I have never considered myself as a fitness photographer. But, as I noticed I had more and more “fitness” people booking me for photo sessions, I started to think about the correlation between the fitness community and how women are photographed and portrayed.
My Truth in You series started out of love for women. I felt like there were a certain number of women who were not being photographed because they were not fitting into a box that society had defined for them.
Women are photographed when they get engaged, when they get married, when they get pregnant, when they become a mother, and when they get a job and their boss needs a headshot, etc. But what if you are not fitting in any of these “roles”, or what if you are in one of these “roles” but feel out of touch with these stereotypes about what a woman should be and do? Do you become suddenly invisible to society?
The older I get, the more I find myself rejecting society’s representation of beauty in favour of the quiet, unassuming, confident, and profound beauty of a woman who’s truly lived. A woman who’s abandoned the unattainable quest for perfection and surrenders to the joyful beauty that comes with each different age, stage, and experience.
I also had an issue with the unified image of bodies in the media. We have been bombarded for years with images of one type of body and I felt like something was lacking. The way women are portrayed in ads or in boudoir sessions made me feel uncomfortable. Why were all these women photographed essentially for the male gaze when most of the customers are also women?
So when a few of my clients happened to be also involved in the fitness community, I realized there was a change happening there. Finally, there was a space for portraiture which puts women first, which takes the sexualization of bodies out of the picture (literally and figuratively).
Yes, we all know women are strong and powerful, and they can do amazing things. We all know there are teachers, instructors and role models in the fitness community. But there is still this idea that fitness women should look a certain way.
But the women I photographed for my Truth in You series were all unique and clearly stood strong and said: “this is me, this is who I am, accept me as I am.” They all have different stories, different struggles and all see fitness not as a way to become “perfect” or fit a certain box, but a way to assert themselves and become the best version of themselves.
I asked a few of my clients to tell me what fitness means to them, and how a photo session helped celebrate who they are, unapologetically. I realized these sessions and the photos had nothing to do with “looking perfect” or trying to fit into the beauty standards. It had nothing to do with looking skinny, or looking pretty in photos. But rather, it has everything to do with showing the strength they felt. It was about them stepping into their own truth. It was about self-acceptance, self-love and owning the truth in themselves.
I must say I had the wrong idea of what fitness photos were supposed to be. I thought it was about appearances and unreachable beauty standards. And these women helped me see my own bias, and learn from my own mistakes. It forced me to really check in with myself. To stop doing what society has been doing to women for years, to never put someone in a box and assume I know their story, their truth and the drive behind what they are doing. To always assume that I don’t know and that my job is to document whatever story they want to tell. To always be there when they are ready to step into their truth.
Our photo session was empowering, and a reminder that fitness is a lifestyle. Fitness is something that we need to remind ourselves that we have a privilege of doing, and that rather than saying I ‘have’ to work out, I’m blessed to say that I can.
The photos represent a reminder that I am uniquely me. That my truth radiates through the confidence and body positivity that is portrayed and behind every smile – “this is me, here I am.”
To me, fitness is ultimately acquiring a level of health, and to be healthy is to be honest with what makes you happy mentally as well as physically. The portraits from my shoot with Emilie were real, raw, and easy. After all, being yourself shouldn’t be that difficult. Her portraits have depth, evoke emotion, and reveal an inner strength.
Fitness is a huge part of my life. Getting to and maintaining a level of fitness that is healthy and sustainable for my lifestyle is what I wanted to celebrate with this shoot. My photos are a great reminder of the strength and positive mindset I now have after overcoming some significant health challenges.
By Emilie Iggiotti – Portrait Photographer