Photography Reviews

I Am Fat – Marie Hald

Danish photographer Marie Hald who won the World Press Photo Award, The Danish Picture of the Year and many other international prizes focuses thoroughly on projects about women and their relationship to beauty and the female body.

Recently I discovered her series “I am fat” through Witness, a publication on Medium, which documents girls from Scandinavia who are considered “fat” in the public eye.

“They’ve had enough. They refuse to be ashamed. They refuse to hide. And they’ve had enough of being shouted at. Stared at. Laughed at. Spat at. Of being objects of ridicule and hate on social media.”

Hald portrays young Scandinavian women who insist on living in their fat bodies without trying to change or become smaller. It is not a way of promoting fatness, it is about the permission to exist. Without being shamed.

The portraits of the girls are beautiful, showing dignity, power, confidence, and freedom. There is a sense of warmth in these photographs, and the way she chose to do the portraits intertwines with the everydayness e.g. riding the bike, being with a loved one, drinking a cup of tea etc. Even her choice of locations is very home-based or nature-based, reflecting on the concept that “fatness” is similar to our nature – it just exists.

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© Marie Hald, from the series ‘I Am Fat’ ; Source @ Marie Hald

The problem of how they are being portrayed in the public still exists in the system and in society, even for countries like Denmark and Sweden. “Society talks about being fat like it’s a choice. You could just lose the weight, right? It’s not at all that simple.”

“I hired a ‘duola’ (a birth assistant)… but at the same time, I think it’s absolutely insane that I have to spend a thousand pounds from my own pocket to make sure that I’m treated as a human being by the health care system.”

“We were together the whole time. I thought we were probably soon going to be boyfriend and girlfriend — so I asked him. And he simply replied: ‘Well, I can’t be with you in the street. I can’t take you home to my family and friends. You’re fat.’”

To look on the controversy side, Hald created a new story called “The Girls from Malawa” which focuses on girls who have anorexia and bulimia. They all ties in with her earlier work called “Perfect Girls” which talks about the portray of being a woman in the current society. “My generation of girls does not compete for anything. We’re just fighting ourselves. Expectations for us are fierce and we feel tremendous pressure: To be right, to become something special. Stand out and perform. One must not fall into one with the crowd. We live in a time where we learn that we need to have the X-Factor. And if you can get famous it is top-notch. We must be slim, smart, look good, be good lovers and live a good social life. But what happens when the pressure becomes too much?”

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Chosen [not] to be – Marinka Masséus

 

Chosen [not] to be is a series about Down’s syndrome. A social activism project to bring awareness and act as a catalyst for government to make changes. These 5 girls, representing the Down’s syndrome’s community question and challenge a few questions that we are now facing.

  • What is beauty? As part of the Radical Beauty Project, which is about “challenging opinions and understandings of beauty in contemporary culture… working to provide an alternative vision for beauty today”, are we embracing diversity in the art fields? Why are we still considering Down’s as “faulty”?
  • With the rapid technological developments concerning prenatal screening (NIPT), we have the ability to know and decide whether we want to keep the child. So then are Down’s getting extinct? Are we embracing diversity of human forms?

What strikes me the most is that throughout this project, the artist found out that when the results of prenatal screening confirms Down’s, the first question the physician asks is “when are we scheduling the abortion”. Instead of asking “what do you need from me to make the best decision for you and your family”, the woman is immediately steered towards ‘getting rid of it’. Which means that the woman in question will never receive the proper information to make an informed decision about her new baby and prospective addition to her family. So the question is, what is the society and culture shaping us morally and ethnically?

In terms of the visual elements and conceptual symbolism, I must say I don’t really understand. What does the rope all over her face leaving an open eye means? It feels to me that the rope represent struggles from the outer-world, and that even that is so, she is piercing through. What about the dead plant on top of her head? It feels to me that the higher ups (those with authorities) are treating Down’s as dead weight, but still her face not entirely covered may mean that they are fighting against this issue. What about the pixels covering her face? Usually in television, we cover those who are of crime, or of shame with pixels to blur out their faces, so as they say to protect them from being recognised but also shaped us to label these are people as shameful and of vulnerable and dangerous groups. Marinka has cleverly used this symbolism to represent that conflict. Are they or should they be the protected type? Are we or should we be ashamed of them? But why she used yellow pixels I’m not entirely sure. Finally, the velvet circle and lines in on of the photographs. What does that represent? The lines reminded me about geometry and that maybe it means society or the outerworld is boxing this group of community. There are still other symbolic images that I have no clue why the artist uses it that way – e.g. the green smarties around Down’s faces. Or those red dots on a black and white landscapes etc.

All in all, I believe this is an important piece of work that brought us to question some very important topics about humanity. And what I admire the most and hopefully works out is, that it really does act as a catalyst for governmental changes. That we will have to wait and see.

References:

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/marinka-masseus-chosen-not-to-be

http://www.marinkamasseus.com/chosen-not-to-be/

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