Every Body's Story
This series of casts presents women of different sizes, shapes and builds. Together they show that every body is unique and every body is beautiful.
Growing up as a dancer in front of a mirror made me pretty self-aware of my body. It also brought a lot of harsh judgements. My torso has always been my least favourite part of my body, the one I struggled with the most to keep in shape. It is interesting to see myself in 3D, and see how tiny and surprisingly fit I am.
With my body it’s always been a love-hate relationship. There are parts which I will always wish were different/smaller/firmer… but I’ve grown to be more accepting, with age, and now I feel more thankful for it. I’ve shifted my focus to be less on aesthetics and more on how powerful and restorative our bodies can be.
Now I love my body and I feel womanly, but I see it differently in my mind’s eye to how others see it from the outside. That’s why seeing my cast was so amazing: it reaffirmed beliefs I had about my body (yes, one breast is larger than the other) but also that the whole of it is beautiful together. I don’t think we often think about the whole – we tend to concentrate on (and criticise) individual parts.
Being able to feel , see and be a part of a new experience was like doing a drug for the first time. Being able to see my physical body and shape outside of living in it sanctioned some type of power inside, it made me able to say, ‘wow that’s ME!’
Most people only see what they want to see. Seeing my cast made me love myself again. I guess approaching my middle age years my body is constantly changing and this is something I’m very proud to embrace.
I feel proud of the body I have and through my yo-yo self-esteem and health issues, going through this casting process made me feel good about myself.
I feel like many people take for granted knowing what they carry in their genes, what foods suit them best, what types of cancer they should be extra aware of etc. Even hints of what they might look like when they are older. The experience of seeing my body cast was like an out of body experience. I got to look at my body from an outside perspective. It made me feel grateful and thankful to it. It has been a vehicle for me to interact with in the world. I don’t know what happens after death, if body and soul are separate, but even from a dualist perspective, I still strongly believe that my body makes part of who I am and I should always remember to be kind to it.
My relationship with my body has always been off and on and in the last two years I’ve been trying new things to feel more confident in, comfortable with, and accepting of my body. I’ve been nude modelling since college and continued doing it here in Hanoi, but being cast was an entirely new experience. After a life drawing class I see 2D drawings of myself, which can be variable to many things, depending on the artist. But being part of this project is extra special because I can see my body in 3D, it’s realistic, and life-size!
Growing up I had a difficult time with my body. I really hated it for most of my young adult life. It wasn’t until I hit my mid twenties that I realised that I would never be thin and I’d never look the way I wanted. I decided it would be easier to try and love and appreciate the body that I have. I started to focus on the fact that I am able bodied. Focusing on the fact that my body works and that it functions the way it should really helped me appreciate my body. I am currently at my highest weight, but I’ve never loved my body more. I’m so much more comfortable with myself and I try to project that in order to help others.
What especially excited me about having my body cast, was something Ellen said about how we never see a 3D version of our body. This brought back the memory to the movie seeing a body floating from below, and how potentially this could be my only chance to see my body how it’s seen from someone else’s perspective.
It took me a day or two to realise the effect this casting experience has had on me. I realised I was comfortable enough in my own body to do this. If I hadn’t done this I don’t know how long it would have taken me to realise that. Seeing my body cast alongside others I can see the physical difference in all our bodies. Everyone is different but everyone is beautiful.
“That is not my body!” is what I thought when I was first shown my cast. Is that really what people see when they look at me? Sometimes our perception of ourselves can be quite self-destructive. Getting involved with this project is something that I’d never have imagined I’d do, it’s been a big step for me to start improving my relationship with my body. I’ve started loving my body as I should have done before, I’m really thankful to be part of this.
My body became a crime scene at the age of 3. 30 years later, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been sexually assaulted.
I do not see myself the way you see me. My perception of my body is warped and distorted. It’s based on what the world has told me to believe about myself: That I exist to look and feel good to others, and if I don’t, I have no right to exist.
Taking part in this project has allowed me to view myself, quite literally, from the outside in and inside out. The experience of seeing myself moulded according to form was terrifying. During the casting process, I was riddled with self-judgement and mortification that my body, so blaringly imperfect, would soon be on show for the world to see. On display to be judged as harshly as I judge myself. And yet, when the cast – which I innately recognised as an extension of myself – was removed, all I saw was a perfectly average body. No more or less than any other body I’d ever seen. A body as powerful in its ability to love and be loved, to heal and be healed, as every other body that’s ever lived.
My tummy has carried a child and gave him life. My breasts have nursed a child and give him sustenance. My body, my best friend, has been with me every step of the way as I walk the journey of my life, and though I’ve done so much to harm and abuse it, fuelled by an inner self-loathing, it nevertheless continues to support me, loving me the way I’ve always longed to be loved: Unconditionally.
My last boyfriend told me that he ‘wished’ I had a bigger bum, that he ‘preferred’ girls with bigger thighs. Small details about my body were criticised and scrutinised. I was made to feel it wasn’t enough.
Seeing my body cast reminds me that it is mine and it is up to nobody but me to decide how strong, sexy, confident and powerful I feel.
How comfortable I am in my skin should not be dependent on anyone but me. That’s what I’m thankful for through experiences of my body being violated, that they have eventually made me realise that I am enough and that I only deserve to share my body with someone who will love and respect it as much as I do now.
With special thanks to the women who have participated in this project; you are bold, inspiring and beautiful. Thank you for your openness and sharing your stories. This exhibition is a celebration of the diversity and beauty of women’s bodies, in all their forms.
Every Body’s Story is a project by Ellen Downes
Photos by Daniel Nuderscher