I absolutely love Humans of New York. Brandon, an amazing photographer, has been taking photos of random people in New York for a while now, and most photos say volumes about the subject. Sometimes it’s the uniqueness of their look, or their expressions, or the overall character that comes through. When they say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” they aren’t kidding. Some of his photos could have movie scripts created out of them. And what I adore about the people who follow HONY are how fascinated they are by the people in the photos – so few comments are at all negative or critical, the overwhelming majority see the beauty in each subject.
The other day he posted a photograph of a young woman in her underwear. This was not a photo he took himself, but of one she posted to her own blog, but he found the reason for her photograph to be so stirring that he preferred that one to the one he took of her in the street. Here is the photo:
Stella’s words accompanying the photo are as follows:
“WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your fucking business. Meaning my size, IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.
If my big belly and fat arms and stretch marks and thick thighs offend you, then that’s okay. I’m not going to hide my body and my being to benefit your delicate sensitivities.
This picture is for the strange man at my nanny’s church who told me my belly was too big when I was five.
This picture is for my horseback riding trainer telling me I was too fat when I was nine.
This picture is for the girl from summer camp who told me I’d be really pretty if I just lost a few pounds
This picture is for all the fucking stupid advertising agents who are selling us cream to get rid of our stretch marks, a perfectly normal thing most people have (I got mine during puberty)
This picture is for the boy at the party who told me I looked like a beached whale.
This picture is for Emily from middle school, who bullied me incessantly, made mocking videos about me, sent me nasty emails, and called me “lard”. She made me feel like I didn’t deserve to exist. Just because I happened to be bigger than her. I was 12. And she continued to bully me via social media into high school.
MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.
I’m so over that.
THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT.”
As was typical for HONY followers, the response was overwhelmingly positive. But as the photo went viral, Brandon described how the comments began turning nastier and more cruel. The connection HONY fans have to the photos he posts does not equal that of other random internet people who prefer to hide behind the anonymity of their computer screens. And Stella began to doubt her own resolve, writing this blog post “on getting exactly what I wanted and feeling terrified.”