What Happened When I Saw Myself Naked
Stepping through the rusty wire fence, we moved quickly through the yellow straw toward a cluster of trees. It was a race against the setting sun. Trying to make small talk, I wondered what it was about this particular photographer that made me agree to step outside of my comfort zone and trust him. Usually, when a stranger sends you a message on Instagram asking you to model naked for them, it’s met with a very different reaction. He pointed toward the rocky horizon, beyond it was Lake George. Surrounded by silent wind turbines, we were nearing some rocks. A few of them ran off toward the trees; bar the startled sheep: we were alone.
I stepped out of my jeans and stepped into a part of myself I hadn’t explored before. The scratching of the cold rock against my bare skin. The continuous click of the camera as I stared off into the distance. “Be natural,” was his only instruction.
Our last minutes shooting right before the sun completely fell out of the sky, I sat in the dirt at the bottom of a dried-up creek. It must have been 3°c. It was during this moment that my photographer captured the picture he was hoping for.
Later, as I studied the details of my body in the chosen image, I noted that it contradicted everything I see daily about how beauty should be depicted. Slouching over, my stomach is bunched up and my thigh and nose could be considered too large. My face is lit, unlike the other images that held some mystery as to who I was. I was exposed. But it was by far his favourite image, and I could understand why.
I’m familiar with the camera. I’ve been modelling for over 5 years. There have been times when I’ve been edited or made up to the point where I barely recognise myself, and there have been times when a touch of mascara, a pair of jeans and a tee was all I needed. I’ve shot for fun and I’ve shot to sell things. Any image with an imperfection or bad angle would be deleted.
I know there must be people who would have no issue spending a Sunday afternoon laying under the sun on a nude beach. Many people would welcome the opportunity to model in front of an art class or have every inch of their skin painted. I’ve always had the attitude that while it’s not for me, “you do you, girl.”
If you’re anything like me, you would think of your job and the industry you work in. You’d think of your family, friends, self-preservation and ‘keeping it classy’. Even if I you don’t want to admit it; you’d think of boys, and how your husband or boyfriend or the guy at the coffee shop might look at you differently. Untimately, most of us would think that there is no freaking way we would have the confidence or body to be able to do something like model naked.
I think an important element as to why this experience feels so confronting, is that sex really does sell. Society is inundated with advertising and marketing that is built on this whole idea. Our bodies only seem to be sexualised and condemned. Rarely are they celebrated for their natural purpose and appearance. This translates onto our social media platforms. Every single day we construct our identity online, as we decide who and what we want the world to see of us. We compare. We judge. We conform.
On our Instagram feed it’s easy to find millions of images of people in varying degrees of clothing. Posing, lighting, makeup and hair can manipulate the perfect image that can boost your profile and fill your notifications with ‘likes’. These behaviours don’t discriminate. Regardless of your size, shape or the colour of your skin, after taking a photo we are all guilty of checking and critiquing every part of it. If the image makes the cut it gets uploaded, usually with a filter or two. You’ve got to do it right; like your favourite Insta model or the Kardashian & Jenner clan. Kim even has a selfie book. People measure their worth this way. We’ve all been there, we all do it.
Hours after the shoot, I received a bunch of naked images of myself: and it was transformational. There were three powerful elements in each; lighting from the sunset, the Australian bush landscape, and my naked self. They were natural and raw and real. My mind went from loving to hating how I looked, and back again. I found everything I thought was wrong in one moment, and in the next I felt proud, strong and beautiful.
That’s when it dawned on me; when in the last 24 years of my life did I lose the ability to see myself naked and just feel happy? Why do I look at myself and think I look wrong? Shouldn’t looking at my natural state be normal and beautiful? Why do we celebrate what is not, and hide what is?
A few days passed before I looked at the images again. In that time, I thought a lot about my relationship with myself and became hyper aware of how people portrayed themselves online. After a chat with one of my best friends I revisited the images. I had managed to construct in my mind that my body had doubled in size. I had concluded I looked fat. Why I did that to myself, I don’t know. These behaviours are so deeply imbedded in our day to day life, we don’t even realise when we are doing it.
This experience I felt I needed to share. I love to regularly push myself outside of my comfort zone by taking on new opportunities and exploring the world. But, I would never have thought that saying ‘yes’ to a stranger on Instagram would have led to such an important awareness and growth opportunity in my young life.
Always consider the bigger picture in everything you do. What does this say about me from the perspective of all different types of people in the world? Could my experience help someone else? What behaviours and attitudes am I promoting when I choose this? Does this make me a better version of myself? Am I helping others to grow? Is this contributing to a greater good, a better world, and a more positive future for all?
Every day you get to control your thoughts and how you choose to love yourself. Don’t let the visual noise online distort your relationship with yourself. Don’t let societies construction of norms make you think you look wrong. I know it’s easier said than done.
After your next shower, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful. Lovingly touch your imperfections and only feel love for any part of yourself you would normally want to hide. This is you. Your body is real. It’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.
You are completely and irrevocably beautiful.
The chosen image will be part of an art exhibition in Melbourne and New York. A piece of art on the wall. The natural human form sitting in the beautiful Australian outback. For the world to critique or admire.
[Images by Andrew Babington . Sensored for online use.]