In “Body Talk,” Refinery29’s exhibition at Photoville, which runs September 13 to 24, six photographers around the world photographed women at local bodies of water and interviewed them about how they view their bodies. The photographs are part of Refinery29’s Take Back the Beach initiative, their global survey of body image and personal style. Amanda Gorence, who curated the show with Toby Kaufmann, tells PDN by email, “Refinery29’s Take Back the Beach initiative is centered around changing the conversations that women have about their bodies both internally and externally. Now in its 3rd year, we wanted to challenge and encourage women to consider how the ways in which we think and talk about other people’s bodies affects how we might see ourselves—both positively and negatively.”
The show includes images from Mayan Toledano, Alicia Vera, Olya Ivanova, Yagazie Emezi, Sunmin Lee and Helga Nina Aas, who were commissioned to shoot in Israel, Mexico, Russia, Liberia, South Korea, and Iceland. Lia Clay’s images explore the experience of transgender people in the U.S. during the summer beach season. Says Gorence, “While the concept of body positivity definitely varied from culture to culture, what we found especially encouraging was that overall women are moving toward self-love and acceptance, even if it’s a difficult or foreign feeling.” In the images, women pose seductively or defiantly at the edges of pools and beaches, wearing jeans or bikinis. In interviews, they describe the best and worst things that other people have said about their bodies, and how they think about the bodies of other women. The result is an intimate picture of how women around the world see themselves, and how they would like to be seen.
Says Gorence, “Photography and the visual representations we choose to put out there as a brand or within the industry matters—inclusivity is paramount in shaping the ways in which we can empower people. One woman we spoke to in Israel said it best—’Only in the last few years, when I started seeing new images and different representations of beauty, I slowly found a new loving relationship with my body.’ We think that shows a measured success of this project.”