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One woman's vulnerable photo essay project shows painful side of body image insecurities


"It was kind of shocking, kind of painful to look at myself," says Jen Davis.

Davis is referring to a series of self-portraits she took over the course of a decade, many of which show the vulnerable side of a woman who is larger than average, living in a body-bashing, thin world.

Capturing vulnerable moments

The project started while Davis was on spring break one year. She took a picture of herself sitting with friends while enjoying a sunny day on the beach. Davis is clothed in black next to her bikini-clad cronies. After she developed the film, she said she was surprised by what she saw.

"I was shocked by the ability I had to kind of freeze that moment, to take a mundane but painful moment that was able to be described in the image," Davis reports in an article on Slate.

Over the next several years, Davis started photographing herself in ordinary situations, attempting to capture her own vulnerable moments on camera and develop who she was as a photographer. Some images were of what Davis describes as authentic life situations, like eating or showering, while others were the result of a kind of fantasy, she says.

"Some of the images are real genuine feelings, and others are things I wanted to experience, and I used the license of the camera ... I wanted to know what it felt like to be held by someone or to be with a man, and the camera allowed me to have that experience," Davis explained.

Sharing personal moments with the world

Showing the photos to others was not Davis' original intent, but she says that allowing them in the public eye helped her to work through some of her vulnerabilities and insecurities.

Reactions to Jen's work have ranged from adoring praise to outright disgust. And the process also sparked her decision to have Lap Band surgery - a choice she made after Davis came face-to-face with the reality that she wanted a different body.

"I was shocked and thought ‘Why can’t I take control of my life?’ and I realized I didn’t want to wake up at 40 and be in this body."

The surgery helped Davis shed pounds quickly, but she put down the camera for a while to "catch up on the emotional side of losing weight."

Now in a relationship, she explains that she's currently documenting "what this feels like," and has revealed photos of her new body, shooting herself with her partner.

Davis' photos can be found on her website.

Source: Slate, Jen Davis

Image by Jen David and Lee Marks Fine Art