The Way Towards a New Life: The Amazing Example of the Photographer Jen Davis – By Annarita Tranfici

The success story of today tells the personal journey of a young woman who, at a certain point in her life, has become prisoner of her body and her bad choices. Her name is Jen Davis and she is a talented photographer.

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She is an American woman that has spent the last 11 years photographing her body’s changes. The group of these images let us do a journey into the very private life of an obese person with all her fears and insecurities, leaving us some small clues of how difficult can be living with an image in the mirror that we no longer feel ours. The pics that attest her painful journey of awareness and rebirth are shown in an exhibition whose title is just “Eleven Years” at ClampArt gallery in New York from May the 22nd to July the 3rd 2014. The work is accompanied by a monograph of the same title from Kehrer Verlag, which has been released a month ago (Hardcover, 120 pages, 10.9 x 9.2 inches, $50).

It is an intimate journey the one of Jen Davis; eleven years of photographs to understand how she got to that point. She had become fat, so fat that she no longer liked her body, a body which was becoming a danger for her health.

It all started with a trip to the beach during the spring break, when she still attended the college. Jen was suffering the torments of hell with all that weight on her legs. There are people who are able to be happy even with a weight of 150 kilograms on, but Jen surely was not. Since 2002, she has been photographing herself with her actual boyfriends, while she was falling asleep in her bed or while trying to tie her gigantic pants. But one day, something happened: suddenly she decided to stop studying her shape through the lens of a camera and examining the shots of the last decade she found the courage to do something for herself and climb up again from the abyss into which she was falling.
She has undergone a surgery to implant a gastric bypass and it made her lose over 50 kilograms, giving her a brand new life that she actually did not expect.
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Jen Davis explained to an interviewer in 2013:

“In this body of work, I deal with my insecurities about my body image and the direct correlation between self-perception and the way one is perceived by others.”

With these photos, Jen has found her insecurities, her fears and her ideal of beauty and has examined them to understand how she could improve her quality of life and come back smiling at the mirror.
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In a society that dictates beauty based on one’s physical appearance, Jen’s story is undoubtedly a success story that makes us think about how every woman should challenge traditional expectations of female representation and accept herself with all her strengths and weaknesses, trying to avoid to do continuous comparisons with other women, envy those who have a slimmer and more tonic body and always wish to be completely different from the amazing lady she actually is. The path to self-acceptance is treacherous and full of obstacles: the fears of inadequacy and the lack of attractiveness are demons against which every woman finds herself struggling at several times of her life and there’s nobody but herself that can help her to find the way of happiness and love, above all towards herself.
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Happiness is more than just a feeling; it is something we can (and should!) all practise on a daily basis. One key to happiness is in your expression of love, love towards yourself. You don’t have to change what you are or what you have to be happy. We often associate feeling happy with who we were with what we had, or what we were doing. Those are all external things that don’t make us happy. It was the love we were expressing at the time that fulfilled us. And so… how can we spread love into the world if we don’t love ourselves before?  You’re okay just as you are.  All of you, kind readers, are unique people, capable and lovable, with special talents and strengths, with inner wisdom and creativity, full of values. So accept and respect yourself NOW. Don’t wait to wear that small dress or to have that slim body, accept your size and shape, your feelings, yourself, unconditionally. There’s only one thing that you should worry about, and that is your health: be sure to find a good balance between accepting yourself and giving your health the attention it deserves. Please, make sure that it won’t be harmed by overweight or underweight and treat yourself as the most important person in the world, because so you are: Important and valuable.

During her interview, Jen added:

I was subconsciously constructing] images that were compelling to look at that would be seductive. The beauty of the picture was in the light and in the use of color—it was beauty that I could control, a world of beauty that I myself created and inhabited. In a way what I was doing was seducing myself. I couldn’t necessarily identify with the idea of someone seeing me as ‘beautiful,’ but I could accept that the pictures that I created and inhabited were.


Why don’t you create your personal “world of beauty”? Why do you have to follow all the society’s laws to be proud of your bodies?

The philosopher David Hume said: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Fill your mind of beautiful thoughts and sights and start celebrate yourself everyday, wonderful creatures!


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