally been portrayed. never seen as neutral humans, as subjects with their own inner lives rather than objects to be used.
posted by bleep at 6:06 PM on November 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


This is such a cool idea but the execution is just showing over and over that hunching is unattractive, which isn't news to most people.
posted by randomnity at 6:15 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


the guy's flattering shot is just him standing neutrally.

That is not merely a neutral stance. You do not find guys just standing around like that in candid photos. Head up, chest, out, but not cartoonishly so. Look at how his arms are spread out - not just that they are spread out, but the manner in which they are spread out. We're looking at the insides of his elbows. The curves of his biceps, etc. are facing *us*, with lighting that neither over- nor under-emphasizes how in shape he is. It looks like he's relaxed, but ready to be active. Look at how the posing and lighting works on his nose and jaw. Look at how his hair has been positioned.

Contrast with how he's posed in the second shot. His back appears to be uncomfortably arched. His one arm angled, so that it looks flat and flabby. The other is hidden behind his now-bulging belly, with the hand peeking out of the side. His arms are neither relaxed nor ready for action. His hair covers part of his face, in an unflattering way. His pectorals are awkwardly displayed - for example, since his back is awkwardly arched, now his pectorals are stretched. His facial expression looks off - it looks like he's pouting, or about to puke. His jaw is tilted downwards. With the posing and the lighting, his nose looks bigger and more bulbous, and his wrinkles/bags are far more conspicuous.

I wish that they'd shown more photos of the guy, both "good" and "bad", to illustrate how there are critical, if subtle, ways to photograph men.

...

I don't disagree that society is much more preoccupied with objectifying women, but it's not accurate to say that all this guy had to do for his portrait was to stand neutrally.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:35 PM on November 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Regarding the biceps in the "good" photo: I should have said, they are facing us, but at an angle. We get just a peek at their definition. Contrast with how he'd look if he was just doing a straight-up profile of him flexing his arm, or with how he looks in the second photo, where he's arranged to as to make it look like he has noodle arms.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:39 PM on November 30, 2013


a. the 4's can feel like the 7's, 8's are 4's. the 4's are 1's but they got 2nd level.
b. celebrate and coddle the ugly.
c. "you look too good, look bad."
d. faux tears/sad
posted by wallstreet1929 at 6:43 PM on November 30, 2013


the 4's can feel like the 7's, 8's are 4's. the 4's are 1's but they got 2nd level.

je suis confus
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:49 PM on November 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


"juxtaposed against a picture of that same person looking unflattering"

Personally I find it more telling and more interesting when I see photoshopped magazine photos next to the originals. And if the artist wanted to compare "media" photos with "normal" it seems like she should have compared an image the person standing in an exaggerated "model" pose like you'd seen in an ad (everything sucked in, provocative pose, etc) next to a photo of the person just standing casually (maybe slouching, maybe standing straight, maybe chewing on a lip distractedly, whatever).

Those purposefully hunched, awkward, gawky poses aren't generally how most people stand. Those just seem as abnormal as the (allegedly) flattering poses.
posted by Beti at 6:55 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it would have been more illustrative to compare candids of normal people with pro-style portraits of the same people, maybe even recreating the same moment. Upscale even the clothes that they're wearing, e.g. if the photo features a person in casual T-shirt and jeans, replace those items with better-fitted, higher-quality versions thereof.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:01 PM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't disagree that society is much more preoccupied with objectifying women, but it's not accurate to say that all this guy had to do for his portrait was to stand neutrally.
What you point out makes sense, maybe it's just that he seems neutral compared to the ladies. At least if he is contorted it's because he's about to do something.
posted by bleep at 7:13 PM on November 30, 2013


I agree with your underlying point. He would look less weird in real life than the ladies.

That said, I think you really would notice if a guy was standing like that. It would just be more subtly weird, a la Seinfeld's close talker.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:17 PM on November 30, 2013


> I think the photos from Growing Out My Bush (previously) illustrated this point a lot better.

Eye opening! The appearances in this post were so different that people thought it was faked (accusations that 2nd photo was a different person), so she posted some more.

The "less hot" photos there are more natural than Ms. Hagen's, but the "hot" photos are less natural. Instead of good posture vs. "look weird on purpose", it's erotica pose vs. just sitting around.

> Personally I find it more telling and more interesting when I see photoshopped magazine photos next to the originals.

But this is demonstrating a different point about appearance. One that isn't discussed as much as hair/lighting/makeup/photoshop.
posted by morganw at 12:43 AM on December 1, 2013


This website is a particularly egregious and unacceptable example of slouch-shaming. Societal perceptions that slouching is unattractive are purely the result of biased media depictions like this one, and they lead to so many harmful stereotypes. I don't slouch because I'm lazy, I slouch because that's how my body is shaped, and you need to be okay with that.

Healthy at every posture!
posted by officer_fred at 3:02 AM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


But this is demonstrating a different point about appearance. One that isn't discussed as much as hair/lighting/makeup/photoshop.

Yeah, this is as much a trick of the model's art as the photographer's. The use of photoshop seems like a lightning rod for people's criticism of the 'artificiality' of professional photography but really, every aspect of it is pushing towards an ideal.
I think it was a good choice on the part of the photographer to stick to the same lighting and makeup, it neatly isolates this one aspect that can e taken for granted.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 4:08 AM on December 1, 2013


So the new normal is an objectified pose we'd never use beyond the pages of a catalogue? How disappointing.
posted by redindiaink at 5:21 AM on December 1, 2013


Is there a name for the illusion or whatever it is where one or a very small number of perspective angles has just the right light to shadow transitions across our lumpy bodies such that they look good whereas most of the times they look meh or worse? Whatever that is might be at the root of all those people at the gym staring at themselves while they twist and turn in front of the mirror trying to find that one reassuring angle.
posted by bukvich at 5:49 AM on December 1, 2013


These kind of seem like the reverse of the old trope where an "ugly" girl takes off her glasses and is suddenly gorgeous. It is not surprising that pretty people can take purposefully bad pictures. A better comparison might be with and without make-up (or lighting or camera angles), something that exposes the mechanics of the illusion rather than presenting an alternate one.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:54 AM on December 1, 2013


i'm not sure if my previous comment was deleted or just didn't post, but i find this kind of culture/advertising criticism hard to buy. it rests on a lot of unsubstantiated claims. i'll enjoy this as a cute art piece, thank you.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:42 AM on December 1, 2013


It's so great to see so many projects like this. I'm glad I'll have something to show my daughter someday when she's frustrated about her body and beauty. We think that just *knowing* about photoshop, airbrushing and makeup makes us impervious to the message in fashion and advertising but our brains just aren't that smart. We are all affected by these types of glamor images – if we weren't, they wouldn't do it.
posted by amanda at 8:46 AM on December 1, 2013


i find this kind of culture/advertising criticism hard to buy. it rests on a lot of unsubstantiated claims.

I'm curious, what claims are you referring to?
posted by tybeet at 9:16 AM on December 1, 2013


these claims:

the media displays only the prettiest photos of people

who is "the media"? and "only" the prettiest? that's a very strong claim.

we compare ourselves to those images

do "we", as in everyone, do that? or do they mean a different "we"? "compare" in it's self isn't bad. anything i see and interpret what it is i compare myself to. "that's a bus and i'm a person" is a comparison.

That contrast would help a lot of body image issues we as a culture have.

how would it help? how do you know it would help? what is this "help"?

you can go back and forth between interpreting their claims generally, in which case they are trivial, or specifically, in which case it's completely unsubstantiated. the tumblr is art posing as social science.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:34 AM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the photos from Growing Out My Bush (previously) illustrated this point a lot better.

Eye opening! The appearances in this post were so different that people thought it was faked (accusations that 2nd photo was a different person)


I think that’s just a matter of experience. That is exactly what I would expect that woman to look like in different poses. I had to read that a couple of times to even figure out what she was trying to say. People’s bodies look different in different conditions. The reason people strike certain poses in depictions dating back to the beginning of time is that they’re flattering.

The lesson here is to look at more naked people in real life.
posted by bongo_x at 9:59 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this is as much a trick of the model's art as the photographer's. The use of photoshop seems like a lightning rod for people's criticism of the 'artificiality' of professional photography but really, every aspect of it is pushing towards an ideal.
I think it was a good choice on the part of the photographer to stick to the same lighting and makeup, it neatly isolates this one aspect that can e taken for granted.


For what it's worth, and not that you're necessarily saying otherwise, the model's poses are also the photographer's ultimate responsibility. Model is to photographer as actor is to director. It's a collaboration. Good photographers get regular people into good poses all the time, and a bad photographer could make even Heidi Klum look awkward.

I'm harping on the photographer's power because these images all relate to what photographs really are. It is a myth that the camera never lies. Studio photographers control the subject, the background, the framing, the lighting, the lens choice, and so on. Even spontaneity would be an affirmative choice. Even a seemingly objective, impartial photojournalist cannot help but craft a narrative with their choices. As soon as you pick a frame and a moment, your photograph has "edited" reality.

...

It is not surprising that pretty people can take purposefully bad pictures.

I don't know that I would call of these models all that physically "attractive" per se, at least not conventionally so. However, all of these models have good makeup and the ability to effectively strike a pose. That said, the very fact that a model can adopt a confident, photogenic pose suggests that they would probably know how to carry themselves in real life.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:59 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a further related tangent: physical attractiveness isn't just about proportions and symmetry and BMI and whatnot. Think about how "dead" eyes, fake(-looking) smiles, leering expressions, clownish overconfidence, and so on make somebody look. Now compare that to what happens when somebody has a beautiful gaze, seems comfortable in their own skin, seems like a good time, seems like a badass, or whatever else.

These characteristics are a bit more intangible. They're also often seen as variables that are vitally important for models. And the dirty secret it, they're actually important for everyone!

That's why it's sometimes tricky to think about pretty models vs. unpretty models. We think about prettiness as being "in shape" and having certain facial features and whatnot, but there's more to it than that. The heavier white woman in the OP's link would never be on a (traditional, even plus-size) catwalk, but she has a fun, appealing, natural quality about her. I'm not just talking about the stereotype of fat people being jolly, or whatever. She seems very alive and sexual. She's much more physically attractive than a theoretically more attractive, more hourglass-shaped woman who has dead eyes, a bored facial expression, and a stiff, unfriendly demeanor.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:15 AM on December 1, 2013


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