A few months ago, a blogger named Brooke Birmingham caused a massive controversy when Shape magazine declined to publish her post-weight-loss bikini photo. The incident sparked a hugely important (and mostly productive) conversation about the way we see weight and beauty — and how hard it is to live in a society that's obsessed with skinny.
For us, the most illuminating part of the controversy was the collective realization that, despite our saturation with weight-loss success stories and shows like The Biggest Loser, many of us don't understand the reality of losing weight — let alone what it's like to struggle with obesity. That reality is explored in depth in photographer Jen Davis' extraordinary self-portrait series. For over 11 years, Davis explored her everyday experiences — her life as an overweight woman, her decision to undergo bariatric surgery in 2011, and her weight-loss journey — and the emotions behind them. Every step of the way, Davis staged meticulously crafted self-portraits, resulting in a brutal, raw, life-affirming, and truly honest look at body image and self-acceptance.
We sat down with Davis, who recently published a beautifully curated selection of her self-portraits in a book (fittingly titled Eleven Years) about her photographic process and motivation, as well as her weight-loss experience. Click through for some of her photos and thoughts. And, be sure to check out Davis' website for more images and an opportunity to buy a signed copy of Eleven Years.