joy, ache

It’s been a while since I stepped into the blogosphere and shared my heart with you all, the truth is the last few weeks as well as the last few months have been an emotional rollercoaster like I never imagined.

When I decided to do the Just As I Am project I did so out of a profound sense that a project like this was necessary and that nobody was doing it. I knew going in that the idea of nudity would be somewhat controversial but I also knew that nothing worth doing is ever easy, I just never really knew how hard it was going to get.

We set a date for this project to start almost exactly a year ago, my vision was simple, we will put out the idea that anyone who wants to come to my studio for a 10 min photo session can sign up and we will take a week off of work at the studio and put together this project. We would have an online gallery for the images and maybe a gallery would be interested in taking us on to put a show together. We made up some posters, sent out some press releases and went to work postering as many places as possible to get the word out about what we were doing, but would anybody come?? What if we took the week off and only had 1 person come? Would anybody in Winnipeg really say I believe in this as much as we did? So many questions. The next questions were just as valid, what would our families think of us for doing something they probably wouldn’t understand, and almost more importantly what would those who know our families think and how would they communicate that with the ones we love so much? Would I be ruining my career and reputation by being labelled as “that guy” that did the naked thing? How would this project affect my relationship with friends and family members, or more directly, would I lose friends over this? How would those in my church community react to this?

It’s a year later and I have a few answers. Firstly I have been able to walk with those of you who have been a part of this project as models. I have heard the pain you have felt as friends or family members looked at you with “the look” and made comments that made you hurt or cry; know that I too have felt your pain. I have also had the honour of hearing the other stories, the stories of how being a part of Just As I Am has brought healing to many of our participants, and how viewing it has brought healing to many of you who have taken the time to view this work; and my heart is filled with joy. As I stated at the beginning this has been a crazy ride for us, we have always been forced into asking ourselves over and over again how much we believe in this project. This has been a year of reading faces for me: I have seen the looks of disappointment in the faces of those I love and respect, I have seen the look of disgust in the faces of those who realize I’m “that guy”, I’ve seen the look of bewilderment in the faces of those who simply don’t get it. I have also seen the look of peace in the faces and eyes of those who finally feel “normal”, the look of victory in the faces of those who have faced their demons, and the look of healing in the faces of those who are on a new journey of self-acceptance.

Instead of this taking a week of our lives it has morphed into taking over about 5 working months away from my business. We have also had to make the decisions of how much we believe in this gallery and resulting book and in the end it has meant completely draining all of our bank accounts and signing over interest in our house and studio to the bank to produce this book. I have learnt again that God is my provider and that I’m incapable of taking care of my emotional and physical needs and in the end I feel a peace about being “all in” to a project that I’m proud to talk about.

As I got ready to go and hang the prints in the gallery I got an email that someone I’ve never heard of has sent a message to the Ellen D show telling her of the impact this project has had on her life and asking her to feature this project on her show, I’m deeply touched on a day like this to hear news like that. Thank you all for your support, I wish you all the very best in love, life, laughter and tears if need be, and I look forward to seeing you at the gallery this weekend.



Beauty salon plano said...

Beauty care profession really a nice job. salon and makeup also an important issue a beautician and the customer.All looking to be nice but I think only one bad side is excessive/wrong use of cosmetics and makeup accessories may be harmful.

Anonymous said...

The concept for this project is not novel and does not push the medium or add to its history.

Despite the parameters of your project (i.e. "there will be no suits or jewelery to hide behind"), your subjects pose with hats, scarves, jewelry. These distinguishing marks work against your aim to depict people as equals and, in fact, highlight their differences.

You aimed to value and honor our bodies while revealing our sameness. Why then did you drape us in (your) shadows?

Metaphorically, the lighting in these images suggests shame, immorality, degradation. It also hints at the presence of monstrosities (genitals?) and at possible nefarious intentions of photographer and/or subjects.

Your confession disturbs.... You find it "much easier to see into the soul of [your] clients" when we are nude. Perhaps you should try working harder.

Rodney said...

Dear Anonymous, Wow, it sounds like you are dealing with much pain.

I’ve never claimed to be unique or exceptional, I am simply me and I do the best work I can. As for the shadows used in this project and the anonymity of some of those involved there are very good reasons for it. I as well as every single person involved in this project and everyone who will view this work are all on different journeys and at different places in those journeys. For some of our participants there was the very real threat of being fired from a job if they were recognized (one need only look as far as the u tube teachers video scandal that broke out this week in Winnipeg to recognize the variety of opinions out there about everything). For some of our participants being involved in this project was something they needed to do but they wanted the comfort of a personal item such as a baseball bat, earrings or scarf and I felt no need to tell them who they should be and how they should present themselves. Some wished to cover themselves or to be cloaked in shadow whereas others felt more than comfortable being all out there, again we are all on a journey and I felt no need to impose restrictions on anyone.

Anyone who knows me knows that I value both my subjects and my clients greatly and I work very hard to get to know them, their journeys and their souls; I'm deeply saddened if this was not your experience and would love the opportunity to hear more about where you are at in life, please feel free to contact me at the studio.

In much of art there seems to be a divide between the model as a body and the model as a whole person, this project was meant to bridge that gap a bit, if it failed to meet you expectations you have my sincerest apologies.


mariaborito said...

Great post Rod. Thanks for your honesty. What a journey and risk this project has been for you, your profession and your family. I had no idea. I really hope that more people can come around you to support and lift you up as you embark on this new territory.

Marianna said...

Beautifully written Rod. After some initial hesitation on the purchase of the book, I am truly inspired by the reasoning behind it and am proud to now display it in my home. My children and I have gone through and talked about the stories behind all the beautiful people in the book - it's such a positive promoter of body image. Kudos to you for leaping out and taking a chance/risk on the creation of this book!