Substantia Jones began her photography project Adipositivity in 2007, with images of a few friends as well as her own self portraits. Her wish was to represent fat bodies in a way that is rarely done: Positively and (often) completely nude. Since then, the momentum around her efforts has picked up as the project has moved hand in hand with the body positivity movement. In a March 3 interview with VICE that's suddenly trending all over my social media again, it's clear to see that Substantia Jones is a crucial influencer of size acceptance.
In the interview, Jones discusses her project, the reasons why she started it, and the meaning behind the photographs. Occasionally, the interviewer asks many of the typical fatphobia-driven devil's advocate questions ("do you think there is a risk that these pictures in any way glorify a lifestyle that is, by some, considered unhealthy?"), to which Jones responds with calmness and intellect. An impressive feat, seeing as I usually descend into a never-ending tirade of incomprehensibility and rage whenever such things are asked of me.
Although Substantia Jones could easily let her work speak for itself — striking, beautiful images of fat people enjoying themselves and their bodies — her words are eloquent, well informed, and inspirational. Jones delves into the depths of what makes others so uncomfortable with fat people and helps deconstruct these preconceptions. Not only this, but through her words and via her work, she proves that beauty is to be found in fat women, fat men, and fat non-binary people. Her photography doesn't hold back and in this interview, neither does she. Here are five glimmering moments of truth.
1. "I'm flummoxed by the number of people who believe fat folks are, or should be, exclusively coupled with other fat folks, or thin people with thin."
In her Valentine's series, Jones photographed many diverse kinds of fat couples, including those with only one fat person involved. The images represent intimacy in an array of ways and most importantly, they show that fat people are lovable in exactly the same way that thin people are.
2. "I'd love to see this question presented to them. 'Dear Diet Industry: Do you think there is a risk that these pictures may glorify a lifestyle that, medically, is considered unhealthy?'"
Substantia Jones takes down the fat = unhealthy argument piece by piece when answering the prototypical "glorifying obesity" question. Jones refuses to allow fat people to continue to be the scapegoat for any and all health issues in our society. As she states, there are plenty of unhealthy thin people who never have to deal with such questions.
3. "The word 'fat' is a morally neutral descriptor, while 'overweight' is a term of judgment, and 'obese' pathologizes that which is naturally occurring."
Jones' analysis of fat descriptors (and the implications of these words) is succinct and perfect. Reclaiming "fat" and removing its negative stigma is a key aspect of her project and the body positivity movement.
4. "There have been several JAMA-published studies establishing that weight is a poor indicator of one's health, as well as an American Heart Journal study and a couple of others suggesting that a focus on weight rather than health can actually be harmful."
This entire paragraph gave me life because too often the "scientific fact" argument that suggests fat is always bad is thrown in the face of all fat people. With Jones' extensive research and arsenal of studies, she reminds us to question whether the supposedly scientific reasoning for fat people being automatically unhealthy is inherently flawed.
5. "What we find visually displeasing, particularly when that displeasure has been media-manufactured, can be altered through repeated positive exposure to it."
Representation is everything. Repeat after me, representation is everything. Often when I'm feeling bummed out about how my body looks, looking through blogs of beautiful fat women can fill me with confidence. If I think they look fabulous and their bodies are like mine, then aren't I equally fabulous?
Jones' sole focus on representing fat bodies is something still rarely done, even within body posi communities, and that's why it's so special.
Images: Courtesy Of Substansia Jones/Adipositivity