“Adipose: Of or relating to fat. / Positivity: Characterized by or displaying acceptance or affirmation.”
This is the inspiration for photographer Substantia Jones's incredible photo series, The Adipositivity Project. When Jones first began her project, she knew she wanted to create change, but she didn’t fully grasp what that change would be. It was only once she began photographing women and hearing their stories of body shaming that her goal became clear: to encourage self-acceptance and broaden our culture’s strict definition of outward beauty. When a subject's boyfriend joined his partner at her shoot and suggested Jones add photos of couples, Jones asked him to drop trou, and the Valentines Series shown below was born. We dig the idea for the same reason Jones does: it’s a “royal middle finger to those who think fat folks are unworthy of love and sex.” Love her attitude? We do too. Check out the badass photographer's heartening interview below, along with 13 gorgeous photos that prove love is always worth celebrating—no matter its shape or size.
What’s the message behind the project, in a single phrase?
Part fat, part feminism, part "fuck you."
Why do you think it’s so important for people to accept their bodies and find them beautiful?
I don't think it's important we find ourselves physically beautiful. Surface beauty is pleasant. It can be useful. But it's the parsley garnish on the plate of life. Self-acceptance and body love, on the other hand, are wildly important. If we don't love our body, we're less inclined to respect it, take care of it, and push back against those with ill intentions toward it.
How do your subjects respond to the process? Are they shy at first? Do you see any transformations?
There are transformations aplenty. Some are not apparent to me, and I only hear about them later. But others happen before my eyes: I once photographed someone who had issues getting naked in front of their pet cat, no exaggeration, but by the end of our shoot they were jolly-well, lounging around wearing nothing but a smile.
Do you ever receive criticism?
Sweet sweaty Jesus, do I get criticism. I've gotten death threats and threats of rape, as have some of my Adiposers. Those lacking the energy for actual threats have sometimes simply compiled lists of how they hope I will die, fingers-crossed style. I get a lot of "how do you sleep at night?"—like a drunk-ass baby, thanks for asking.
How do you handle it?
Unless they start talking about where and when they're gonna off me, and it happens to be on my itinerary, I just ignore them. I got shit to do.
Some criticism, however, is earnest and thoughtful and deserving of response. I truly understand how counter-intuitive some of what I'm preaching seems—the lack of a proven causal relationship between weight and ill health, for example—so I'm happy to answer those questions… as long as they're not tied to a brick and tossed through my window.
What’s one of the most inspiring responses you’ve seen to the project?
I once heard from a woman who'd just discovered the project and told me that morning was the first in memory that she'd not cried about her body. She doesn't know it, but I think of her every single day. So if you're asking about true inspiration, that one email might just surpass all I've experienced. It's the best example of what keeps me at it.
What are some of the responses you have gotten from your subjects for the Valentine Series? Have you found that it brings them closer?
In preparation for a talk I gave at a college a few months ago, I interviewed some Adiposers about their experiences. I was surprised to learn that, in a couple of cases with couples, their shoot and resulting photographs caused her to realize she was perhaps with the wrong partner, which they then did something about. But I don't consider this negative—not all happy endings are the Hollywood sort.
But the occasional Hollywood ending is fun, too. One of the couples in this year's Valentine Series met in part because of her photo on the Adipositivity site a few years ago... and now, they're planning their wedding.
Published February 13, 2015
Images c/o the amazing photographer's site, adipositivity.com
Marissa is an NYC-based writer who loves feminism, doughnuts, and being outside. She's not a huge fan of writing personal bios, but she does love writing pretty much anything else. Read more of her work at marissadubecky.com.