In this episode of Fearless Rebelle Radio, I’m interviewing Lindley Ashline, Photographer and creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Box, on helping body image with photos.
We talk about how images and photos can be a powerful tool for healing body image. We also discuss thin privilege and more.
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SUMMER: This episode of Fearless Rebelle Radio is brought to you by You on Fire. You on Fire is the amazing, 12-week online group coaching program that I run, where we build up your worth from the ground up, so that it’s no longer hinging on the way that you look. It’s got personalized coaching from me and incredible community support, plus life-time access. Get details on what’s included in this program, and sign up to be notified when doors open for the next cycle, by going to summerinnanen.com/youonfire. I would love to have you in that program and in that group.
INTRO: This is Fearless Rebelle Radio, a podcast about body positivity, self-worth, anti-dieting, and Feminism. I am your host, Summer Innanen, a professionally trained coach specialising in body image, self-worth, and confidence, and the best-selling author of Body Image Remix. If you’re ready to break free of societal standards and stop living behind the number on your scale, then you have come to the right place! Welcome to the show.
This is Episode 168, and I’m interviewing Lindley Ashline, photographer and creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Box. We talk about how images and photos can be a powerful tool for healing body image. And we also discuss thin privilege and more. You can find all the links and resources mentioned in this episode at summerinnanen.com/168.
Before we start, I want to give a shoutout to Lauraaswim who left this awesome review: “I’ve been listening to Summer’s podcast for about three months. Be prepared for her to bring up a lot of feelings that are deep inside. It can lead to a good cry every now and then if you’re being real with yourself. As I’m turning 50 this year, I’m trying to find a way to finally stop being so darn mean to myself, and to start finding the courage to say that I am enough. I feel like she’s speaking right to me, in between her podcasts and her Instagram posts, she always manages to say just what I need to hear, when I need to hear it.”
Thank you so much, Laura. What a beautiful review, and I’m truly honored and just so glad that everything is resonating with you, and helping you to make that shift within yourself.
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Today’s guest is Lindley Ashline. Lindley creates artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional beauty standards. Lindley is also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Box, a monthly body acceptance subscription box. She lives outside Seattle with her husband and feline overlord. I was really excited to have Lindley on the show, because she is just so skilled at photography and knows how to use photos as a tool for healing.
I think so many of us struggle with pictures. We see a photo of ourselves, and we feel shame, so then we avoid photos, or we hide in them, or we pose ourselves in them, and I think that instead of seeing them as something to avoid and something that brings about shame, we can really shift that, and see imagery and photos as a tool for healing, and a powerful tool for healing, and I really use this a lot in my practice. I use this when I’m coaching clients, because it can really help to bring us to a place of neutrality with our own bodies, and expose us to diversity by looking at images of other bodies as well, and then normalizing our own image as a way to heal ourselves.
So those are all the things we’re going to talk about here, which I’m super excited about. So, enjoy this episode.
SUMMER: Welcome to the show, Lindley!
SUMMER: Thanks so much for taking the time to be here today. I know we’re both kind of doing this from lockdown.
SUMMER: But I’m glad that I finally got you on the show, because we’ve been trying to schedule this for awhile and we had to bump it back a few times, just because of quarantine and other personal stuff that was happening. But we’re finally here today. So why don’t you start off by telling everyone a little bit about your story and how you got into the work that you do with your photography and the Body Love Box, and everything like that.
LINDLEY: Yeah. So my name is Lindley Ashline, and I’m a photographer and writer outside Seattle, WA, in the US. And I have sort of been building on these business layers over time, and so now I do run my own business full-time and it sort of has all these layers that change and shift as the needs of my community change. So at heart, I’m a photographer, and how I got into that is, I had been doing nature photography for, gosh, I don’t know, 15 years, 20 years? Since I was a kid, really.
And I love nature photography. It’s very soothing and fulfilling for me, but it’s not something that I ever intended to try to make a living on. But in 2014, 2015, I was in a really terrible, terrible office job. And it was dysfunctional and infuriating and frustrating, and I had to sort of sit back and say, This was supposed to be the dream. This was the sort of office career that I wanted, this corporate career. And I had just had this series of jobs that were worse and worse, and I had to go, This isn’t what I want. This isn’t where I belong. The more I try to lean into this, the more unhappy I get.
And where do I go from here? And that background, even though I wasn’t grateful for it at the time, and didn’t appreciate it at the time, over this corporate career, I had gained a marketing background, and a writing background, and an editing background, and I think we’re going to talk about this in a few minutes too, but a background where I was choosing stock photos and working with photos, outside of just my own hobby of photography.
And so it ended up providing this foundation for me to build a business with. So I was in this terrible job, and in between fits of crying and discussing about it, I really sat down and said, Where do I want to go? Who do I want to serve? Because when, at least for me, when I thought about building my own business, and taking a step out of the corporate life, and sort of venturing out on my own, I have anxiety, and that was really scary. I had to have the appropriate impetus, the appropriate inspiration, or call, to be able to take that step.
And so, I knew that I wanted to work in photography, but I had to figure out, What do I want to do with it? I looked around at other nature photographers, and they mostly weren’t making a living, even if they were doing it full-time. So I said, Okay, I need to go into portraiture.
So I started looking into portrait photography as a career option. And I immediately saw that nobody looked like me. Nobody. None of the photographers looked like me, at the time, none of the photographers looked like me, none of their subjects looked like me, none of the training out there worked with people who looked like me. Nobody was teaching how to photograph people who looked like me. And it was very isolating.
But also, it made it very clear that this other background that I had been developing, as part of the Fat Acceptance community, and then the Body Positivity community, when that came along, that these two should really be dovetailing, that these two should be meshing, because people who look like me weren’t being served from a photographic standpoint, and people who look like me weren’t being the photographers.
And over time, just in the last five years, this has changed. Which is wonderful. I have so much competition these days, and it’s amazing. I love it. I see fat photographers now, I see fat people being photographed and looking amazing. And I will take that. If I ever get competed right out of business, that will make me really happy, because it means that there’s so many people who are prioritizing fat folks in their business, that I wouldn’t be needed. I can’t see a day when I will never be needed to do this work, but I love competition. Bring it on.
But at any rate, I decided that I wanted to focus on people who identify as fat or plus size or larger-bodied, as my target market. Partly because again, I already had this background in Fat Acceptance, I already had this background in studying and prioritizing and talking about large bodies. And so it was just this natural fit. So I started learning to not only to do portraiture and to do boudoir photography and to do fine art photography, but also to do it specifically with larger bodies.
Which meant that, to a certain extent, portraiture is portraiture, boudoir is boudoir. The photographic principles apply, the aesthetics apply to anybody. But fat bodies move differently, fat bodies fold up differently, fat bodies interact with themselves differently. And so some of it was about learning to work with larger bodies, and with people who aren’t as used to being in front of a camera, being the center of the focus, and so what I do is, it’s just as much coaching as it is photography. In general, we spend probably 1/3 to 1/2 of a session getting people comfortable in front of the camera, making sure that, because if you come in and you’re terrified, and I don’t ease that, you can tell in the photos. And so, it’s to both of our advantage, me and whoever I’m photographing, if we spend some time just getting comfortable.
But doing that work has been the center of, from a business standpoint, has been the center of what I’m doing. But what has happened over time, so I started doing that in 2015, and what has happened over time is that I’ve added these layers, as I see more needs in the community. So I started out doing just client photography, and then I added stock photography, then I added a subscription box, and then I added a shop on top of that. And so–
SUMMER: Just keep diversifying!
LINDLEY: Yeah! So it’s been, like I said to start with, it’s been all these layers, and from a personal standpoint it’s really cool because I have a short attention span, so it means if I get tired of, I spent all day yesterday working on stock photos, and now I’m really tired of that. So I’m going to, today, after our recording here, I’ll probably go work on an article or on some marketing or on the shop. And it’s cool because it gives me all these ways to serve the plus size or body positive community, while also giving me an outlet for all these different things I like to have my fingers in.
SUMMER: Yeah! See, and you mentioned your background, and there’s so many things that I’ll ask you, to what you just said, but you mentioned your background in Fat Acceptance and I’m curious to know how you got into that. What was your journey into that? Was that something that kind of blew your mind, or was that something that you always, did you always feel, what was the relationship like with your body before you discovered Fat Acceptance, I guess is what I’m trying to–?
LINDLEY: Well, I found Fat Acceptance in about 2007, and I totally stumbled into it. I found back in the days when everybody was using LiveJournal, if anybody remembers that, I stumbled into this community called Fatshionista, Fashionista but with Fat as the start of it. And it was, it did blow my mind. It was such a revelation, because here were a thousand different fat women who were just living their lives and doing it in a really fashionable way. And they were being trendy, wearing mini-skirts, and this was when body-con dresses were a really big deal, and they were wearing these body-con dresses that were super tight and elastic-y, and just being trendy and fashionable. And it had literally never occurred to me that you could be in a plus-size body, and even in a very fat body, and be cool, honestly! And be, what we would now think of as plus-size fashion influencers? That’s kind of where this community, is like the feel of it, is what would now be an Instagram influencer. Like all these folks who were doing that in the early days.
And I’m not particularly a person who is particularly interested in fashion, or honesty in clothing. Now that I’m not working in an office, I mostly live in Old Navy yoga pants and hoodie t-shirts, because I’m pretty much about comfort, and if it’s also cute, that’s great, but just seeing that this was something that I, too, could explore. Because there were people there with bodies like mine, that were just doing this thing, and at the time, I was working at an office, too, so I had some investment in being and participating in fashion, just as far as being visible in public.
And I started to experiment with that too, because seeing other people do it made me think that maybe I could do that, too. So I started doing outfit-of-the-day posts, and in doing that, it forced me to look at myself.
And I think we might come back to that later when we talk about photos and healing, but just being forced to see my own body was kind of this revelation, because when you don’t feel good about your body, you don’t really have an incentive to look at it. And particularly for those of us who are in fat bodies, a lot of us tend to be, Oh we’re the one behind the camera. Or we’re at the back of the photo. It’s really easy for us to hide and to not ever have to see ourselves at all. Maybe wedding photos, or graduation photos, or some kind of big life change like that. Or with our kids. But beyond that, we just don’t have an incentive to see ourselves, especially not on an everyday basis, as opposed to a wedding photo where your hair, makeup is done, and everything is very done up.
So that was kind of the beginning of my journey. And I always have to say when I talk about this background, that I grew up without a TV, and I grew up without a lot of pop culture access, and so, it’s a long story, we lived in a rural area, and my parents didn’t feel like having access to cable TV was particularly important, so I didn’t have a lot of the pop culture and diet culture influences that a lot of people do at a formative age.
And now, of course, I absorbed diet culture messages. Of course I did. Everybody does. I observed it from all the places that people usually do. Family, and school, and friends. I just didn’t, I wasn’t reading magazines, I wasn’t watching TV. And so, some of the really major influences, I just missed, until I was an adult.
And so what that has meant is that my personal journey to accepting my own body has been relatively easy. ANd I always pull this out, because it’s really easy for someone who is listening to this to look at me and think, oh, all it took was a LiveJournal community? You know. Why am I not like that? Why is it so hard for me? Why is it … you know. Why can’t I be like Lindley?
And I want to note when I talk about my own body image background, that I was astonishingly privileged in the sense that I didn’t have as many fish hooks to pull out.
SUMMER: Yeah, but, what’s so interesting about that, sorry, I didn’t mean to dive in there, but what’s so interesting about that is that it just shows how it is learned and conditioned, and how exposure to that stuff is so toxic. It’s obviously so toxic, but it’s really interesting to see how that plays out in someone, and the massive difference that that can make.
LINDLEY: Yeah! And the thing too is that I was an average-sized child. I did not become a fat person until I hit puberty, and then my German peasant hormones, my German peasant genes kicked in, and suddenly, I looked like every other woman in my family. We’re all fat white women. And suddenly, I had the hips, and the breasts, and so on. And so, I didn’t start to get societal disapproval about my body until puberty. So my experience is very different than someone who was a fat child. And again, I always want to pull out these things, because I wasn’t being put on diets when I was six years old. I wasn’t, people pretty much left me alone about my body until I was 14 or 15.
And so, I wasn’t… every person who is read as a woman in our society gets diet culture pressure. We all are taught to be ashamed of our bodies, no matter what size. But my experience was very different than someone who was being put on Weight Watchers at age 5. And so I just always want to pull that out, because for me it was pretty easy, and that doesn’t mean that I don’t have bad body days. It doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t look in the mirror and go, Why are you like this? You know, everybody gets that. And it doesn’t matter how far you are, it doesn’t matter what kind of miracle of body positivity you are, you’re still going to continue to receive those messages from society.
SUMMER: Right, unless you go and live without any kind of cultural influence, right?
LINDLEY: Right, and even if you did become a hermit on a mountaintop somewhere, you would still have, you would still have pilgrims coming to seek you out for your wisdom, and being like, Oh, did you wash your hair today? It’s horrible. Or, Oh, I thought you’d be thinner. You’re on a mountaintop. You know? And even so, we all absorb so many messages that even if we suddenly were magically free of cultural body messaging, we would still have those voices inside of us that were people we’ve learned ???
And so I don’t want to be depressing, like, you’re never going to be free. But even the folks who are pretty far along in this journey, we still have bad body days, we still have, we’re still getting that messaging. So don’t ever feel like because you hate your body some days, or don’t feel like you’re uniquely terrible because your life and your inner thoughts don’t match the shiny Instagram influencer: “My body’s great all the time!” messaging that we can see in the body positive community.
SUMMER: Right. And that’s toxic positivity in a way, because we’re human and we’re going to have bad days and I always sort of explain it like, we’re ultimately looking for balance, where we’re not looking for 100% positivity, we’re looking for a balance of, okay, days where I don’t feel good, days where I feel kind of neutral or meh, and days where, yeah, maybe I’m feeling myself a bit. And that’s great, if we can get to a place like that, and then be able to sort of see that our bad thoughts aren’t our fault, they’re learned, and see that it’s all because of this cultural conditioning. That’s ultimately where I would like people to be in the work that I do.
SUMMER: Yeah. And it’s really interesting to hear your story, because it is so unique, and I think we all have different layers of trauma that have occurred that shape the way that we feel about our bodies, and our experiences and things like that, and to hear, yeah, yours, and it just being unique in that way, that you weren’t put on a diet when you were a kid, and you didn’t have those influences of culture. It stands out to me at least. I don’t think I’ve had anyone on the show that had an experience quite as unique as yours. So that’s really interesting to hear.
LINDLEY: And sometimes I feel like it almost gives me an advantage too, in that when I come across, because I didn’t grow up with TV, and because I didn’t grow up with magazines or a lot of these pop culture access points, it means that when I dive into those things as an adult, I’m not used to having the background noise of fatphobia, and of diet culture. And so, when I come across those things, those are really jarring.
ANd I love That 70s Show. I love it. I’ve been rewatching it. ANd I just came across an episode where, I don’t want to describe this in detail, because it’s so fatphobic, but there’s a dream sequence or a daydream sequence where a character has become caricature level fat. And all their friends are standing around making fun of them because they have come so fat. And one of the other characters is being squished underneath them, and the fat person doesn’t even notice, because they’re so fat. And it’s very extreme, but it’s a three minute sequence, it’s played for laughs, and then everybody moves along.
And it’s clearly not supposed to be unusually extreme for that show. You’re supposed to laugh and not think anything about it, and move on. But it ‘s so jarring. And that’s not even talking about, and I don’t want to pick on That 70s Show specifically, it’s just a show I really like, so I’m more familiar with it. But there’s always this undercurrent of, Oh, well as long as you don’t get fat. Like those comments. But then even this scene with the character level extreme fat person, that is not realistically designed, it’s just so jarring to come across these things.
Or there’s a video game I really love to play, where they have created a character and inserted it, that is a realistically designed fat person, who looks kind of like me and some people I know. And when the character that you are playing in this video game meets this realistically designed fat woman character, your character is so shocked that your jaw falls open and you take a step back. And that is portrayed as a totally normal response to meeting a real-life fat person. And so, these are things that I think I have an advantage of noticing, because I wasn’t conditioned to them. So when I come across them, they’re very jarring. And then I rant about them on Instagram.
SUMMER: Right, right. And I think the more that you immerse yourself in diversity and fat positivity and the literature, and just the community and all of that stuff, the more that those things do seem jarring as well, just because you’re not exposing yourself to them as much as they were always just sort of there, and part of the background noise of our existence in this culture. It really is, I think jarring is the proper word to use.
LINDLEY: Yeah, because it’s just, these are things that are not supposed to be big moments. They’re not supposed to stand out, they’re supposed to be part of the background noise, but when you’re not used to the background noise, they’re really easy to tell. It’s really interesting.
SUMMER: Yeah, yeah. So I want to talk about the healing process and photos for you in particular, because you did mention how that was a big thing for you, and you mentioned, to use your words, being forced to see your body. So how do you see photos, or even in the photography that you do with your clients, how do you see that helping in the healing process?
LINDLEY: I feel like whether you are looking at images of yourself, or other people whose bodies are like yours, it’s really a vital part of healing because I’ve done all this talking about what’s normalized, and background noise, and being conditioned, and when we have spent our entire lives looking at idealized people, whether those are these sitcom characters in That 70s Show who are all very thin, or photoshopped models in magazines, we are surrounded by people who meet very very very narrow beauty standards. And those people are the only people we’re allowed to see in the media.
Now of course, all around us, like, my grandmother was very very fat. I was around her all the time. I was being exposed to fat people. Every woman in my family looks like me. I was being exposed to fat people. When you look around you in real life, you probably have fat people around you, or people with various disabilities, whether those are visible or not. People who have various health conditions, people who don’t have good hair, you know, you probably have these people all around ou in real life, but it’s really easy to feel like because we have so much media exposure in our modern lives, it’s really easy to feel like you are the only one who, I’m going to use this term very advisedly, and when I say this, it is compared to literally impossible standards because everybody is photoshopped, you’re the only ‘ugly’ one. You’re the only one who has bad hair. You’re the only one who has, I don’t know, visible veins in their legs, or crow’s feet, or all the things that we consider flaws or imperfections. It’s really easy to feel like you’re the only one who has those.
And the more you look at people who are not photoshopped, people whose bodies look like yours, the more you condition yourself the other way. And it feels, it’s really interesting, because we don’t tend to think about being conditioned in the first place. But when I talk about deliberately exposing yourself to a lot of bodies that look like yours, occasionally I’ll get some pushback. “You’re trying to brainwash people!” Well, I mean, yeah, kind of.
SUMMER: Because we’ve been brainwashed! You’re un-brainwashing people!
LINDLEY: Right. I’m trying to encourage you to undo some of that damage. But it feels very calculating when we talk about deliberately doing it the other way. But the thing is that it’s a very calculated decision on the part of people producing media sources in the first place. There’s profit motive behind all of this, because the more I watch That 70s Show, and the more I see these extremely thin people making cutting remarks about, Oh, well, just don’t get old and fat. Or, these daydream sequences with these extremely fat bodies… The more that we’re exposed to that, the more we’re afraid of being the one who’s old and fat or who’s disabled in some way. And the more we’re likely to invest our time and resources and money into avoiding that.
And so, all of this is calculated in the first place. It’s not just, all these things happen to have formed this framework. This framework was formed deliberately. And not only is that framework fatphobic, it’s also racist. I highly encourage anybody who’s interested in learning more about this to check out the book Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings. It’s a fairly academic work. I’m still working my way through it myself because there’s a lot to take in. But this framework was developed over hundreds of years. Beauty standards are not just some modern invention. And the profit mode and the power mode of beauty standards didn’t just arise in the 60s or something. This is a creation of hundreds of years of cultural manipulation. And so when I talk about deliberately exposing yourself to bodies that are like yours, this is very revolutionary. It’s very radical.
And it is a deliberate decision you have to make because the whole cultural tide is going one way, and so you have to deliberately seek out those bodies. But seeking out those bodies that look like you, or that are at least different from what you’re seeing in mainstream media, it’s really vital because again, we have been conditioned that there’s only one kind of body that’s okay, that’s good, and that kind of body is impossible for 99.9% of us to achieve! Partly because, again, with Photoshop, you are literally not seeing real bodies.
I’ve done a couple of these really long blog deconstructions of, here is this photo, and here is how you can tell it’s completely fake. It’s sort of based on a true story, based on a true human. But learning to see yourself and learning to see other bodies like yours, is so vital, because if you can’t even stand to look at yourself, how can you be okay with what you can’t even see?
And so, from a photographic standpoint of the craft, a lot of the people that I work with are using that photography, those photos, as healing tools. Some people are like, I’m great, I’m ready, let’s do this. And then some people come in and we have to approach it a lot more carefully.
But what people do with those photos afterwards is so interesting. Because people don’t always come back and tell me what they’re doing with the photos, but I’ve learned that what some people end up doing with them is they kind of do exposure therapy for themselves. So they’ll take the photos and they’ll look at them for like a minute, and they’ll put them away. And then they’ll come back the next day and they’ll look for two minutes. They’re just flipping through the photos, that’s all they’re doing. And gradually, they’re learning, This is what this body that I inhabit at this point in time looks like.
And that can be really scary, because usually, it’s very different from what we see, even on Instagram, where we think about the body maybe being more real. It’s still very… and the thing is, when you’re working with a professional photographer, you’re still going to get the quality of photograph that you might see in a magazine or a really nice account on Instagram, but your body, the shape of it, is going to be different. The contours are different. And it might not be a posing that is minimizing your body, because posing is a very, very powerful tool. For good or evil.
And for me, personally, I don’t minimize people via posing. And that can be a real shock, because when you are used to also looking at people whose bodies are being minimized by posing, and probably Photoshop too, just to see a full-length photo of yourself, where you’re not being minimized, that can be really scary. And it’s just exposure. It’s just exposure. The more you see bodies that look like yours, the more you see your own, body, the more it can feel okay to be okay with that.
SUMMER: Yes. And I think there’s also a difference between seeing yourself in the mirror and seeing yourself in a photo. People really struggle with the photo. Sometimes people can be a little more neutral with the mirror and there’s just something about the photo that changes things. It draws on the external narrative of our culture.
LINDLEY: Yeah, I think there’s two components to it. Very quickly, it’s the loss of control, because when someone comes to meet for photos, they have to be willing to release that control. Ultimately, I’m behind the camera, and so they have to be willing to trust me to portray them. And generally, by the time someone comes to me, and we have scheduled an appointment and they have scheduled their session, they have looked at my website, they’ve looked through my portfolio, they understand that this is my viewpoint. This is how I see bodies. And your body will look like your body, but the quality will be similar, the feel will be similar.
But sometimes people will come in, and they think they’re fine, and they get in, and we have to sit down and chill out a little bit, because suddenly, releasing that control is really scary. So there’s the releasing control of how you appear to somebody else, even if it’s somebody you trust. That’s very vulnerable.
But then also, there’s also the factor that a photo is one second captured in time. It’s not moving, it’s not breathing, it’s not living, unlike looking at yourself in a mirror. If you’re looking at yourself in a mirror, you can kind of make little adjustments to what you’re seeing and you’re seeing it in real time. Whereas a photo, it’s just a literal snapshot of one second in time.
SUMMER: Yeah, and that’s why I think it’s so important to use that exposure to really become more comfortable with seeing yourself at different angles, and different positions, and things like that. You’ve mentioned a couple times that you kind of coach people to get comfortable in front of the camera. Do you have any tips or things that you can offer if people are afraid of being visible, or afraid to even show up in photos?
LINDLEY: You know, I think it really comes back to that exposure, and it comes down to seeing lots of images of yourself, because if you have, say, we’re looking through photo proofs. If I give you one proof, that’s like one snapshot in time. And if we’re looking at 100 proofs, of course I’m not going to give clients anything that’s terrible in quality or, maybe I caught them talking or something and they have a weird expression. I’m not going to give anybody that. But it’s easier when you’re looking through a bunch of photos of yourself, as opposed to maybe one wedding photo or something. I think it’s easier to see, these are all the different ways my body might appear. And that’s okay. And here’s the one I’m most comfortable with right now. And maybe later, I can come back to others. But knowing that you’re going to see yourself from lots of different angles, I think is a little bit reassuring, and finding somebody that you trust to release that control to, because when you’re thinking about doing that, and of course you can always have a partner you trust or a friend you trust take photos and make a fun couple hours out of it.
You don’t have to go to a stranger. As a professional photographer, I’d like to encourage you to come to me, but starting with somebody that you trust to also be okay with your body can be very reassuring, because if you’re having, say, your partner take photos, the quality might not be awesome, but maybe that’s not what you need in that moment. Maybe you need an external eye that is one you trust, and that’s the most important thing at that time, and that’s fine.
You can even set the timer on your camera and you can do selfies, just as long as you’re seeing yourself, that’s most important. But if you are looking for a professional photographer, if you’re ready for that experience, ask them a zillion questions. Ask them some of the things that Summer is asking me. Ask, How do you work with fat bodies? How is it different from how you work with thin bodies? Is it different? What’s your own background? Are there any fat bodies in their portfolio?
Ask them as many questions as you need to be comfortable. And remember too that when you’re talking about being okay with photos of yourself, and being okay with releasing that control to somebody else to take those photos, remember that you are ultimately in charge of your experience. If you’re taking, obviously it’s easier if you’re taking selfies, to stop, than if someone else is taking photos of you, especially photos that you have paid for. It’s easy to feel like you’re kind of subordinate because you’re feeling more vulnerable. But you’re ultimately in charge of your experience. You can stop and say, I need a minute. You can stop and say, I need to be more supported. You can stop and say, I’m going to go in the bathroom for five minutes because I’m overwhelmed.
I have done boudoir sessions where I ended up stripping down to my underwear, because the person that I was photographing, clearly the vulnerability of them being in their underwear or nude, or in lingerie, or whatever, the power balance was clearly too much, or the power imbalance was too much, and me being able to be vulnerable in that moment, and get down to my own underwear, which happened to be a really ratty bralette and panties that day because I wasn’t expecting to get down to my underwear, but that was fine, because it helped even out that power imbalance.
So remembering that it’s your body that’s being centered, and you are ultimately in charge of how you are portrayed, because it’s your body in this journey. It’s your body. You get to decide how you want to engage with that, that being your own body, literally. And when you want to engage with that, and what you need to be able to engage with that. Because if I come in and I’m super intimidating, and I’m fully dressed and I’m maybe dismissive or maybe you can tell that I’m not crazy about working with fat bodies or whatever, if I am not properly supporting you, then it’s that much harder for you can engage with the work that you’re trying to do.
And so, when you’re releasing that control, it’s totally okay for you to insist on being properly supported so that you can do what you’re there to do. And now, you don’t have to approach seeing bodies as an important work that I am required to do. It doesn’t have to be that formal.
It doesn’t have to be that serious. It can just be, it’s a rainy day, I’m hanging out with a friend, and we’ve both got cute underwear on, and we’re going to take photos of each other. You can engage with that however you want. It doesn’t have to be like capital letters The Work.
LINDLEY: And working with a professional photographer, it can feel like capital letters The Work. But just any way that you can see your body, any way that you can see bodies like yours, adn Instagram is a really good way to do that, and there are lists online of body positive Instagram accounts to follow. But just the more that you can see those bodies, the more healing it is. And beyond that, you get to pick how you want to do that and when and why and where. And I cannot overemphasize that if you are working with a professional photographer, you’re still in charge.
SUMMER: Mm-hmm. Yeah. You’re paying them.
SUMMER: Gotta remember that, right? But it’s hard. I think people, a lot of us are people-pleasers, and give up the control. So it’s good to know that. And be reminded of that. I would love to talk to you about your series on thin privilege and what prompted you to create that.
LINDLEY: So, the series on thin privilege… honestly, I got mad one too many times. I have found in my own body acceptance journey, that anger is playing a really important role. And I am a US Southerner by heritage, and in general, we women are not encouraged in the culture at large, and particularly in Southern culture, to be angry. We’re supposed to be sweet and gentle, and accommodating, and maybe we can be catty, but we’re not ever supposed to be angry.
And accessing my own anger was, for me, a very important step in body image because allowing myself to be angry about the way that I and my body have been treated, allowing myself to be angry about the way that people are manipulated to feel bad about their body, is one way that I have really reclaimed a lot of my power. When I allowed myself to start being angry publicly, that was a big step. And it gets me a lot of trolls. And that’s okay, because what I’m doing is more important than having to wade through some trolls every morning.
But one of the things that I got angry about and have been angry about for a long time, is the differences in the way fat bodies and thin bodies are treated. And I want to be very clear that I’m not mad at people in thin bodies. I’m not mad at you. I’m angry at the system that encourages differences in treatment depending on your body size. I’m angry that fat people get denied healthcare. I’m angry that I get trolls when I talk about living in a fat body. There are a lot of things I’m angry about, and I’m not ever angry at individuals, unless those individuals are invested in perpetuating this.
SUMMER: Yeah, yeah. But you shouldn’t have to give that caveat, but yes, I hear you.
LINDLEY: I shouldn’t have to, but I do get accused a lot on social media of hating thin people. And that’s not true at all.
SUMMER: No, you’re simply stating what people have a blind spot to because of their privilege.
LINDLEY: And that’s the key, is that I got angry about this stuff and I started ranting about some of it, and then because I have been in a fat body since puberty, I didn’t know that people who have more body privileges don’t know. I didn’t know what they didn’t know. I didn’t know that they don’t know how I get treated.
People who are in smaller bodies, particularly people who have always been in smaller bodies, you don’t know. And so, I have been doing for I don’t know, a year or year and a half now, a series on Instagram where I talk about thin privilege.
And it’s partly a solidarity moment for other people in fat bodies, so that they don’t feel as alone, so that they don’t feel like, I’m the only one, like they’re the only one who has experienced not being allowed to access healthcare because of their body size or whatever I happen to be talking about that day. And partly because a lot of the people who follow me on Instagram are people in smaller bodies who were there because they don’t know, and they want to learn. Because you can’t help fix a problem if you don’t know it exists.
LINDLEY: And it helps too because weight stigma is a concept… I mean, I do have people regularly who tell me that there is no stigma against fat people. But I don’t think that anyone who is reasonable in this culture really genuinely thinks that there’s not a stigma against bigger people.
LINDLEY: I don’t think that’s really in question. But the thing is, how does that express itself, and what can I do about it? Those are the things that people don’t know. And so I’ve started, I have a dual series, twice a week, on Instagram. One day, I regularly talk about thin privilege, like what does that mean in the real world? How does that look? What are real-world examples of that? And again, when I talk about thin privilege, I’m not saying that you’re bad because you have it, and it’s also a spectrum. I have privilege over people who are larger than I am. Forgive me, I didn’t look up the Canadian equivalent sizes, but I wear a US 26/28.
SUMMER: I think that’s the same. Because all of our clothes are basically US brands! For better or for worse. Anyways, yeah.
LINDLEY: So like a Lane Bryant 26/28 basically. And again, I apologize for folks in countries where that doesn’t equate. You can look me up on Instagram and you can see how fat I am. But there are plenty of people who are larger than I am. And I can find clothes that they can’t. I can access healthcare that they can’t.
And so it’s a spectrum. So it’s not either you’re thin and you have all the privilege or you’re fat and you have none of it. That’s not how it works. It’s just a range. And again, depending on the other personal traits that you might or might not possess. I’m also, I’m white, and so I also have some privilege over folks who are my same size but who are People of Color.
So it’s complex, it’s intricate, and it also depends on where you live, and how you carry your weight. I tend to appear smaller than I am, so I’m occasionally treated better than someone who’s my same size but maybe is an apple shape, or is the same weight, but is bigger physically.
At any rate, one day a week, I talk about thin privilege, what that looks like in the real world, and then another day, I talk about how people, anybody, you don’t have to be an expert, you don’t have to be an activist, anybody around the world can help end weight stigma. Like actual practical things you can do, because when I got rolling with the thin privilege series, people were really interested, but then they also wanted to know, well, what am I supposed to do about this? Now I know that this exists, now I feel bad about it, but what am I supposed to do about it?
And the answer, of course, is that changing systems is hard. It’s hard, and there’s only so much we can do as individuals. I’m not, I’m just a random person on the internet. I’m not a healthcare provider, I’m not in charge of eating disorder treatment, where I could maybe influence how fat people get treated in the eating disorder treatment. I’m just a random person. I’m a random photographer on the internet.
So there’s only so much I can do. But within that sphere of what I am doing, there’s a ton of things I can do. And you don’t have to be a photographer, or even a person who likes to be on the internet, to make a difference. And so it’s sort of this dual set, series of posts, where one day we talk about the crappy things, then another day of the week we talk about what you can do about it.
SUMMER: Yeah, that’s great. I appreciate that. That’s good. That’s why I wanted to make sure that we covered it in here, because I hope that people head over and check it out, and learn more, because I think it’s really, really important.
LINDLEY: It’s been really interesting, the responses that I have gotten from it. Because honestly it just really started out because I was mad and I needed to say so publicly. And it took a few months too, because one of the things that, when people start speaking out, it’s really scary, because what if I do it wrong? And it took me a few months to get into a pattern that was useful both for me and for my readers, as opposed to just me ranting on the internet in a way that wasn’t as well formatted, or as useful.
But I just had to start speaking, because I was mad, and I was frustrated, and I just needed to get it out. And gradually it evolved into this series, which ?????, and so one of the things that I do tell people about speaking out is that you just have to start doing it. And yeah, you’re going to be awkward. And yeah, you’re probably going to say things that 6 months later, you’ll look back and say, Oh my god, why did I say that? Or, Why did I say it that way?
But speaking out is better than not speaking out, if you’re ready to do that.
SUMMER: Yeah, yeah. Good. Well, on that note, we have to wrap it up here. So where can people find you, as we’re wrapping up here?
LINDLEY: I am on the internet, at bodyliberationphotos.com, or bodyliberationphotography.com. Either will take you to the same place. On Instagram, I’m @bodyliberationwithlindley. And on Twitter, I’m @LindleyAshline. And you can look me up by the same name on Pinterest, and what am I forgetting? I’m on YouTube as well. You can just look me up by my name. And in general, I’m just sort of around.
SUMMER: I will link to all of these in the show notes, by the way.
LINDLEY: I’m here! Come say hi to me! Oh, Facebook, that’s what I was missing. I spend so much time on Facebook and here I am missing it. But I’m at Body Liberation with Lindley Ashline on Facebook. Basically there’s only one of me. I have a unique first name and last name combination, so you can just google me.
SUMMER; Join the club! I’m the same. It’s helpful. People can’t spell it half the time, but I’m out there! I’m the only one!
SUMMER: Well, I appreciate you taking the time. Thank you so much. I really appreciate all the work that you do, and I enjoy following you and learning from everything you talk about. So, thank you, thanks for everything. And thanks for being here today!
LINDLEY: Thanks so much! It’s been a pleasure.
SUMMER: Rock on.
That was such a cool discussion. I really was so fascinated by Lindley’s story. It’s just so interesting to hear how the way that we’re raised and what we’re exposed to can really shape the way that we see ourselves. And it just shows how much the media can influence the way that we see ourselves, and how much power that they have over us, and how we and use photos and imagery to really reclaim that power and change the narrative and break free from those expectations. So hopefully you enjoyed that as much as I did.
You can find all the links and resources mentioned at summerinnanen.com/168. Thank you so much for listening. I’ll talk to you again soon. Rock on!
OUTRO: I’m Summer Innanen and I want to thank you for listening today. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, @SummerInnanen. If you haven’t yet, go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe, rate, and review this show. I would be so grateful. Until next time, rock on!
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