Bod•y im•age: The subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body. Every time you turn on the TV, flip through a magazine or listen to the radio, the topic is up for discussion. In a time where Photoshopping images is not only acceptable but expected, society is more skeptical than ever of what a “true” woman should look like. So how do we get people to realize that not looking like the model on a magazine cover is perfectly acceptable? To combat the idea of the unattainable, “perfect” woman, enter: Amanda Grieshop, documentary photographer and The Women We Are exhibit. Over the course of several months, Grieshop photographed local Michigan women fully nude, usually in settings that the women themselves chose. The idea was to showcase different aspects of each woman; what she liked about her body, what she didn’t like and how she was most comfortable with herself. Some of the women have children; some have scars, tattoos, stretch marks and other defining features. But all are photographed with a calm sense of self, an awareness that brings a soft beauty and self-empowerment to each subject, something Grieshop commented on. “Truth is, the women who shared themselves honestly for the project have shown courage and the truth in their courage is inspiring,” said Grienshop. “I am taking away an intensified and continued desire to document our world with the same raw and real representation as viewers will find in The Women We Are.” The idea for this project is something that came to Grieshop via Tumblr, a microblogging platform and social media website known for sharing creative projects. After the initial project fell through due to a lack of participation from other photographers, Grieshop decided to go ahead with it anyway, feeling drawn to the subject on a personal level. “I was first intrigued by the opportunity to explore a topic that felt very intimate and personal. Being a woman nearing 40 with three sons, I have experienced many bodily changes (births, weight loss, surgeries),” said Grieshop. “The chance to visually confront and explore this evolution in my own self was unavoidable. Coupling that with the visual exploration of my close girlfriends and the raw comparison of real bodies and real lives created a dynamic and truthful look at body relationships.” The project, presented by Therapy Today, was viewable for the entire month of February at the AA Creative Corridor located in Reo Town. As to be expected, women who attended the opening responded with sincerity and excitement, something that Grieshop was thrilled about. But what surprised her even more were the reactions from the male audience. “The feedback I am hearing from them has been astounding,” said Grieshop. “They are relating to the stories of these women, despite being of the opposite sex. They are thinking about their own body relationships and feeling empowered. I hadn’t expected to impact such a broad audience.” In the future, Grieshop says she’d love to continue to show The Women We Are in galleries around Michigan and eventually out of state. To further explore the male perspective, Grieshop says she’d love to do something similar with male subjects. “Although this project has stirred some conversation about male body image, I feel passionate about giving a group of men a voice that will resonate more completely with all men,” says Grieshop. “Women are encouraged to talk about themselves … in fact we are often expected to. Our society does not positively encourage an honest and sensitive dialogue about body from men. They are perceived to be weak if they voice their insecurities. I’d like to begin to break down that wall.” For more information on Grieshop’s work and to keep up with her current projects, visit magpieimagery.com.
Kalynne McIntyre is the Digital Branding Specialist at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. She loves action movies, puppies and all things Italian.