37 Beautiful Portraits Of Fat Couples Challenge Sizeism (NSFW)

Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
This post was originally published on February 3, 2015 and updated with seven new photos on February 25, 2016.

“As author Junot Diaz once wrote, if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves,” photographer Substantia Jones explains.

This adage strikes at the core of Jones’ mission as a fat activist and photographer. Eight years ago, she resolved to “subvert the very tool most often used to instill body hate” — photography — and wield it to celebrate fat bodies. (She prefers the term "fat" — a "morally neutral descriptor" — to the term "plus-size," which she sees as more suited to clothing than people.)

Related: Is This Plus-Size Trend Actually BAD For Body Image?

Substantia was weary of sizeist representations of larger bodies in the media and the lack of images that depicted fat people as sensual, fulfilled beings. So, she started “The Adipositivity Project,” a photo-activism campaign dedicated to beautiful (and unretouched) photography of fat people of all sexualities, ethnicities, genders, and abilities.

Related: 5-Foot-5 & Size 22: Meet The Unlikely Model Who's Effing Up Your Beauty Standards

“Adipositivity” derives from the word “adipose” — of or relating to fat — and “positivity,” and indeed, Substantia’s intimate portraits turn the media’s typically dismissive portrayal of fat people on its head. Since The Adipositivity Project launched in 2007, it has featured hundreds of “Adiposers” (those who pose for the project), while its website has received over 10 million visits. We spoke with Substantia about the project and her powerful approach to body politics. Click through to read what this kickass activist has to say and to view images from her couples project, “The Valentine Series.”

Related: Target Boycotter Teams Up With The Retailer For Its New Plus Line
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
When and why did you first start The Adipositivity Project? Was there a "lightbulb moment" when the idea struck you, or did it come together over time?
"There were two lightbulb moments. For more than a decade, I worked presenting live music to small, intimate audiences, during which I noted that people responded more enthusiastically when the musicians were what would be considered traditionally attractive."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"This was irrespective of their musical skills. Disheartening, but human nature, I guess."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"The other lightbulb moment happened when I was in a relationship with someone who didn't appreciate my fat body in the way I now know it can be appreciated. (That's the PG-13 version.)"
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"Over time, this changed dramatically. I realized repeated positive exposure to that which repels us can cause us to see it in a more positive light."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"I thought, hey, maybe I can reverse-Clockwork-Orange people by bombarding them with beautiful (but un-retouched) images of fat people."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"Not the unwitting, headless, fat folks in grease-stained T-shirts the media (fueled by the $66-billion/year U.S. weight-loss industry) would have you believe we are."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"I'd subvert the very tool most often used to instill body hate."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"[That's why] in 2007 I launched The Adipositivity Project, a body politics photo-activism campaign that's part fat, part feminism, part 'f**k you.'"
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"I soon came to understand that fat people needed these positive depictions as much as the general population."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
How did you connect with the couples featured in "The Valentine Series"?
"99% of the time, people who'd like to pose for the project contact me."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"The only requirement is that they be fat and able to get to NYC. Same goes for the 'Valentine' couples."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"Diversity is very important to me."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"The series includes many people of color, gay couples, trans* people, and disabled folks."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
What is it like to shoot couples as opposed to individuals — how do different couples feel about sharing these intimate moments?
"It was never my intention to photograph couples. A year or so into the project, I was shooting a young woman who was accompanied by the guy she was dating, musician and now Associate Editor at SPIN, Dan Weiss."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"He made the suggestion that I include images of fat people with their partners. I told him to get naked. He did."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"The 'Valentine Series' was born!"
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"It's a bit trickier than shooting individuals, but it's magically effective in combating the commonly held belief that fat people aren't worthy of love."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"Plus, it really pisses off the sizeists who have a lot invested in maintaining their 'fatties are all sad and lonely' fiction. That's a bonus for me."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"As far as how the couples feel, I interviewed a bunch of Adiposers for a lecture I did a few months ago, and I was surprised at the number of couples who found it a pivotal, revelatory experience in their relationships. Not to mention hot."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
What has the response to the project been like?
"What began as a photo blog with just a handful of photos of myself and a few others has grown considerably more than I could've imagined."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"There have now been hundreds of Adiposers and over 10 million hits to the website."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"I've been lecturing on my work in colleges and universities in recent years, and I began offering prints last year."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"I regularly hear from therapists specializing in eating disorders, telling me they use my images in their practices."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"But, the most rewarding part is the mail I get every day from women who tell me what the project has meant to them, and how it's helped them heal their body issues and demand that others respect that."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"They keep me at it. And, they cancel out the hate mail quite nicely."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
What do you see as some of the misconceptions around size in our society?
"The media machine, or what I like to call the 'angst industrial complex,' never sleeps."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"It makes certain that people believe fat folks are undeserving of equal rights, or are a financial drag on society."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"The most prevalent fallacy is that being fat is unhealthy — despite the fact there have been a number of large, impeccably performed studies showing that one's size is a poor indicator of one's health."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"It's the product of misinformation manufactured to convince us to think less of fat people and to hate our own bodies, buying whatever the diet industry is selling, even though the diet industry no longer denies its success rate is abysmal."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
"I'm thankful for the Adiposers, Valentines or otherwise, who help me fight back against the hate machine."
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
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Photo: Courtesy Of The Adipositivity Project.
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