Bullying is showing up on social media in the form of “fat shaming,” a term used to describe biases against individuals whose body weight is considered ‘above the norm.’ It’s a disturbing trend smacking of unfair hierarchy regarding what is considered beautiful, acceptable and cool. Enough of the shame game. Agreed?
This past May, blogger Jes Baker of The Militant Baker unleashed a backlash of “ads” in response to Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO’s anti-fat comments. Five days after the aforementioned “ads” ran, A&F’s U.S. sales plummeted by 17% as reported in The Huffington Post. In homage to one of the most visible anti-bullying messages in recent months, we interviewed Liora K, Jes’s collaborator and the photographer behind this now-iconic and groundbreaking campaign.
U.S: What inspired you to direct and shoot the “A&F” photo session with Jes Baker?
L.K.: Jes and I collaborate frequently on projects and portraits, and I’m always excited when she approaches me about a new idea that we can develop together. When the comments made by Mike Jeffries resurfaced, she thought that photographing her as a non-typical “uncool” body in a shoot styled like an A&F advertisement would be a great way to respond, and I agreed! We are both passionate about showing real and un-photoshopped bodies by putting them into a fashion spotlight as a way to empower our friends in our local and online communities. We discussed a variety of different ways to style the shoot, and decided on keeping it simple and clean in a studio setting so that we would have privacy to take some of the more risqué shots. We put on some upbeat music, started with a few warm up shots, and laughed and played our way through the rest of the shoot.
U.S.: How can photographers impact positive social change?
L.K.: All artists have the power to drive positive social change across the board, but I think that portrait and fashion photographers have a very specific role to play in expanding the types of people who are represented in our every day media. I think that by choosing subjects who have body shapes of all kinds, a broad range of skin colors and ethnic backgrounds, as well as a diversity of sexual and gender orientations, photographers can seek to normalize what is currently under represented and in some cases ostracized.
“All artists have the power to drive positive social change across the board….”
U.S.: Do you have suggestions for aspiring photographers who wish to enact positive social change?
L.K.: My advice would be to learn your passions, and then open yourself up to sharing them through your artwork. Translating your activism to artwork can be a challenge, as can placing it out in the world to see, but debate and conversation are what drives social change. Be brave and go for it!
“…debate and conversation are what drives social change. Be brave and go for it!”
U.S.: What other examples of your work do you feel speak to advancing positive social change?
L.K.: I have been working on a series of Feminist Photographs for a little over a year, which seek to create discussions around social and reproductive justice for women and men. It’s been an incredible experience, and each shoot is a little bit different, and I learn so much from each participant.
U.S.: What can we expect to see next from Liora K. Photography?
L.K.: Whatever next sits in front of my lens, whether it be activism, fashion, beauty, or the randomness that sometimes pops into my head!
More about Liora K: Her adventures in photography began when she became obsessed with learning how to manipulate her first point and shoot so that she could avoid using the flash. Ever. Today, she still loves using ambient light in her photo shoots. She learns about people, places, and objects through her lens.