Body Image by the Book

April 14, 2008

Photographer Rosanne Olsen has just published “This Is Who I Am: Our Beauty in All Shapes and Sizes,” a book of nude photographs of dozens of women age 19 to 95.

Each woman’s photograph — and there does seem to be a good mix — is paired with her words describing how she feels about her body.

You can preview excerpts here (PDF). And here’s a review from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

I poked through the book a bit and wanted to share a favorite entry. These are the words of Constance (left), who is 80:

In a restroom on the university campus, a handwritten sign on the mirror reminds the user that “Everyone Is Beautiful,” as if trying to counteract the negative feedback most of us feel on viewing our own image.

Though I tend to avoid mirrors, I like catching a glimpse of my shadow in action when I’m walking or riding my bike. Most of the time I’m pleased that my body works pretty well, bore healthy children, and is relatively slow to break down as it ages. I try to give it what it needs: water, food, exercise, sleep. Since I retired, I can take a nap whenever I want, and I’ve had fewer long-lasting colds. I’d say menopause is God’s gift to women. I rejoice in freedom from the responsibility of reproduction.

It’s clear to me that I would have had more professional opportunities as an astronomer if I were a man. I like to imagine a system where everyone is reincarnated, switching gender at each reincarnation but retaining some memory of what it’s like to be the opposite sex. When I tried to deal with an egotistical colleague or a pompous administrator– almost invariably male in my day — I found it entertaining and soothing to visualize his next incarnation, maybe in the ninth month of his fifth pregnancy.

Happy Monday.

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