On Sunday, the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), will begin taking photos for “Celebrating Women, Celebrating Bodies,” an exhibition of nude photos designed to celebrate the diversity of women on campus and their bodies. The display of the photos will open on April 3. At the time of publication, the WRC reported that 78 groups of women had signed up and they were expecting about 200 participants.
The event, which is organized by WRC student directors Laurel Varnell ’14, Sophie Janes ’16, Calla Hastings ’14, Anissa Tanksley ’14 and Neli Vazquez ’14, is the second time that the WRC has sponsored a nude photo shoot. Two years ago, the WRC directed a shoot and exhibition that consisted of about 50 women and provided the framework for this year’s project.
The participants can choose how much of their bodies they expose. They are encouraged to use objects, sheets, or undergarments to make themselves feel more comfortable.
“People brought a lot of props: pots, pans, someone brought their mountain climbing belt, someone brought a longboard,” said Janki Kaneria ’14, who posed last time and is helping the WRC this year. “It was not only about feeling good in your body but also communicating and expressing yourself which people did in a lot of fun ways.”
“They have complete agency over how they want their body to look and how they want to be portrayed. It’s not anyone else telling them what to do,” said Varnell.
Additionally, the women can review their photos before they are exhibited, and to choose not to have them hung.
“It’s a very intimate and respectful experience,” said Tanksley, who posed for the previous project.
The only rule set is that each woman’s head must be in the photo.
“What we’re trying to avoid is disembodying women,” said WRC Director Melissa Quinby. “We don’t sell this as a naked photo shoot.”
According to the student directors, they have worked to create a comfortable environment for participants, to give each woman the experience that she chooses, and keep the event free of misogyny or objectification.
“That’s a cool thing about this photo shoot versus photo shoots you see in other places where it’s...the photographer that gives direction to the participants. This way it’s really the opposite: [the women] are able to dictate exactly what they want,” said Varnell.
With “Celebrating Women, Celebrating Bodies,” the directors are focusing on creating a “body-positive atmosphere.” They have chosen to adopt a no-Photoshop policy and not edit the photos, according to Varnell.
“I think in this day and age, you forget that pictures you see in magazines have gone through pretty significant editing,” said Varnell. “It’s really powerful to be able to see a woman completely as she is.”
“You can choose to see the exhibit as the naked form, but I think it goes so much further beyond that,” said Tanksley. “It is women...celebrating themselves and the nature of their body.”
Planning for the shoot began first semester, and photos will be taken from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Sunday. The living room of the WRC will be converted into a photo studio, with all the windows covered. Offices and bathrooms will serve as changing rooms, and access to the door will be limited to WRC directors, ensuring that no one walks in accidentally.
Participants get a chance to write about their feelings before and after they are photographed, and these narratives will be hung anonymously with the photographs in the exhibition.
“We really want to reiterate the fact that these are real women. It’s not just a body—these are the women behind the pictures. This is their story of empowerment,” said Kaneria.
Maura Allen ’14 participated in the last exhibition, and plans on participating again this year with the rugby team.
Although in middle and high school Allen said that she was “one of the more bashful people that I knew,” this experience was a way to show herself “that I had really changed a lot since then.”
The past exhibit featured many athletic teams who photographed as a group. However, the student directors tried to reach out to the broader campus community for this year’s project.
The WRC aims “to show the diversity of women’s bodies on campus and bring to light that there is more than one type of woman, one type of body, and to have that be portrayed in a beautiful, artistic way,” according to Tanksley.
“Celebrating Women, Celebrating Bodies” will be displayed in the Lamarche Gallery of David Saul Smith Union. There will be an opening for the photos on April 3 at 8 p.m., and the glass windows will be covered during evening hours to ensure privacy.