Becoming Visible: photos of non-airbrushed massage

Confession: I don’t like photos of myself.

I love photography as a medium, but I feel… uncomfortable… when I see myself on a screen or in a flat image. My face looks strange to me, and I struggle to recognize myself in photos. I’ve strenuously avoided taking professional headshots for previous careers. While I’m friends with very gifted photographers, I’ve always felt trepidation about volunteering my own image for most projects.

I’m trying to get over it.

In part, because of this issue of visibility. At Freed Bodyworks, we work to counter the standard image of massage — both in who clients are, and who practitioners are. We have non-normative bodies, and we work on non-conforming people. Many of my clients are larger than I (and I’m no tiny thing), and many are stronger. We want our space to showcase that our tables are welcoming of people of all shapes and sizes. While many studios and spas are permissive and allow all people to receive care, there’s not a specific invitation. And that, in my eyes, is a rejection.

So when were looking for “massage images” for building our website, we came out empty-handed and frustrated. Nothing looked like us, or heck, looked real.

Go ahead. Google massage. Here’s my image search results:

Massage Image Search

Massage Image Search

I’m seeing:

– slender white women

– detached hands

– flowers.

That’s not me. Those aren’t most of my clients.

I’m not seeing POCs, I’m not seeing larger bodied people, I’m not seeing men, I’m not seeing queer people. I’m not seeing tattoos, chest hair, veins, bruises, birthmarks, freckles, and wrinkles.

Honestly, I’m not seeing all the things that read as ‘human’ to me.

I’m not seeing pregnancy, or the markers of age, or people in transition. I’m not seeing Capitol Hill and Washington DC and the larger DMV.

 I’m seeing the absence of myself, and all of the work I do, and most of the clients I see. I’m seeing us airbrushed away.

That’s not cool.

So, courtesy of Devon Rowland, awesome photographer who you should check out, we did a photoshoot, Frances and their client; myself and my client that day, the excellent Ignacio Rivera, filmmaker, activist, performer, and artist. I’m happy to let you see where (and how) I work.

Here’s some of the shots (the rest are here): Continue reading