I specialize in giving power back to clients, power that society attempts to take from them through it’s constant obsession with “eating clean”, never being thin enough, fit enough, pretty enough, enough anything, but it always vexes me when I get a client who suffers from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder? BDD is an obsession with flaws or distortions in one’s appearance that the mind has either exaggerated to a tremendous degree, or that simply do not exist.
I took one look at my unnaturally thin client while she explained to me that her doctor told her that she can’t workout anymore because she is too underweight. I knew that I would need to pose her to accentuate any curves in her body, and explained to her that she is the rare bird who will be able to do a lot of poses showing sharp angles.
Fashion photography, and boudoir photography not only focus on detail shots but also shapes, like curves and angles. A bent leg or a bent arm typically looks better than both legs or elbows being straight. Angles with lots of negative space look even better and her very thin frame was perfect showcasing poses that would demonstrate same.
She examined her body in front of me. I can only imagine how vulnerable she felt, standing there nearly naked in front of a near stranger.
“I hate that my bones are showing, “ she said while pointing to the bones beneath her clavicle, and “My stomach is huge”, pointing to her completely flat stomach. She knew she couldn’t possibly lose more body fat, and yet she felt her stomach was too fat.
It’s a dichotomy that I cannot overcome as both photographer and sort-of therapist. When I photograph a client with BDD, they have no reasonable expectation of the end product. My most sincere compliments fall on deaf ears.
Most clients come in not knowing, or feeling unsure if they will love their images but then feel validated and beautiful upon seeing their images. Clients with BDD will never be able to see past their flaws. They see flaws that are unnoticeable by other people. I could argue that we all feel that way to see some degree, at least at one time or another.
My job is to create space for every client to love themselves, to celebrate their bodies. How do I make her believe that what she has to offer the world is so much more than her body or looks?
Society has a lot of oppressive ideologies that rob us of happiness. Self-acceptance is a freedom of its own.