It’s no secret that in the age of heroin chic, women of a certain size, weight and shape, euphemistically called “plus-sized”, have been relegated to the sidelines of the beauty game. Israel, too, has conformed to those Western standards — although we can take pride in having spearheaded legislation banning the use of severely underweight models in advertising. Nonetheless, the prejudice against what was once considered the height of beauty, the Rubenesque woman, continues.
Countering the trend is a new photographic series entitled “Taking Space”, that presents 10 nude portraits of full-figured women. Shot by Ilan Besor, a leading fashion, portrait, advertising and editorial photographer, the project is the brainchild of actress and psychodrama therapist Michal Grinvald, who also participated as a photographic subject.
An accompanying video directed by award-winning director Noa Aharoni (follows below), offers insight into the women’s thoughts, histories, and motivations for participation in the project.
Grinvald explains in a Saloona blog posting (in Hebrew) that, “‘Taking Space’ was a volunteer project which put full-figured women at the center, women who live the way they ought to live, viewing their bountiful bodies as a symbol of feminine beauty and power, revealed in full glory, to inspire other women to be, dare, live and fill the space with true, uncompromising beauty, and prove that societal judgement is a barrier they can overcome”.
“I always felt that I was second best, not good enough, surrounded by blonde girls from Ramat HaSharon whom I could never match in appearance or coloring, which pulled me into eating disorders,” writes Grinvald.
“For 14 years I suffered from bulimia and body image problems, which I overcame only at the age of 30, and for this reason, promoting this project is so important to me”. Grinvald describes feeling ashamed, being humiliated by peers, and being given loving but no less hurtful advice about weight reduction from her mother.
“Over the years, I thought the message being conveyed to me from all sides was ‘You must reduce your proportions’. Like Photoshop. As an actress, I was always given to understand that if only I were thin, the part would have been mine.” Grinvald decided instead to “embrace what nature has given me — curves… no one else would do it for me”.
“And so, out of a great deal of pain and the sense of reduction that was my lot for many long years, I felt that I wanted to help other full-figured women to tell their stories and take up some space with the message, ‘Who you are is wonderful, you don’t need to shrink in order to take your place’, both in the emotional and physical sense. From my point of view, everyone can identify with this project — everyone can identify with the feeling that they’re being teased because something about them isn’t perfect, or maybe someone is trying to make them feel small”.
“If we succeed in conveying this message, that every woman has the right to be who she is, take her place in the world and realize her innate potential, I’ll have done my part”.
“Taking Space” opens June 30, 2015 and runs through July 7, 2015 at the Kastiel As Is exhibition space in Tel Aviv.