Another year, another Valentine's Day, and another Valentine's series by The Adipositivity Project. Through The Adipositivity Project, photographer Substantia Jones seeks to normalize and represent the beauty of fatness by taking breathtaking portraits of all different types of plus size people. Once a year, the portraiture focuses on couples of all sizes, genders, skin colors, and identities to explore not only the body positive benefits of self love, but the benefits of romantic love as well. While not all of the individuals featured are fat, none of the couples consist of only thin people.
This diverse representation of body sizes, shapes, races, and sexualities helps remove the cookie cutter, romantic comedy-esque perception of the "perfect" couple. Jones' words on her work explain importance of The Adipositivity Project and its relationship with couples and Valentine's Day. "The couples’ series is for the subjects of the photos, themselves," she wrote in a press release for the series. "Just as with the solo Adiposers who inhabit the project throughout the year, some are participating to show the world they've achieved body love. Some are using the photo shoot to help them get to that place of self-acceptance. Others just want to say 'bite me' to a society dominated by sizeism and weight-loss propaganda fueled by the angst industrial complex.”
“In the case of couples, there's also that element of romantic love that manifests as a need to shout it from the rooftops, y'know? I'm not sure about the anthropological purpose of that impulse, but it can be pretty intense, and many fat people and their partners feel excluded from those sorts of declarations, for fear of bigoted ridicule," she added. "I’m happy I can give couples the opportunity to revel on that rooftop. Naked, if they want. And without body shame. Because ain’t love grand? You must love your own body in order to fully appreciate a partner loving it. I can’t imagine having a fulfilled sex life without loving your body.”
Even outside the realm of sexuality, the photographs capture the intimacy of trusting another person with yourself both physically and emotionally. In my opinion, it's an intimacy that requires more trust as a fat person. We're so often bombarded with media and social ideas of what constitutes the perfect body that it can be difficult to shake that feeling when seeing ourselves nude, let alone when others see us at our most vulnerable.
When another person finds your body beautiful, or sees your body as perfect in a world that might tell them otherwise, it's revolutionary — not only for your relationship, but for how you view yourself. It's arguably unhealthy to rely on another person for your self worth, but the way that romantic love can build up self love is, to my eyes, a beautiful thing.
One of this year's participants — a 42-year-old editor named only as SK — agreed that the nude couples shoot was revolutionary for their body positivity. “Learning to love my body has been a slow process. I sat for Substantia with my partner, and have hung up a print of her photo in my bedroom to remind myself that what I have been taught about beauty is not only wrong, but harmful," they said in the press release. "I grew up in the Arab world, which generally has a much more expansive standard of beauty, though that of course is changing as the ubiquity of Western media narrows those standards worldwide.”
Self love is always a difficult journey — one that never ends and can get either harder or easier with time. But it's usually a hell of a lot more fun getting there with someone by your side.
Images: Courtesy Substantia Jones/The Adipositivity Project