Each new year, we're inundated with a chorus of "new year, new you," as if every January must bring about a drastic life change. Although some people find the concept of self-reinvention appealing, NOW Toronto's "Love Your Body" issue focuses on the flip side of the New You: The implication that nobody is good enough the way they are. We're told to exercise more, eat less, and sleep the perfect amount; to follow our dreams, to make more friends, but also to remove the toxic ones from our lives. Just contemplating the list of expectations is enough to make your head spin, let alone actually trying to achieve them. But NOW Toronto hopes to prove that we are good enough the way we are — all of us. And what's more, we are magnificent.
The impossibility of most New Year's resolutions inspired journalist Sabrina Maddeux to think up "Love Your Body," an issue of NOW Toronto celebrating bodies of all kinds, last year. Each issue features nude portraits of a diverse mixture of participants from the Toronto area, along with interviews discussing each subject's relationship to their body. If it sounds familiar, that's probably because body-positive nude portraits have been enjoying a bit of a Moment-with-a-capital-M in the past few years. However, Maddeux told i100 that such photoshoots "always seemed to feature cisgender, white, fit people," and she felt NOW Toronto could add some much-needed diversity into the picture.
"Tired of the ubiquitous body-shaming that rears its ugly head each January, we decided to change the conversation," NOW Toronto writes. Photographed by Tanja-Tiziana, the result is a photo series that celebrates the bodies that aren't typically celebrated in the mainstream media: Disabled people, trans individuals, people of color, and more.
The photos are powerful on their own, but the interviews with each subject add depth to the conversation. Some found the nudity easier than others; when discussing the relationship between her body and past abuse, performer Katie Sly told NOW Toronto that "nudity is not a point of vulnerability... It's very much a point of strength." In contrast, Black Queer Youth coordinator Adam Benn described the process of taking nude photos as being much more difficult. "Taking off all my clothes and being in front of people is hard because of [an] instinct to second-guess myself," he said.
The photoshoot has garnered widespread media attention; above all, though, the overall message of "Love Your Body" is one of positivity. No matter their feelings in the past, each participant is wonderfully, happily comfortable in their own skin, or in the process of becoming so.
See the full issue at NOW Toronto's website.
Images: Courtesy of NOW Toronto